#PMSkillsAreLifeSkills: Should you Kanban your life?

Kanban View of Monday.com, from their Press Kit

Answer from Heather Savatta

Heather Savatta is Director, Concert Solutions at Vox Media. You can find her on Twitter at @heathraff


You can (and should) Kanban your life! By applying your practical Product skills outside of work, you can improve the efficiency of your everyday life.

What is Kanban?

Kanban is a practice and a framework that was originally used in manufacturing and was later adapted to software development. The practice emphasizes real-time communication with your team and improves transparency into the team’s capacity so that software can be built quickly and continuously.

How we started using Kanban

We started using Kanban in our personal lives right before our wedding. We wanted to ensure that we didn’t miss anything as we tracked against the many tiny milestones leading up to the big event! It helps that my husband is an engineer and I have worked in product management; our work backgrounds made applying Kanban in our day-to-day life a pretty seamless transition.

Four Simple Steps to begin to Kanban your life

1. Pick the tools that work for your family

We use a combination of tools that meet our needs.

  • Trello is our main Kanban board, and we use it with these columns: On deck, Working on, Finalizing, Finished, and For another day.
  • Monday.com is used to track tasks by date and deliverable action items.
  • Google Docs is where we put all our “project” write-ups (note: it’s important to give access to the whole family!) and anything long-form that needs to be written out.
  • Google calendar is combined with a real calendar that hangs on a wall in our kitchen at home. We note every single important date or reminder, invite each other to shared events, and block off time for tasks on both the digital and physical calendars so we can easily see it each day.

2. Manage big events as if they are major projects

We use Google Docs and a good project framework to handle the big events, such as buying a house or picking a new school. By using Google Docs, we keep all our milestones, thoughts, feedback, and research in one neat place.

3. Set bi-weekly or monthly meetings to talk about the big projects

We set aside a pre-agreed time at least once every two weeks to talk about and make progress on the big things. This activity usually happens on Sunday evenings, when the kids are (finally!) in bed.

4. Retro, Review, and Learn

When we finish a big project or complete something, I love to look back and reflect on what we’ve achieved. My five-year-old loves to join in and help us talk through the things that went well, what we can work on, and the things we shouldn’t ever do again. Retros usually open up a big family discussion and help us keep improving. For example, we recently took a big family vacation to Disney World. Even though I had planned every activity down to the hour, looking back we found some really interesting aspects that we could have done better to have an easier trip. I was also surprised to hear my family’s favorite parts — aspects that we will be sure to have more of on our next trip! I put these retro results in our “Disney Vaca Planning Doc,” which I’m happy to say has already helped many friends.

Closing thoughts

Kanban’ing your life is supposed to make it easier, not more difficult. I encourage you to test different approaches with your support system to find the approach that fits your goals. You may need to try different tools before everyone else starts to see the value of this approach.




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