A Digital Kanban Board is the easiest way to organize and manage all your home Improvement Projects. The Kanban process will help you be more efficient and productive, so you get more home projects done in less time.
Instead of letting your To Do List rattle around in your head, jotting notes on a million scraps of paper, and expecting your husband to read your mind and know what project you want to tackle next, you can keep track of all your projects in one place. See progress at a glance with a visual process. Make it easier to communicate with your spouse or other family and friends helping you on a project with a status board that they can see too.
Click here to pin this article for later. It’s the ultimate guide to using Kanban boards to manage your home improvement projects and you’ll want to refer back to it as you set up your Kanban board.
What is Kanban?
In its simplest form Kanban is a process for managing project tasks with three lists; To Do, Doing, and Done. A Kanban board shows the three lists as columns and each task is a card. All the cards (tasks) start out in the To Do column. As the project progresses each task eventually moves from the To Do column to the Doing column and finally to the Done column.
Kanban was developed by Toyota in the 1940s to better manage their manufacturing process. It helps make project tasks and their statuses visual.
Earlier this year we created a Kanban board at home to manage all the tasks we needed to do to get our house ready for sale. We created a simple, but very effective, Kanban board using sticky notes. We categorized the tasks with four different color sticky notes indicating how long each task would take to complete.
The great thing about the sticky note method is it is dead simple. We kept it up on a large blank wall where we could always see at a glance what we should be working on (in the Doing column) and what we had already accomplished (in the Done column). The color-coded sticky notes helped us prioritize what to work on based on how much time we had to work on a task.
The downside of the sticky note method is it doesn’t work well for complex tasks. It’s not good for managing tasks with multiple steps and a list of supplies that need to be purchased. You can’t track all of that on a sticky note.
While sticky notes are great for simple tasks, a digital Kanban board is a better way to manage complex tasks.
Benefits of Digital Kanban Boards
We recently transferred our sticky note Kanban to a digital Kanban board that gives us a lot more flexibility.
Store more Information
The biggest benefit: On a digital Kanban board, we can store additional information on each card (or task). So instead of just the name of the task, we can also include:
- A supply list
- A list of project Steps
- Notes about the project
- Links to how to articles or tutorials
I’ll show you how to set up a digital Kanban board below, and how to add all this information for each task.
In the tool I’m going to show you, all this extra information is stored on the “back of the card”, so it doesn’t clutter up your Kanban board. You simply click on a task to see the back of the card for additional information.
Checklists within tasks
With a digital Kanban board you can track tasks within a task, so you can see your progress toward completing each project. Each card can have one or more checklist, like a list of supplies or a list of project Steps. You can check off each supply you purchase or step you complete and the card for that task will show you a progress counter.
Share boards and assign tasks
On a digital Kanban board, you can invite other people to join your board. You can assign tasks (or cards) to certain people. The free Online and mobile tool I’m going to show you, also lets you comment on cards in a discussion thread.
Take it with you everywhere
My digital Kanban board is in my pocket all the time. The free tool I’m going to recommend below has a great app, so I always have my project list with me. Since I can also keep a supply list for each task, I’m never at the home Improvement store trying to remember what supplies I need to finish a project. It’s all right on my phone.
There are so many other great features you get with a digital Kanban board which I’ll show you below.
Free Online Tool for Digital Kanban Boards
There are lots of different online tools for creating digital Kanban Boards, but most of them are geared toward corporate or business users.
For home use, I recommend Trello. There’s a free version that has all the features you need to manage your home Improvement Projects.
Trello also has a free mobile app for iPhone and Android so your Kanban Board is always with you and up to date. The features that make Trello so great on the desktop, like dragging and dropping cards, are all available on the mobile app too.
The best part about Trello is how simple it is to set up and use, almost as easy as sticky notes, but with so many extra fun features.
How to Set Up a Kanban Board on Trello
Setting up a digital Kanban board is easy with Trello. Even easier, you can click the link below in the Copy My Board section to view my Home Projects board and copy it to your account.
But I want to show you how easy it is to set up Trello so you understand how it works and how to create your own lists and cards.
To create a board, click the plus sign in the upper right-hand corner. Give your board a name, like Home Projects. Click Create.
Next, create three lists on your board. In Trello the lists are the columns on the board. Each list has a title. For a Kanban board, you can title your three lists To Do, Doing, and Done. Where it says “Add a list…” type the title of your list and click save. Another column will appear to create another list.
Once your lists are created, you’ll see “Add a card…” below each list title.
Add a card to your To Do List. Simply click on “Add a card…” and type the name of one of your projects in the white field. Then click Add. Another field will appear to create the next card.
To keep your board clean and easy to read, only put the name of the project on the card. I’ll show you how to add more details about your project later.
That’s it. Add additional cards for each home improvement or maintenance project you want to do. Do a complete brain dump here of all the projects you need to do. Don’t worry about the order they are in. After you get all your projects on the list I’ll show you how to organize your board.
TIP: If you already have a list of projects typed up in a spreadsheet or document single-spaced, there’s a quick and easy way to add them to Trello. Copy the list and paste it into a new card. Hit enter. Trello will ask you if you want to turn the list into individual cards or keep it all on one card. Click “Create # Cards,” where # will be the number of items on your list.
Now the other two lists, Doing and Done, will stay blank until you start or finish a project from the To Do List.
When you choose a project to start actively working on, drag it to the Doing column. That’s where your focus should be until the project is done. Once you complete the project, you’ll drag it to the done column and you can choose another project to start from the To Do column.
But before you start doing projects, there’s a little more planning work to do. You need to add some additional information to each project so you can use Trello to keep track of your progress.
Copy My Board
For quick setup and example project cards filled out with everything below, click here to see my sample Home Projects Board and copy it to your account. It already has the three lists and a few sample projects ranging from simple to complex so you can see what the “backside” of each card looks like, which I’ll explain in more detail below.
This board is public, so you can view it without a Trello account. If you want to copy it, sign up for a free Trello account, then follow the steps below.
To copy this board, click here to view the board. Then, click “Show Menu” in the upper right corner. Click More, then Click copy board. Give your board a title, like “Home Projects.” Leave “Keep cards” checked, so the sample cards I created for you will stay on the board. You can delete them later.
Once you’ve copied the board, you can edit it any way you want. You can rename lists, edit cards, change the items in the checklists, or delete them to make it work for you.
TIP: You can also duplicate the sample project cards I created for you and then change the details for your projects. To duplicate a card, click on the card to reveal the “backside” of the card. On the right-hand side, click Copy. You can enter a new name for the duplicate card, choose the Trello board and list you want it to copy to (if you want it copied to the board and list you’re already on, then leave these setting alone), and you can choose the position for your new card on the list (Position 1 will put the new card at the top of the list). Remember, you can easily change these details and drag and drop the card after it’s created.
How to Use Trello to Plan Home Improvement Projects
Now let’s turbocharge your digital Kanban board with some hacks to keep it organized, make it pretty, and add all the nitty-gritty details you need to know for each project.
Visually Organize Your To Do List
Create “subheading” cards to make categories within a list
To organize a list, you can use cards to create subcategories, then arrange your project cards under the appropriate subcategory. For example, I organize my To Do list with four categories; Quick Fix, Half Day, Full Day, Multi-Day. I drag and drop my projects under the appropriate subheading based on how long I think they’ll take to complete.
To make your sub-categories stand out more from your project cards, type the title in ALL CAPS and add a color label to your sub-category cards. To add a label, click on the card, then click labels on the right side. Click on the color you want to use for the label. Mark all your sub-categories with the same label color.
Drag and Drop Cards to Organize Your List
If you click on a card and hold down, you can drag the card to reorder it within a list or to move it to a new list. Drag and drop your cards to put them under the appropriate subcategories.
“Label” Tasks with Emojis
Instead of using color labels on each task, I like to use emojis to label the type of task. I put the emoji right before the title of the task. For example, use the toilet emoji 🚽 to mark plumbing tasks. Use a cardboard box 📦 to mark decluttering tasks. Use a tree 🌳 to mark outdoor tasks. Not only is this fun, it helps you further organize your projects based on task type.
On a Mac, click Ctrl + Cmd + Spacebar to bring up the emojis. There’s a search bar to quickly search through all the emojis and symbols. Once you’ve found the one you want to use, click on it and it will be inserted in the text.
Designate a Special Label for High Priority Tasks
This time of year it’s critical for us to finish outdoor projects before it gets too cold outside. All outdoor tasks on our To Do list become a high priority in August and September.
To make these tasks stand out, I label each critical task with a red label. When I’m looking at my To Do List to pick my next project, these critical tasks jump out at me, so I won’t forget to focus on them first.
Add More Detail to Cards
The best thing about a digital Kanban board is you can store a lot of information with each card, without cluttering up your board. In Trello, each card has a “backside,” which can hold a description, checklists, attachments, due dates, and even a comment thread for all the people assigned to the card.
I want to show you how to use a few of these important features for your project cards.
Each Trello card can have one or more checklist. The cool thing about checklists is you can check off the items and they’ll show up with a check mark and line through them. On the front of the card, Trello displays a counter of checklist items, so you can always see your progress at a glance.
Two checklists I recommend creating for each project:
- Supply List – Create a checklist of the supplies you need to gather or purchase for the project. This is extra handy on the Trello mobile app when you’re out at the home improvement store, so you don’t forget any items.
- Project Steps – Create a checklist of each step required to complete the project.
Note: When you add more than one checklist to a card, the counter on the front of the card will show an aggregate of all the checklists.
To add a checklist, click the card. Click Checklist on the right-hand side. Give your checklist a title, like “Supply List” or “Project Steps,” then click Add. The checklist will appear on the card. Below the title is a field called “Add an item…” Type in your first checklist item, then click enter to continue adding additional items.
You can drag and drop the order of checklist items, just like you can drag and drop cards.
TIP: Quickly create checklist items by copying a list from a spreadsheet or single-spaced document. Paste the list into the “Add an item…” field in the checklist and hit enter. Trello will automatically make every item on the list into an individual checklist item.
To add a second checklist, repeat the steps above. The second checklist will appear just below the first checklist.
Once your checklists are added, you’ll see the counter on the front of the card. Once all the checklist items for a card are checked off, the counter will turn green. That means it’s time to move the card to the Done column. Hooray!
Keep Track of Links to How To Articles or Video Tutorials
Before I do DIY projects, especially ones I haven’t done before, I like to do a lot of research. I look for detailed step-by-step articles and easy to follow video tutorials. Once I find some helpful resources, I add them to the description field of my project card so they’re easy to find when I need them.
Now, you can’t add active links to checklists in Trello, but you can put them in the description of the card. So right under the title, I add any links that will be helpful during the project.
To make it an active (clickable) link, you need to use some simple Markdown. First, put the name of the link in brackets, then, immediately after, put the URL in parenthesis. It will look like this:
Once you hit save, the description field will display LASH Tile System video, and if you click on it, it will take you to the URL you entered.
Share Your Board
You can share your Trello board with anyone. This is great for planning projects with your spouse or other family and friends that might be helping out.
To share a board, click Show Menu, then More. Click Add Members. Here you can find other Trello users by their Trello name or email address.
If they don’t have a Trello account yet, you can click “Invite people by giving them a special link.” Copy and paste the link into an email to send to the person you want to share the board with. If they don’t have a Trello account, they’ll be prompted to sign up for a free Trello account.
Managing Your Projects with a Digital Kanban Board
When you’re ready to start, and actively work on a project, move it from the To Do list to the Doing list.
Only use the Doing list for projects you’re actively working on. Keep this limited to no more than three projects at a time, less if they’re complex projects.
When a project is in the Doing list, you can check off the tasks inside the card as you complete them.
First, do your supply run. Check off everything as you get it. Use this as your shopping list. With the Trello mobile app, you can have this on you at all times.
Second, check off your project steps as you complete them.
The front of the card shows an aggregate of all the checklist items so you can always see your progress at a glance. Once everything is checked off, it turns green.
When you finish the project, move it to the Done column.
I like keeping finished projects in the Done column for two reasons:
- You can see how much progress you’ve made.
- If the task is something you need to do again in the future, like routine maintenance or seasonal cleaning, you can clear out your check marks and drag it back to the To Do list.
For projects you won’t do ever again, you can archive the card or delete it permanently. You can search for archived cards in the future. Deleted cards are gone forever. To archive a card so it no longer shows on your board, click the card, then click Archive. Once you’ve archived a card, you’ll see a red delete button. If you want to permanently delete the card, click the red button and confirm you want to delete it.
Advanced Tips for Managing Complex Projects
Some projects are more complex than others. I recommend only working on one complex project at a time. To more effectively manage a big project, try these Trello tricks:
Convert Checklist of Project Steps to Cards
First, move your project card to Doing when you’re ready to start actively working on it.
Then, convert the checklist of projects Steps into individual cards. This will turn each project step into its own card on your Doing list. Move them all under your main project card. I recommend keeping your supply list in the main project card and only converting your Project Steps list to individual cards.
- To convert a checklist item to a card, click on the title of the item, then click Convert to Card. It will be added as a new card on the same list.
- To convert an entire checklist into cards, put your mouse off to the side of the first checkbox. Click and hold while you drag the mouse to highlight all of the items in the checklist. Once the entire list is highlighted, in your browser menu, click Edit, then Copy. Close the card. Now click on “Add a card…” on the list where you want the cards. In your browser menu, click Edit, then Paste. Click Add. Click Create Cards. An individual card will be created for each item.
- You can go back into the project card and delete the Project Steps checklist. Click Delete next to the checklist title, then click Delete Checklist.
Assign Due Dates and Add Calendar View
Now that each project step has its own card, you can assign each step of the project a due date, which will show on the front of the card.
- To assign a due date, click the card, then click Due Date. Choose the date from the calendar, then click Save.
When the due date is getting near it will turn yellow. If you miss the due date, it turns red.
- Now you can view your project steps on a calendar. To enable the calendar view, click Show Menu in the upper right corner, then click Powerups. Click Enable next to the Calendar power-up.
- With the power-up enabled, a Calendar link appears in the upper right corner. To see your project steps in a calendar view, click on the Calendar link. Your project steps (cards) will show on the calendar on their due date.
- You can click a card on the calendar to view the details on the backside of the card.
- In the calendar, you can drag and drop tasks to reschedule them. The date will also change on the front of the card in the List view.
- To return to the List view, click the Calendar link again.
Assign Cards to People and Use Filtering to View Tasks
You can also assign cards to people. Since you converted all your project steps to cards, that means you can assign each individual project step to a certain person.
To assign a card, click the card, then click Members. All the members of the board will show in a list, or you can search for other members to add. Click the member you want to assign to the task. You can assign the task to multiple members, just click all the members you want to assign the task to.
- The assigned members will show (either by initial or profile picture) in the Members section under the card title.
- On the front of the card, profile pictures (or initials) of assigned members will be displayed.
- To quickly view only the cards you’re assigned to, hit Shift + Q.
- To change filtering, click the green Filtering is On link at the top of the board. There you can filter by label, member, or due date.
Hands down Trello is one of the easiest ways to create a digital Kanban board and manage all your home improvement projects.
Just imagine how much more productive you’ll be once all your home improvement ideas and projects are organized in one central location. Don’t wait to set up your Home Projects board (remember you can copy my board). I look forward to hearing how you use digital Kanban boards and Trello to manage your home projects.