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!).
I love this idea and am definitely going to use it for my writing/blogging goals! Thanks for sharing this!
Rosanne, That’s a great idea. I’ve been thinking about making a mini one in my planner!
Thank you so much for your How to Kanban: Finish More Projects in Less Time. That will be really useful for me. First I’m going to use Kanban for spring cleaning, organizing, easy-peasy DIY projects and ongoing Style Lab. So much to do, I’m lucky to have your Free Kanban.
Your welcome Sirkku. It’s a great tool.
Marianne Salvo says
Awesome idea! Although I haven’t started I will certainly draw one up in the next few days. I like the idea that the whole family has access to the ” to do ” list. It is a great visual for all. I did something similar as a classroom Teacher but never thought of doing it at home. 😊
Marianna, Yes! It keeps everyone on the same page. Even though our kids aren’t old enough to help with the projects on ours right now, it does help them understand what’s going on and what we are working toward as a family.
Thank you for sharing this Jackie!!!! It’s so helpful! I will definitely be using this!
You’re welcome Marina.
Thank you for the simplicity of this system, and breaking it down to simple but useful application. I use this type of system all the time at work and it never occurred to me to use it at home. Now I can consolidate my list, create columns and color code the actions. Oh my gosh, I am very thankful!
Tamara, You’re welcome. The color coding is the fun part! This could work well for a chore system too.
Love this idea! When I first saw the stickys, I thought it was pink for your tasks and blue for your husband’s – glad to see that was one of the options for sorting, though I like the “time per task” system better.
Dyan, Haha! That would have been funny. I would of made his tasks pink though :)
We went through a major move last year and I also had the same realization about communicating the “need to do’s” with my husband. Now we are living in a renovation zone. Overwhelm is a regular occurance. To keep myself on track I recently started using the Trello app which can be set up like a Kanban system but also more versatile. My husband isn’t using it despite the invitation but I’m sure he would use the sticky notes! Time to complete a task is something I hadn’t considered in making the lists. Thanks for the great tips, Jackie!
Joanna, Yes, Trello is a great app for this. Asana is a more robust project management tool, but it can do this kind of set up now too.
It does work best though when everyone uses it. If your husband prefers sticky notes to an app, then you’ll have to compromise. Or try walking him through the app? Sometimes it’s just the tech hurdle of learning a new app that keeps someone from adopting it.
Teri Broberg says
This looks lots smarter than my last move’s to do list. I had tacked up a mile long of perforated printer paper on my kitchen wall and just kept adding on to the list and crossing out as I went. It got the job done.
Moving is no fun at all, and when you have construction to go along with it on either end (or both ends), it is even more stressful. We did a major rebuild. I could have used some of your organizational skills.
This is brilliant! Thank you. Thank you. Thank you! I will be making one for all our ongoing house projects and another for my art studio projects.
Tomena Reed says
What a great idea. We have a ton of unfinished projects and my husbands HATES to be told what to do (he’s overly amazing when it’s his idea 😉 but don’t tell him to do anything) and I get aniexty from the lack of things I see moving forward. We are planning a laundry room remodel. I think this will be perfect!
Tomena, The same thing happens around here. I would give him a pad of sticky notes and let him share his ideas to mix with yours :)
Holly Baumgartner says
Wow! I’d never heard of this! Always on the cutting edge, Jackie!
Sarah M Kressaty says
This is a brilliant idea! You tasks are constantly in view and when one is completed, you get the satisfaction of completion!! Love it and plan to start this asap!!!
love this system! I’m going to use it for tracking our home projects, but I think it could be useful in so many ways. It would be a great interactive way for my son to keep track of his chores instead of just checking off a list. Good luck getting everything done before you move. I know how tiring it can be, but worth it in the end!
Love this!! Definitely going to use this system when we start a flip we are doing, as well as getting our own home ready to sell when the time comes. Thanks!