In this article, I'll explain why flipping your Kanban board can effectively reduce project anxiety and offer a clearer perspective on your tasks.
Uncertainty = Anxiety
Let's start by recognizing that a significant source of stress and anxiety in our lives is uncertainty. When we're uncertain about the future, it can lead to a sense of unease and overwhelm. To address this, we naturally tend to view the moments closer to the present as more certain than those further into the future. If we were to graph this uncertainty over time, it might look something like this:
As time progresses, uncertainty narrows down, and we gain a better understanding of what lies ahead. This reduction in uncertainty allows us to tackle tasks with greater confidence, enabling us to focus on one thing at a time.
The Problem with Conventional Kanban Boards Layout
However, when it comes to traditional Kanban boards, there's a mismatch between our natural perception of time and the way tasks are typically organized. Most Kanban boards are set up from left to right, representing the progression of tasks. Unfortunately, this orientation often presents uncertainty in a counterintuitive manner:
Completely opposite! As you can see, the conventional Kanban board places uncertainty closer to the "origin" of the board. At a glance, you're confronted with an overwhelming list of tasks in the backlog, which can fuel anxiety.
What if we flip it?
Consider flipping your Kanban board to create a more intuitive representation of uncertainty:
In this flipped version, your accomplished tasks take center stage. This layout is much more intuitive and natural to think about. Instead of being immediately confronted by an ever-growing backlog, you're greeted by the tasks you've successfully completed. This shift in focus can be incredibly motivating and encouraging, rather than inducing guilt or anxiety about unfinished tasks.
To provide a practical example of how you can implement a flipped Kanban board, I'd like to share my own setup, which has proven itself to reduce my anxiety and enhance my productivity.
- Done: This is where I place tasks that I have successfully completed. Celebrating achievements is an essential part of this method and helps boost motivation.
- Doing: The "Doing" list is where I place tasks that I'm actively working on. These are the items that are currently taking up my focus and attention.
- Waiting For: In this list, I track tasks that are dependent on external factors or waiting for input from others. It helps me keep tabs on pending tasks without cluttering my main workspace.
- Week: This list is dedicated to tasks I plan to complete within the current week. It helps me set weekly goals and prioritize tasks effectively.
- List of Active Projects Requiring Weekly Review: Here, I maintain a list of ongoing projects that require regular review. By having this dedicated space, I ensure that important projects are consistently monitored.
Benefits of This Layout:
- Enhanced Intuitiveness: The layout is designed to be intuitive and aligns with our natural perception of time. It's easier to visualize progress and prioritize tasks effectively.
- Motivation: Placing completed tasks at the forefront is motivating. It encourages a positive mindset and reinforces a sense of accomplishment.
- Reduced Anxiety: The reduced focus on an overwhelming backlog minimizes anxiety and helps maintain a calm workflow.
- Diagnosing Bottlenecks: One of the advantages of this layout is that it makes it easier to diagnose issues in your workflow. If you notice that cards are not following a smooth diagonal flow from "Week" to "Done," it's a sign that there might be a bottleneck somewhere in your process. This visual cue allows for quick identification and targeted improvement.
Flipping your Kanban board offers a simple trick to reduce anxiety by aligning the representation of uncertainty with our natural perception of time. This layout is not only more intuitive but also helps you approach your tasks with greater ease, ultimately leading to a more productive and less stressful workflow. Give it a try and let me know what you think!