Another Non-Resolution or Kanban thank you Ma'am

As you can tell, I have a long list non-resolutions for the New Year.  One thing that I implemented last year was the Pomodoro Technique.  You can read about it here (from my blog post), and you can read further about it here, from the horse's mouth (Francesco Cirillo).   In a nutshell the Pomodoro Technique is a form of time blocking that promotes focused concentration on the task at hand.

The "task at hand" fits into a larger time management system, of which there are many.  We all work differently, and we need to develop work processes that allow us to function at a high level without undue stress.  For those of us ADHD superstars, the Pomodoro technique is a godsend.  It provides a 25 minute window for focusing on the task at hand. And, it provides for a quantitatively defined time for you to STOP before starting again. The short breaks are 5 minutes and after 4 sessions, you get a 15 minute break.

If you have trouble focusing on a task at hand because you get distracted by all of the thoughts and things flying at you and commanding your immediate attention, OR (and this is a big one too) you have trouble starting tasks (particularly those that are not very fun), OR (and this is yet another big one) you cannot disengage from a task (a/k/a falling into the rabbit hole) then this technique can help you
  1. get started (hey, just do that unpleasant thing for 25 minutes)
  2. stay engaged (it's just 25 minutes) and, importantly
  3. disengage.

Disengaging is an important part of building perspective.  A rabbit hole will suck you down, and there is no perspective in rabbit holes.  I don't say the following lightly:

It is one of the most effective techniques I have found for myself to help manage my  focus.   That means that I get through my task more quickly, or I have a learning when my task blows up and takes longer than I expect.

Having said that, it is worth noting that your job has to allow you to work this way.  You couldn't be a customer service rep and do this.  However,  as a professional, my work adapts quite well to this method. Nevertheless, even if your work situation does not allow for such implementation, there are many things in our personal life (paying bills, cleaning, cooking, exercising, internet/tv time etc) that adapt well to such time management methods. 

There are not too many software offerings for using this technique in an integrated way with good time management system.  I have TeamViz, but the interface is not completely to my liking.  Plus, I don't see that it is actively updated or managed, so I don't plan to renew my subscription. ran across KanbanFlow (listed at Pomodorium), and I have been using it for five days. Click the logo and be transported to their page.   I'm so excited about this system because it marries the Pomodoro technique along with VISUAL process flow.  It is a cloud program, so it is accessible from the internet and the mobile phone.  It is a paltry $5 per month.  Heck, I saved that already in productivity about 20 times over in these past few days.

In addition to marrying with the Pomodoro technique, I can use this with David Allen's Getting Things Done system--and truly enjoy stress free productivity. The system is a work flow system that creates an inventory of things to do, and then your work to pull these things into the work in process category to include another category of today.

inventory of stuff to do ==> stuff that is in process (active work) + TODAY Stuff  ==>Done!

You can add more columns--but at some point too much ruins the simplicity.  The beauty of the system is that you can keep your backlog populated with stuff (trapped in your system so that it cannot get away) that needs to be done.  You move that stuff (drag and drop or through a date that automatically will move it to your in process column or today column) to the appropriate column, and then work through that batch.  Send completed items to the done column, and then go back to your inventory of things to do a pull things into your active process.

By managing the today and in process columns you manage what you plan to spend your time and energy on by marrying the work with the time constraints on when it needs to be delivered (this week, today) and what resources (your time and energy) that you have available. By being proactive, you have a better chance of not over-committing your time and resources.  Further, you are not wilting each time you look at your total inventory of things to do, because your focus is on your work in process and today.

Rather than your inventory of things to do pushing into your near-term active space because they are not managed or prioritized, you are pulling them into near-term active space once you have the resources (time and energy) to apply to these items. Pulling rather than pushing is a tenet of lean/agile thinking and systems, of which Kanban is a tool for visualizing the effects of pulling.  Nothing goes into work in process until something gets moved out.  Work in process is the marrying of the resources (time, energy, materials) with what is getting produced.

For us knowledge workers, we are producing deliverables (budgets, software, new call center, customer presentation).  What is the difference between pulling v. pushing?  It's the difference between being proactive (pulling your items into your present work time) v. reactive (having these items push themselves into your workspace).  Better to pull these items in rather than have them push themselves uninvited into your current work space (an bulldoze your peace of mind).

Once you create space in your 'in process and today columns' then you go back to your inventory of things and pull them into your current field of vision.   Your focus is strictly on what is in process and what has to be done today. How is that for limiting distractions?  If the time demand and urgency of things is more than you can handle, then it is time to plan on using other resources.  Oh, how I wished I had this system 10 years ago!

Who among us has not looked at our entire inventory of things to do and silently whispered, "WTF?"  As unplanned tasks present themselves, there is a better framework for evaluating where they need to be (today, work in process, inventory).  Simply look at your schedule and see what you can move, or where you can schedule this new deliverable. Your backlog has already been swept for things that have to been done soon (in process) or Today.  Therefore, it is not a long, foreboding shadow that hangs over you.

Rather, you can focus all of your energy on completing the stuff that needs to be done today, and doing the most fun thing of all...dragging it to the DONE! column. When things are completed you are creating time/energy space to pull things in from your inventory.  Further, adding tasks to the backlog is not stressful, but comforting in knowing that you've captured a deliverable within your system and you can plan for it.

Because priorities change constantly, having facile tools to reflect those changes in the kanban board are welcomed.  KanbanFlow allows you to drag and drop to instantly prioritize, or use colors or swim lanes to configure a matrix that works for your style of deliverables.

Each task can have color coding, labels, subtasks,  due dates, where it needs to land on the due date, description boxes and estimated time.  Using the Pomodoro timer, you choose a task and capture the time spent on it.  When the task is done, it will tell you how well you did against your estimates.  Moreover, you can even email tasks to it. It has an intuitive feel that gets you up and running in .....drum roll....less than 2 minutes.  It really is that simple.

I love it, love it, love it. And I feel like a disciple of it.  There might be other software out there, but I'll not be looking for it.  This software has EVERYTHING that I could want.  I'm ecstatic...and I don't say that very often.  And using this tool in a corporate environment for initiatives at the department or corporate level would be a great way to kick up the level of productivity and creativity in the workplace.

Anyway, for any of you reading who are looking for a great tool to integrate prioritization of complex tasks, time management and creating space for focus and productivity, I would encourage you to (1) research the Pomodoro technique; (2) read David Allen's book, Getting Things Done, the Art of Stress Free Productivity and (3) take a look at the Kanbanflow website.  I also have another book that I would recommend:  The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McDonigal.  In that book you will see how your brain conspires against all your best laid plans.


Post a Comment