Column States

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Column States

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Six Column States

All columns that contain cards on a board in Kanban Zone must be associated with one of the six available column states:

  • Backlog – this state is reserved for the Backlog column only (which must exist on every board).
  • To Do – use this state to start your process. Cards in this column, are not yet Work In Progress (WIP) and therefore do not factor in your cycle time.
  • In Progress – use this state to identify Work In Progress (WIP). Cards in this column will be included in your cycle time.
  • Done – use this state to end your process. Cards in this column will immediately count towards your throughput.
  • Buffer – use this state to prevent cards from being pushed to the next column. Cards being queued in this column can be pulled into the next column to improve your flow.
  • None – use this state when you want to exclude cards from the process and analytics.

Setting Up the Column States

When you create complex boards with nested columns, they can be named anything you want. So to keep track of the cards’ progress in analytics and reports, we use the predefined column states mentioned above.

This setup can only be accessed by the administrator of the board.

1. Click the ‘Settings’ icon on the top right corner and navigate to ‘Board Designer’.

screenshot showing the Board Designer menu on the Settings menu

2. Within the board designer, all card columns shown as grey containers will have the state dropdown. You can choose one of the states for each column. Every state can be chosen, except for Backlog which is reserved only for the Backlog column.

screenshot of the available states

Example: In the screenshot above the column is called Done and the state selected for that column is Done.

3. After you’re done editing the states, click ‘Done Editing’ in the top right corner.

Screenshot of the board editor and the done editing button

The State Sequence

As you modify your board, you will notice that depending on where you add or move a column on the board, the column state may get updated automatically. This is because the columns must follow a specific sequence of To Do > In Progress > Done. The Buffer and None states can be set anywhere on the board, but the other 3 states must be sequential. Note that there could be more than one column associated with these states.

If you have a board with five columns (or a container with five nested columns), you can use these sequences:

  • To Do > In Progress > In Progress > In Progress > Done
  • To Do > To Do > In Progress > In Progress > Done
  • To Do > To Do > To Do > In Progress > Done
  • To Do > In Progress > In Progress > Done > Done
  • To Do > In Progress > Done > Done > Done

For example, you can’t use “In Progress > To Do > Done > To Do > In Progress” because To Do must always be the state of the first column and Done the state of the last column.

To make sure that you get the column states that you want for every column, start setting your states from the rightmost column.


You need to create a board where you have a first process flow of “To Do > In Progress > Done” and you need to have a subsequent process that also goes “To Do > In Progress > Done”.

To do this, you can use a horizontal container that holds “To Do > In Progress > Done” followed by 3 columns of “To Do > In Progress > Done”.

screenshot of individual containers in board editor

Or, you can also use two horizontal containers.

screenshot of two horizontal containers

We mention using a horizontal container in this example, but you could also use a vertical container. These horizontal and vertical permits you to create complex boards and also nest containers, but more importantly, for the purpose of column states, these containers can reset the sequence of the column state within each container. It’s what some clients call “building boards within a board“.

Column States in The Report

Lastly, one of the best examples of using these column states can be seen in the Flow report.

Flow Report

As you can see in the Flow report shown above, the 4 column states (To Do, In Progress, Done, None) are used to visualize this report. The Backlog label in the report is a special column that can’t be managed in board editor, so it’s shown as Backlog. The Cancelled label is not a column state, it corresponds to any card that got archived but never touched a Done state column.

Related Information

The Backlog state is not included in the discussion above, since every board must have a Backlog column that is associated with the Backlog state. You can’t move the Backlog column or change its state.

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