Jaan Tollander de Balsch

Computer Science & Applied Mathematics

How to Manage Tasks with Kanban

This article provides a quick overview of Kanban project management system and how it can be used for managing tasks, increasing productivity and visualizing workload. I found about Kanban by following John Sonmez as I was searching for tools for managing assignments in university. Since then I have been using Kanban for managing university assignments, improving my blog and managing work-related tasks. The text in this article was inspired by two articles, What is Kanban Board? and Best Kanban Apps. I recommend reading them in conjunction with this article as they offer a broader picture of Kanban. As an example, the article explains how to use KanbanFlow for managing school assignments. KanbanFlow was chosen because it has a good set of features, it’s easy to use and works in both desktop and mobile.

Keywords: Productivity, Project Management, Kanban, Pomodoro, KanbanFlow

Overview of Kanban

Kanban is a project management system originally used in lean manufacturing, but more recently it has become popular in knowledge work. Kanban is commonly applied in Agile software development, but can also be applied for managing school assignments and writing a blog. The core principles of Kanban are:

  1. Visualize your work
  2. Limit your work in process
  3. Focus on flow

The Kanban board consists of columns and cards. It visualizes the project such that each card represents an individual task in the project and each column represents the state of the particular task. By convention, the cards are moved from left to right. Kanban board can also have multiple members working on the project. Kanban board can also be associated with a timer. The timer can be used to measure the amount of time it takes to complete a task, which can then be used to estimate the future workload of similar tasks.

The standard columns are:

  • To-Do – Tasks that are not yet started.
  • Work In Progress (WIP) – Tasks that are in progress. This column can be limited to only be able to have a certain number of tasks at a time in order to limit multitasking.
  • Done – Tasks that are completed.

Columns can be added, removed and modified as needed for the project. Each card has the following attributes:

  • Title – The name of the task.
  • Description – Describes what the task is about.
  • Due date – The date and time when the task is due.
  • Subtasks – Subtasks needed to complete the task. Subtasks should be simple, otherwise, consider creating another Kanban card of that subtask.
  • Color – Colors can be used to indicate the type of the task.
  • Label – Labels can be used to classify task into categories.
  • Member – Project members assigned to the task.

The timer has two options:

  • Stopwatch – Stopwatch can be used to measure the time taken to complete a task.
  • PomodoroPomodoro technique is a time management technique based on using 25 minute timeboxes referred as Pomodoro for focused work separated by short 3-5 minute breaks and longer 15-30 minutes break after four Pomodori are done.

Example: Managing School Assignments

My personal Kanban board for school assignments consists of the standard columns: To-do, In progress and Done. Tasks are added into To-do column with a title containing the course name or an abbreviation of it, the exercise round and the name. Each task has a due date which is set. Some tasks have subtasks and these should be also listed. Colors for tasks are set such that each active course has a unique color. This makes different courses easier to identify.

The workflow follows the standard pattern. Move tasks from To-do to In progress column as you start working on them. Then once the task is completed it’s moved into Done column.