Kanban: Toyota’s System for Your Personal Productivity


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This is your guide to Kanban for Personal Productivity!

Kanban is a scheduling system for lean production and just-in-time manufacturing (JIT). Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota, developed kanban to improve manufacturing efficiency. It is also known as the “Toyota nameplate system” in the automotive sector.

Although it is generally used to manage the workflow in factories, you can use Kanban to improve personal productivity, too. The personal Kanban system lets you see your entire workflow visually, therefore making it easy to manage your tasks and time and evaluate your overall productivity.

You can use the Kanban system with other productivity methods like the Pomodoro and the GTD, too.

How Kanban Works

Kanban board example

It is easy.

All you need are a board and sticky notes. Divide it into three columns: To-Do, Doing, and Done. Then, write your tasks on sticky notes – one task per note. Next, pick a task to work on and move it from the To-Do list to Doing list. When you’ve finished it, pull it to the Done column.

Bonus tips:

Bonus Tip #1: Color Coding. You can use color coding for different levels of priority. For example, red for high priority (meaning it’s important and urgent), orange for medium priority (important but not urgent), and yellow for low priority (not important not urgent but have to do it). You can use different colors for different projects you’re working on too.

Bonus Tip #2: Idea List. Yes, a column on your Kanban board to hold all your great ideas. The trick though is that you will get to review the list regularly and decide what to do with those ideas.


You can customize the personal Kanban system to fit your work style and context.

And it doesn’t have to be To-Do, Doing, Done. For example, a Kanban board for a marketing team could contain these buckets: To-Do, Production, Pending Approval, Final.

Recommended reading:
    • Productivity 101: How to Use Personal Kanban to Visualize Your Work (lifehacker)
    • Kanban Board Examples for Beginners (ProofHub)

3 Rules for Effective Use of Kanban


Rule #1: Keep It Visible. This is key. The purpose of Kanban is to help make your work visible to the eye. It makes it easy for you to keep track of your progress and evaluate your productivity.

Rule #2: Limit Your Tasks. Be realistic about what you can do. What happens when you look at your Kanban board and see there are a hundred tasks in your Doing list? The Kanban system is meant to help you, not to overwhelm you.

Rule #3: Evaluate Your Productivity Regularly. One of Toyota’s Six Rules for Kanban is that Kanban is a means of fine tuning. Daily and weekly review is crucial. The Kanban system makes it easy for evaluation. How have you spent your time and energy? Have you worked more on your priorities? What tasks should you keep and what should you remove from the board?

Further reading: Toyota’s Six Rules for Kanban (AllAboutLean)

Personal Kanban Apps

Trello image for Kanban example

There are a lot of personal Kanban apps you can find but here’s my pick for you: Trello.

It is based on the Kanban system and visual design, using columns and cards for tasks. You can easily move tasks from one column to another.

Further reading: 17 Kanban Apps for Increased Productivity in 2021 (ProofHub)

The Personal Kanban Book

Finally, if you want to learn more about how to you the Kanban system for personal productivity, my recommended book is this:

Personal Kanban: Mapping Your Work | Navigate Your Life (Amazon Book)

That’s it. Thank you for reading.

Until next Sunday,

P.S. If you get values from my weekly newsletter and would like to get more of it, you might want to join my Telegram channel, where I share daily nuggets of wisdom to amp up your productivity.

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About the author, Y Samphy

Samphy is a facilitator, blogger, consultant, personal productivity coach, and lifelong learner. His writing and ideas here focus around productivity and self-improvement.

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