Multiple Boards – The Jack Bauer way

As recently as last year, I posted about typical Personal Kanban pathologies. One of them is the propensity to create more than one board, instead of keeping everything together in one board. Of course, the main reason you want to do this, is to stay honest about your Work In Progress. Spreading work across multiple boards makes it very easy to start deluding yourself about your real capacity.

Keeping the boards in check

Since then, I’ve been increasingly disciplined about limiting the number of boards I use. In fact, I now have two main digital boards only: my work board that only I have access to, and a family board that my husband and I both use. We use the latter to track household admin and tasks, finances and that never-ending stream of events & activities that you get roped into when you have children. These two boards live in LeanKitKanban. Our family board also has a physical manifestation. Over weekends and holidays we tend to use this version more than the digital board, specifically as we then add (as a family) the things we both want to and have to do during our downtime.

Physical Family Kanban Board for Weekends

Physical Family Kanban Board for Weekends

Getting down to the details

But once in a while, I do still create contextual boards specific to a bigger task I’m working on, e.g. when I’m doing Christmas gifts and menu planning. The key here is that these boards don’t add more work, they simply provide more detail about the work. They’re my version of task boards as opposed to story boards. These could live anywhere: on my tablet, the microwave, a tray or in a folder. In fact, anywhere that is available and that makes it quick and easy to put together a new board and drop it again when I’m done. I particularly like the iKan app on my tablet for this purpose, since it is so easy to create a new project and simply delete it when I’m done.

When every minute counts 

24 Series ClockFrom time to time the tasks on my work and family life need to converge and synchronize in a particularly time-sensitive manner. This is when I need to pull together items from both boards into a single interwoven and sequenced stream of activities. This is when my 24 board comes into play.

It lives on my tablet in the iKan app so that I can have it within easy reach at all times. I use it most often in the last day or two before I travel for work, since my being away from home requires a number of additional arrangements. I’ve also started using it whenever we go away from home on family trips. It’s been a great way to combat that uneasy feeling you get in the car when you start wondering whether you did actually turn off the geyser …

Separating Work and Family?

Some would say it’s better to have a single board for work and family activities, and perhaps use swimlanes to keep them separated. That way I wouldn’t need the 24 board at all. That is probably the purest approach to Limiting WIP when you use Personal Kanban. But I like keeping these two contexts visually separate. There is so much going on in each of them, that I fear I would find it overwhelming if they were both on the same board.

But for now, by limiting my use of multiple boards to contextual task and time boards, I think I have found a way to make multiple boards work for me – the Jack Bauer way. 😉

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