Personal Kanban: a matter of attitude

A few months ago, I attached a new, fresh whiteboard to the wall in my office and filled it with a lot of post-it notes. I put all the stuff that I had to do on post-its. A real mess. That was my shiny new Personal Kanban board, as Jim Benson describes it in his book. I want to try and find out if it works for me before I recommend it to anyone else.

And yes: it works! For me, it works better than GTD which I had used before. I could organize my work better and I could also replicate some of the strange effects that my clients have in their Kanban systems: Too big tickets so that they don’t move, blocked tickets waiting for someone else’s reaction, tickets that I don’t understand any more, tickets that I love, other tickets that I hate, etc…

The biggest change came two weeks ago. Suddenly, two more prospects asked for a proposal – they wanted to know how much value I can offer them, what I plan to do for them, in which time frame and how much money it will cost. I wrote two tickets, one for each proposal that I had to write.

You know, proposals are an important thing to me. I want to them to be really good because a proposal is the first outcome that a prospect sees to get an impression of how I work and what (s)he can expect.

So, for a moment I really panicked! On the Kanban board, there are still three items with fixed date: sessions that I want to give for two conferences that happen in the near future. And: From my current point of view, one of these tickets was already late. The two new tickets would delay it even more. Now, this was the real test: Would Personal Kanban help me to get me feelings under control and get the work done?

I sorted the tickets by cost of delay. Delaying the two proposals could cost me two immediate clients – unacceptable. Delaying one of the conference preparation tickets even more could cause a bad performance at the conference and could cost me future prospects who saw me at the conference – acceptable for the moment but unacceptable in general.

OK, so I decided to write the two proposals and send them out because this would keep cost of delay better under control. And what a relief! After this decision, as soon as I started to work on the proposals, trust developed in me that I would be able to finish the conference preparation, too. Simply by not thinking about the conferences any more and writing those proposals, focusing myself on a clear description of my services for the future clients, I even found a way to express them that would also be useful for the conferences – a sudden experience of synergy.

A day later, when I had sent out the proposals, I found more clear information about what I planned to talk about at the conference. This reduced the work I still have to do and saved me energy that I would otherwise have spent on the subject. Wow, thanks to life itself!

My lesson learned is this: When you decide to do something, do it from the bottom of your heart! Forget all the other tickets, work for that one ticket in the DOING column and don’t worry about the others. You have decided NOT to work on them, so why have them in mind? Stop it! Otherwise, they will bury you alive in a box (see below).