Trello & the Personal Kanban

Day 1

I stumbled upon this Personal Kanban 101 slideshow the morning of Monday, December 23rd. By 10AM, I had all of my personal and private tasks under one roof, Trello. This was previously spread over Wunderlist, HabitRPG, and Evernote.

Re-assigning Use & Workflow

In doing this, I’m redefining my use of these items:

  • Wunderlist is literally a grocery list, or a to-do list for the day, but no longer for long-term lists or projects. 
  • Evernote and I have had an on-again, off-again relationship. I used it when it initially launched, but ran in to some UI issues and looked elsewhere. I eventually found my way back and have been using it as a catch-all/store-all. I will now be using it more as an inbox, holding incoming information until it can be digested in to a notecard and/or actionable item(s).
  • HabitRPG will no longer be a to-do list manager, but more of a dailies & habit checker. I will use it for managing daily tasks such as meditating, reading, and exercise. I’ll also use it to monitor habits like biting my nails.
  • Trello, the newcomer, is ultimately the project manager. It’s a list of actionable items, and a board to visualizing/prioritizing current & future workloads, as well as reflecting on completed projects.
  • UPDATE: Around 20 days in, I decided to use HabitRPG for daily to-do items. Wunderlist is literally just for groceries or house-hold goods I want to research/purchase (eg: rice cooker). This is namely due to syncing issues in Wunderlist. I now put small to-do items in HabitRPG, such as “set up those email accounts” or “call Mom”, but NOT actions related to larger projects. That’s still handled in Trello cards (generally within checklists).

Gaining Ground

Day 2

I discovered that I really need 2 Kanban boards: a work board for BPI, and a personal board for freelance work & personal projects.

Trello allowed me to split my original board accordingly and, visually speaking, it makes it easier to digest/prioritize.

Also, I can also specify unique label names for each board. For instance, purple on the BPI board related to a Storefront, where as purple on my Personal Kanban board means that item involves my wife (ie: moving her car insurance).

Day 15

I got a lot done the first week. Mostly smaller, nagging projects. I’m working on a few larger ones now, and have more rolling in for January, which I need to soon inbox (Evernote) and digest in to actionable items (Trello).

I’ve tackled a few smaller home projects (as has my wife) that have needed addressing, and I found myself ‘m trying to declutter/organize a few other things.

I got a full year calendar from work, which be used as a Seinfeld Calendar for freelance work. Some effort, just 15 minutes, justifies the X. Ideally, it’s more, but I have to keep the rhythm going if nothing else. Productivity +1.

Day 25

Nearly a month in and going strong. Trello has added a few more features, but nothing that’s quite got me sold on Trello Gold (referral link).

HabitRPG has resurfaced as a focus. I’m still leveraging it as mentioned above, but I’ve actually shifted my daily to-do list back to there in lieu of Wunderlist. Moving forward, Wunderlist is purely a grocery list & purchase list for me. This is in part due to issues I’ve had with it syncing.

Day 30

I got up at 5AM, originally planning on going to the gym, but opted to help my wife get ready for her first day of clinicals as a 2nd year nursing student. I was completely ready for work when she left at 6:30.

I’ve continued to embrace this system, and I keep wanting to tell other people about it (so, as you can guess, I’m anxious to finish this post). I feel that the Kanban system has played a large roll in reducing general day-to-day stress, and has helped me stay focused on the bigger picture: staying motivated, productive, but most importantly, happy.

Final Thoughts

The Personal Kanban system works for me. It’s exactly what I need, in that it serves as both a project manager and a visual aid. Seeing what’s in queue has lead me to being significantly more proactive in knocking out smaller projects instead of letting them hang around until the last minute. Since moving to this system, I’ve doubled my freelance workload and reduced stress at my day job.

But, here is the catch: you have to use it. Whatever system you rely on, it’s only as effective as the energy you put in to it.  With that in mind, I’ve taken actions to ensure that my project management system is front-and-center every day. These tools are on the front of my cellphone and my start-up tabs in Chrome, helping insure they’re part of a routine:


Update – 2014-04-09
I’ve removed HabitRPG from this list. While it served as a decent, fun to-do list, I’m rolling back to paper & pencil because of the flexibility it provides.

Update – 2014-08-22
The beast continues to evolve. I’m only using Trello and Evernote now. Standard to-do items still go on pen/paper. All notes/details are on Evernote. Trello is my landing place for files and projects, and anything that doesn’t get marked off of my daily to-do, so I have a fresh overview of where I’m at in my workload every morning. This allows me to still use pen/paper for agile, flexible notes, and then digitize anything not addressed at the end of the day.

Update – 2015-03-14
It’ll never stop evolving. But this is the best so far: Email organization, which turns in to Evernote notes for general data I may need, Trello cards for projects/actions. Everything else, archive.

I use a daily productivity planner for basic to-do items, and planning out my individual days.

I still digitize notes during admin time.


Alan Wright says:

Hi. What is the widget on your home screen that gives you fast access to evernote and voice dictation?

Brandon Rome says:

Sorry for the delayed response. That’s the official Evernote Widget app for Android: