Method Stacking: Kanban + Pomodoro

Dylan | Apr 29, 2019

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I want to share a little experiment I started a month ago, but before I dive in, let me share some important background information. In the past, I found great success using a Kanban Board. I was able to look ahead at my entire week and plan a time to complete my weekly personal goals. After tackling a difficult week, I was motivated, empowered, and nearly ready to take on the whole world; at least until Monday rolled around.

I did one of the things I do best and found an excuse for not making another Kanban Board. Weeks passed without another board and even when I manage to accomplish a lot in a particular week, the sense of satisfaction paled without a way to visualize the mountain I had moved.

Months later, a drop of wisdom would appear and I would pull myself together to prepare a new Kanban Board. This time I might stick to it for a couple of weeks and just like before, even if I didn’t finish everything, I obviously challenged myself, tackled more work, and reaped the empowerment of productivity.

Why do we tend to fail spectacularly at the things we know, without a doubt, will make us more successful? Especially simple things that only require 10-15 minutes to set up? Too often for me, it’s procrastination fueled by pure laziness. Other times, confronting everything I must accomplish completely overwhelms me.

The Experiment

I wondered what a single month might look if I actually went all-in on maintaining a Kanban Board. If you’re not familiar with Kanban Boards, you can read more about them in my previous post here! Compelled by the fear of conjuring a million excuses for not sustaining the board, I knew I had to figure out a strategy.

Which techniques or methods outside the Kanban Board had empowered me to cut my tendency to procrastinate and give up in the past? Whenever a large assignment loomed over me, I too often found myself paralyzed. How do you even begin to approach something so large?

In these times of despair, the only thing as motivating as the upcoming deadline was the Pomodoro Technique. Learn more about the Pomodoro Technique in my post on it here. Dedicating 20 hours to a project, especially if boring or difficult, can feel daunting; however, just 25 minutes? I can do that. And thanks to momentum, it’s usually much easier to keep working after a single 25-minute Pomodoro.

So, the solution was obvious. Every Sunday night for the following 4 weeks, I would begin a Pomodoro to build my Kanban Board. But the partnership of these methods wouldn’t simply end there!

The Real Power of Stacking

I decided to try to break down each Kanban card into a task small enough of a task to be completed in a single Pomodoro. Now glancing at my Kanban Board, I can quickly assess how much time for work I’ll need to set aside for each day. On days with more obligations, I naturally plan less work, fewer Pomodoros.

This powerful little combination has heightened my sense of how long a task will take me to complete. Judging how long a task will require has not been easy, especially when unaccustomed to working in a state of intense focus provided by the Pomodoro Technique.

Unlike ever before, stacking these methods provided a framework for tuning my sense of the time required to complete a task. In as little as four weeks, the accuracy of predicting task duration has noticeably improved. I’m excited to continue this experiment into the next month as well!

What do you think about stacking these two methods? Would you be willing to try the 4-week experiment? What other methods do you or have you stacked with the Kanban Board or the Pomodoro Technique? Let us know in the comments below!

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