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Managing your constraint – Part II – Automation

In Part I, you saw how Personal Kanban can be applied to managing your personal constraint – the 10,080 minutes you have available each and every week. This second installment will share some free web based tools so you can automate your Kanban and take it with you.

I’ve tried the free web-based versions of two tools, Kanbanery and Agile Zen. Agile Zen is free as a single user tool, but also available for multi-user environments. Kanbanery is free while in beta. Both are intuitive and easy to use, but I recently moved over to Agile Zen because it has a deadline function and print out of the tasks. Kanbanery is in beta and will probably add those functions over time.

Agile Zen comes configured with five columns – Backlog, Ready, Working, Complete, and Archive. Backlog and Archive are not part of the main board, so they sit at the edges and can be expanded as needed. Here’s my suggestion for reconfiguring it. Just click on the process tab to edit the column headings. There you can rename Backlog to Idea Bucket and add a new Backlog column on the main board. I also suggest modifying the board to delete ready and add columns for This week, Today and Recurring. The setup looks like this:

Agile Zen Kanban

Then all you have to do is click on Add on the Zen menu bar to begin creating tasks (Agile Zen calls them stories). You name the task, select a color to match your categories (Mine are Marketing, Selling, Client Work, Writing, Infrastructure, Learning, Household, and Personal) and then click to either drop it in the Idea Bucket or hang it on the board. If you hang it on the board it always starts in the first column – the one I named Backlog.

To return to your board, Simply click Board , and then you can begin managing your tasks using drag and drop to move them through the process. Here’s what mine looks like below. You can click on it to see a bigger version:

my personal kanban

As a web application, any changes you make take effect immediately, and you can also access it anyplace you have internet access. Plus, you can also print out your board and take it with you wherever you go.

Next week in the final installation, I’ll share some approaches for integrating Personal Kanban with your Outlook or other calendar systems.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Niki August 30, 2010, 8:13 am


    Thanks for sharing this post about how you use AgileZen. We love to see our product in action! 🙂

    All the best,


  • Jack Vinson August 30, 2010, 10:24 am

    Wow. Seeing this in action is much more helpful than reading about it. A picture paints a thousand words.

    While you are talking about personal productivity, I immediately see connections to helping groups and projects. This could just as easily be done to help a group manage their work load, right?

    • Michael A. Dalton August 30, 2010, 12:36 pm

      Thanks Jack –

      the overall approach was originally intended to visualize and improve group work flow as part of Lean/TPS. Personal Kanban is just a thin slice being used for time management.

      Kanban has also been widely adopted as part of agile software development methods – that's why there are great tools like Agile Zen and Kanbanery out there.

      One of the complications is review and approval loops or other variably iterative work, but that's true with other planning tools too.

  • Paul Klipp September 30, 2010, 8:58 am

    Thanks for the mention. Kanbanery will come out of beta next week. Our pricing plan will include a free personal option with one board, two users, and 1GB of file storage for attachments.

  • Peter Samuelson December 20, 2010, 5:47 pm

    http://kanbantool.com looks also encouraging. It’s even more lightweight than agilezen and it’s still for FREE.

  • Michael A. Dalton January 11, 2011, 11:23 am

    Samy – after trying http://LeanKitKanban.com for a month or so now, it is my favorite. Being able to configure swim lanes for different types of work is very helpful. And it’s free for one board with up to five users. Thanks for the suggestion.

  • Erica T. April 5, 2011, 9:50 pm

    Check also smartQ Kanban app (http://www.getsmartQ.com).

    Has reports, export to CSV, custom fields, etc.

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