kanban: the next-level to do list

We have all used to do lists at one point in our lives. I know I still do. Usually when I need to put together my grocery list and wrap my head around simple daily chores. It’s simple, effective, and definitely better than trying to remember everything. Right? Well, sometimes.

Due to the simple nature of to-do lists, they have also found their way into project management. But are they a good choice or is there something better that can offer the clarity of our to-do lists, accompanied with additional advanced capabilities. Read on!

The Good Old To Do List

To do lists and list-based tools have been the tool of choice for many people. And now, with the many digital, cloud-based tools available online, many individuals and teams opt for list-based project management software. The digital properties make to-do lists very convenient to use. Team members can access them from anywhere, irrespective of their location or device they are using. They can delegate tasks and share files.

The Bad Side of To Do Lists

But even though they are simple to create and use, traditional to-do lists have their limitations. Even when they are in a digital format. And I can confirm this from experience. Besides not adding context to shared tasks, they can be complicated and can get mixed up when you need to share one list with other team members. There are no cues about tasks’ priority unless you write that too. So tasks can get done in the wrong order. And cause complete chaos. So instead of encouraging team members to work together, they encourage each person to stick to their own task-management system and pace.

Moreover, [digital] lists lack the visual ‘effects’ of other tools such as Kanban. Such as color-coding, or visual prioritization. This is a big drawback because people are visual creatures and process visual data several times faster than text.

Portfolio Kanban - Reduce Overburden - Improve Flow

Kanban: The Superior Organizational Tool

OK, if you are reading our blog regularly, you already know that Kanban is a [project management] methodology that uses visualization to better showcase and communicates the workflow. The Kanban board and Kanban cards can help team members see how their tasks combine with the rest of the work. Thus, more accurately plan, organize and optimize their own workflow.

kanban: the next-level to do list

How is Kanban Better?

If you think about it, Kanban boards are big to-do lists that display all the work that awaits you. Since tasks are distributed in columns according to the process stage they are in, your ‘To do’ column is your actual to-do list. Plus, cards are usually ordered by priority and color-coded. So you automatically know what task you should focus on next. Additionally, some Kanban boards allow you to connect related cards so you can see all the dependencies.

Another great advantage that Kanban has over other to-do lists and project management software it the ability to communicate information without having to send numerous emails, make phone calls, attend meetings. Kanban cards do all of that for you. You can add all and any information on the card itself. Write the title and description of the task, assign a person responsible, set a due date, attach related files, choose card color, note the status of associated tasks, and so on. Then, anyone who opens the card can view all that information. While the people related to it will receive notifications and emails about any card changes and updates. And you don’t need to chase people around to get a file or answer. Awesome, right?

If we continue to explore Kanban, we can also see that Kanban does not only create a prioritized list of upcoming tasks, but it also helps you limit your priorities. While other organizational tools just let you list tasks, Kanban also requires you to set reasonable WIP limits. And instead of allowing work to the pushed on teams by other coworkers who have drive-by requests, it creates a pull system. Everyone works within their capacity. And pulls new tasks that have the greatest value for the customer only when they are free to take on new work. That way, teams can more effectively organize and prioritize planned and unplanned work according to the work that is already in progress.

The Cherry on Top

Another major and very important difference between to do list based tools and Kanban is that using Kanban actually helps teams improve their process. Improving the process begins by first understanding where you stand. Creating a Kanban board that accurately depicts your process can help you spot bottlenecks and identify areas of improvement. Actually, Kanban’s core principles and practices encourage continuous improvement by making incremental changes to the workflow. That way you can improve the process, thus increasing the speed and quality of delivery.

Final Verdict

Well, I’m actually going to leave it up to you to pick the tool you find better and more suitable to your needs. But I believe it’s pretty clear why and how Kanban is superior over list-based tools. Kanban is more than a visualizing board. This only scratches the surface. You can spend hours on the Internet reading about the benefits, or you can get your Kanban board and experience them first- hand. The choice is yours. I think it made it obvious ?

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About the Author: Ivana Sarandeska

Ivana Sarandeska is a digital marketer, creative writer and master procrastinator. An Agile enthusiast and a firm believer that thorough planning is key to good execution and even better improvisation. She has a soft spot for technology, so most of her full-time jobs were in IT companies where she was introduced to Agile and Scrum. After she got her Scrum Basics certification she started actively using these methodologies and their main principles. Learning how to organize her time and tasks better has motivated her to dive deeper into these methodologies. Now, she is an avid advocate of Agile and Scrum and happily shares her knowledge and experience to fellow procrastinators.