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I'm exploring organization systems like Personal Kanban and one thing I'm still not clear on is how to represent ongoing activities that are always there and always have to be done. For example, say I'm taking music lessons and I want to practice every day. I would like to represent that either on my kanban board, but since this is a recurring task that's never "done", what's the best way to handle it?

I could avoid adding that to my tasks altogether, but it feels like I'd be ignoring a major commitment if I did that.

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up vote 11 down vote accepted

One way to represent such recurrent tasks is the sequestering approach, described on pages 158-159 of the Personal Kanban book.

The tasks are sequestered in a separate space on your whiteboard. This space looks like a table and each item is given one row. For each item, you have: description, the recurrence pattern (daily, weekly), the date of the last two occurrences and whether the very last occurrence is done.

The sequestered space is separate from the "traditional" part of your kanban board and is a way of acknowledging your WIP. If you have too much stuff there, that leaves less room for your non-recurring work.

Another approach, which I use on my LeanKit (it was suggested to me by one of the LeanKit founders) is to recycle the same card on your regular kanban board the following way: you keep it in a "ready" column with a due date set for the next occurrence, you move it to the "doing" column when you're actually doing it (and then you have to comply with WIP as it applies both to this recurring item and other non-recurring items you may have), and when you're done, you move it to the done column, reset the due date to the next occurrence and move it back to the "ready" column.

This is how I manage, for example, my preparation for my weekly book club meeting. Preparation takes part of my Tuesday evening, so everything else I'm doing on Tuesday has to fit into WIP.

A variation of this approach is to import cards with due dates from outside your Personal Kanban tool.

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If you are doing this with post-its on the wall, then you could say that each postit with "music" written on it is an 1 hour practice time on specific day.

If you have 3 hours daily I would suggest to divide it into smaller parts, especially if it happens that you don't finish it often.

Let say you need to practice 3 hours every day and you did 2 hours on Monday. When you prepare Kanban for Tuesday you will have 4 postits with music (3 from Tuesday and 1 from Monday) - if that's the way you want to make it even.

You can also make a date on each of them - this can help identify when you didn't practice.

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Apart from other, very good, answers, there are some alternatives:

  1. Some of the online tools, like KanbanFlow, supports recurring tasks:

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  1. If that's a virtual board with support for adding tasks via an e-mail, you may use some of the Web Automation Service (IFTTT or Zapier) to send an e-mail at a certain time periodically (each day\week\month).

  2. If it's a physical board, there must be a plenty of free space around columns (right?) So, you may use Jerry Seinfeld's "Don't Break the Chain" calendar(s) with the conjunction of columns you have. That doesn't have to be a calendar – It may be a separate row with squares that represents a single month, as well. Example of such calendar:

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Excellent question:

There are two main types of ongoing tasks:

Tasks that wont end Right now, I've been fighting with my publisher because of formatting issues with our upcoming French translation of Personal Kanban. This is an ongoing and unwilling task that gives me personally little gratification or feedback. Every day I just work on it a little more. I am learning as I go, but I'm not getting regular systemic feedback.

Repetitive tasks These are tasks like "Check book sales" or "Run Database usage reports**. These things we do every day and need to in order to keep our work working. They give us feedback that we rarely record.

In his comment above Alexi talked about the sequestering approach, but the book also has in it a discussion on page 154 about Jessica ... who managed her wellness regimen on her Personal Kanban. We created a section for her that has a grid with days of the week and then in each box per day she listed:

  • how much she hydrated
  • what she ate
  • what workout she had
  • how happy she was

So she gathered information for improvement on that repetitive task.

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