Kanban Boards

One of the great benefits of being a freelance writer is that I get to explore not only topics where I already have some familiarity, but also those that are new to me. In researching these topics, I can learn a lot that can then be applied and leveraged in future projects. Indeed, an asset that I bring to the table is my somewhat eclectic body of knowledge.

And so, as I was going about creating a list of Kanban tools (some of which are free) for one of my clients, I had to first gain a fundamental understanding of the Kanban system. Now that I have, I can see how it could be useful in improving my day-to-day productivity as a work-from-home freelancer.

The fundamental principle behind Kanban boards is simple. You organize the tasks that you need to complete into columns. The column on the far left could contain the projects or elements on your to-do list. The column next to that could represent the projects or tasks you’re currently working on. And then the column on the far right could contain your completed items. The Kanban board can get more complex than that, with more columns to represent different phases, but the idea is to get everything from the left all the way over to the right.

The catch is you’re only allowed to have a certain number of items in each column at any given time. In my case, I have all sorts of other responsibilities beyond the actual act of writing. I could conceivably have columns for brainstorming topics, researching, writing, editing and finally publishing. And under any given column, I may limit myself to no more than three items.

This would help to define the structure and flow of the work that I do in an organic and visual way. One of the reasons why you may avoid to-do lists is that it can feel like a futile exercise, but a Kanban board can provide the intrinsic reward of moving items from “to do” to “completed.” You can literally see the progress. It can also help you avoid the pitfalls of “precrastination” in that you are limited to how many items can be at each stage or column at any given time.

The most basic of Kanban boards is an analog one. Simply set up a paper chart and populate it with sticky notes. However, since so many of us live on the Internet and have come to rely on digital tools in the cloud, online Kanban boards are far more useful. While the Kanban method is applied more commonly in the context of teams and collaboration, particularly with software development, it can be just as useful for solopreneurs who must balance multiple projects.

Have you tried the Kanban method in your organization or business? Has it been effective for you?