Book Review: Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life

As a consultant, I want the flexibility to adapt my work to take advantage of opportunities that might arise in a given week–to write an article or blog post, or to propose a project to a new client.  And, while I try to plan a week’s worth work, I need the flexibility to adapt my work on the fly. I work in small chunks, finishing work. I like seeing completed work. I have a great sense of accomplishment when I see completed work.

Sure, if I have the flu or a tough vertigo attack that lasts a while where I don’t have enough slack to absorb too many “incomings,” I become overwhelmed. But I can generally manage my work. I can maintain a sustainable pace.

I tried to explain to my system to some of my executive coaching clients, but it wasn’t until I read Personal Kanban: Mapping Work | Navigating Life by Jim Benson and Tonianne DeMaria Barry that I had the words, and clearer definitions for what I was doing. Before I read the book, I didn’t know about “The Pen.”

The Pen is the place where you corral all those call-backs that can pile up. IMNHO, The Pen is a magnificent invention! It gives me the transparency I need to see that the people I need to talk to are–or are not!–calling me back, so I can decide what to do about it. If the plumber is not calling back, I might make one decision. If a potential client is not calling, I might make another decision. What’s key is that I have all the data literally at my fingertips.

What’s great about personal kanban is that I see all my work. I use it along with one-week iterations so I can track the work I don’t do. That’s how I knew it was time to ask for help in redoing my web site. It was clear to me that “redo my site” was going to stay in “ready” and never move into “doing”.

When I read this book, I kept nodding, saying, “Yes, that’s exactly how I work! That’s how I think! Why are Jim and Tonianne in my head? At least, they are doing a good job there.”

Jim and Tonianne have written a conversational, wonderful book to help you understand how to move away from todo lists to a system that helps you see your context, your work, and your work in progress.

Personal kanban has two rules: visualize your work and limit your work in progress. That’s it. Personal kanban is the way I manage my personal project portfolio. Try it for yours.

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  1. Just wondering – if you are aware of the 2 points that he highlights in the book, is there much else interesting in the book? Or is it examples of how to apply it in different scenarios?

    • Hi Rob, yes. The two points are: 1) Visualize your work, and 2) Limit your work in progress.

      I found the book helpful. I had not totally visualized all my work before. I was not good at managing my WIP, in the same way I am now. I found the book useful.


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