If you’ve ever sold a home then you know a million tasks you have to do to get it ready to go on the market. Since we still have some finishing work to do in our basement, we have more tasks than most.
I was quickly overwhelmed by it all and doubted we could get it done.
Now, I teach and use a project prioritization process that works wonders for managing home goals and DIY projects while you’re living in your home. It’s designed to not let you bite off more than you can chew.
But everything is different when you’re trying to sell a house. There are a lot of small tasks that need to be completed in a compressed timeframe. That kind of workload requires a different kind of management.
Last week my husband innocently asked, “What do we have to do?” I was almost insulted at first. Like, don’t you know? We have to build a bathroom, declutter, deep clean, re-caulk the bathrooms, fill the hole the kids dug in the backyard…and on and on.
When I took a step back I realized that while I’ve made a detailed list of everything we need to do and I have ideas for which of those tasks I’d like my husband to do, I hadn’t shared it with him.
He suggested we make a Kanban board to keep track of everything…so we could both see the list and pick up tasks.
I instantly loved the idea because my multi-page checklist was totally stressing me out. And it wasn’t helping me see what I should be working on right now.
Kanban was a process developed by Toyota in the 1940s to better manage their manufacturing process. Kanban translates roughly to “visual card.” The idea behind it is to visualize work, improve communication, optimize the flow of work, and continuously improve.
Over the last decade, Kanban has become a popular project management tool in the corporate world. My husband uses Kanban boards daily with his team.
At home, we wanted to use a Kanban board to create visibility for the tasks we need to get our house ready to sell. We also wanted to improve our communication about what was left to be completed. Now, at a glance, my husband can see what tasks are in process and what has already been completed.
The basic structure of a Kanban board is three columns or lists; To Do, Doing, and Done.
We created our Kanban board using masking tape and sticky notes on a blank wall in the stairwell to our basement. All the tasks that need to be done are written onto individual sticky notes and put on the To Do list. Tasks you’re actively working on are moved to the Doing list. Finished tasks are moved to the Done list.
Update: We use a digital Kanban board now that’s mobile-friendly. Click here to see how to set up your own digital Home Projects Kanban board (or copy mine!).
One of the key principles of Kanban is to limit how many items are in process at a time—the number of items on the Doing list. That keeps you from starting too many things at once and allows you to focus on a few tasks at a time and complete them faster.
So you’ll notice there are only a handful of sticky notes in our Doing column right now. We decided to cap ourselves at five tasks being actively worked on at a time. Only when one of these tasks moves to the Done column, can we start a new task.
The beauty of Kanban is you can build off the basic structure and tailor it to your needs. I decided to color code our Kanban board. I wanted to visually see how long each task will take. That allows me to choose tasks to work on that fit in the time I have available.
I used four different colors:
- Teal tasks take over four hours. I’ve decided we are not allowed to have more than one teal task in the Doing column.
- Pink tasks take less than an hour. These are going to be the easy ones to pick off and finish quickly.
- Yellow tasks take 2-4 hours.
- Light blue tasks are going to be outsourced. I’ll move them to the Doing column once they are scheduled (but they won’t count against our five tasks). Then, once the service is complete, I’ll move them to the Done column.
Some other ways you could color code the task cards are by type of work, by the person responsible for the task, or by priority.
We’ve only been using our new Kanban board for a week and as you can tell by the Doing and Done columns, we just had a very productive week. I expect everything in the Doing column to be finished this week and several more tasks will be started to replace them.
Kanban can be used to manage many small tasks like we’re doing for the “project” of selling our home. Or once your prioritize your big home projects (get my free course on that here), Kanban can be used to manage the steps within the project you’re focused on.
Update: We’re now using a digital Kanban board using a free online tool. Click here to see how to set up your own digital Home Projects Kanban board (or copy mine!).