Personal Kanban: Integrating Evernote with LeanKit using Zapier

Continuing our series of Personal Kanban focused integrations for LeanKit, let’s take a look at integrating Evernote with LeanKit. Say you’re in Evernote, and you want to quickly add a card to your personal kanban board in LeanKit.  With this integration, you can simply add “(LK)” to the note title, and BAM! LeanKit card.

As in our other integrations, we’re going to use Zapier.com to connect Evernote and LeanKit.

Create a new “Zap” using the “New Note” trigger from Evernote with the “New -Add Card” action from LeanKit.

Creating a new Zap trigger from Evernote

Zapier will prompt you to authorize your Evernote account:

Authorizing Your Evernote Account

After setting up your LeanKit and Evernote accounts,

Set up LeanKit Evernote Accounts

You can now configure the trigger for evernote. I chose to add a filter on the note title. In any notebook, I can add “(LK)” to the note title and have a LeanKit card created for that note. I could have chosen other options here, and you may decide you’d like it to work differently. For exaple, you could create a separate notebook in Evernote, and just have all notes from that notebook get added to LeanKit as cards. Or you could use the “tags” in evernote instead of the title, like I did.

Now configure the LeanKit fields, including the Evernote Title in the LeanKit Card Title field.

Configuring LeanKit Fields Evernote Title and LeanKit Card Title

I also added the Evernote “URL” field to the LeanKit Description field, to provide me with a link back to the original note.

Adding Evernote URL field to LeanKit description field

So, to test this, create a new note in Evernote, with “(LK)” in the note Title:

Creating a New Note in Evernote

Then test and name the Zap you’ve created:

Test and Naming the Zap

And you should get a new LeanKit card, as shown below:

New LeanKit card

You can also see the URL to the original note included in the description of the LeanKit card:

URL to the original note included in leanKit card

Enjoy!

This is the third post in the series by Chris Hefley of LeanKit showing how to integrate tools many of us use everyday with our Personal Kanban. You can read the previous post – Personal Kanban using Google Calendar, LeanKit and Zapier here.

 

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Personal Kanban using Google Calendar, LeanKit and Zapier

This is the second post in the series by Chris Hefley of LeanKit showing how to integrate tools many of us use everyday with our Personal Kanban. You can read the first post – Killing Email Interruptions: Personal Kanban using LeanKit, Gmail and Zapier here.

This time, we’ll look at how to integrate Google Calendar with LeanKit via Zapier.com. We’ll look at two different ways to use Google Calendar and LeanKit together.

First, let’s create a “Zap” based on the Google Calendar “New Event Search” trigger. This will allow to create a Google Calendar event and a corresponding LeanKit card at the same time.

Creating a Zap Trigger

Zapier will prompt you to set up your Google Calendar account and you can use your already set-up LeanKit account.

Setting up GCal with LeanKit

After setting up the accounts, set the Search Term for the Google Calendar trigger. I used “(LK)”. If I create an event with “(LK)” in the title, this integration will create a LeanKit card for that event. That way, I can easily control which events from my calendar get a card.

Search Term for GCal Trigger

Now, I want to create a new card type on my LeanKit board, for “Event”.

Creating a new card type in LeanKit

Now that we’ve taken care of that, we can set up the target LeanKit board, lane, and card type.

Use the “Summary” field from the list of fields available from Google Calendar for the LeanKit Card Title field.

Matching GCal event to LeanKit

Not all my calendar appointments actually have a description. Since Description is a required field in the LeanKit integration, add the “Summary” and “Event Begins (Pretty)” fields to the LeanKit Description field, in addition to the Google Calendar Description field, as shown below:

Adding Summary and Event Fields to  LeanKIt Description Field

We’re nearly ready to test the integration. First, though, let’s go to Google Calendar and create an event with “(LK)” in the event title:

Creating an Event with LeanKit in the Event Title

Finally, test and name the Zap:

Testing Zap

And you should get a new LeanKit “Event” card on your personal kanban board:

New LeanKit card on Personal Kanban board

There’s one other way I’d like to integrate my Google Calendar with LeanKit. I’d like to create a new card on my LeanKit board one day before a scheduled event, instead of immediately when I first create the event. So, if I’m using my personal kanban board to keep track of things I have to do on a given day, I will get the next day’s events added the the board each day.

For this integration, I’m going to use the “Event Start” trigger from Google Calendar.

Alternative way to add event cards to your board - Event Start Trigger

When setting up the trigger parameters, I chose 1 day, and used the Search Term “(LKF)” (for “LeanKit Future”). The Search Term is optional, if you want this trigger to fire for all events.

Setting up new trigger parameters

For the LeanKit parameters, set them up the same as in the previous example, then create a new Google Calendar event. The event needs to be in the future, within 24 hours of the current time in order for our test to work. And I’ve added “(LKF”) to the event title:

New Calendar Event Setup

Test and name this Zap:

Testing and naming the new Zap

…and we should now have a new Event card on our LeanKit board:

New Event Card on the LeanKit board

There you go! Now you can create a card and event at the same time, or mark a calendar event to have a LeanKit card created in the future, when the event is 1 day away.

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Kanban Seder

Seder KanbanLast week my wife and I hosted a Passover Seder. We have entertained together a number of times, but this was the first real attempt at a coordinated, sit-down meal. Most of our gatherings have been buffets, and less dependent on timing.

We knew getting the timing of the Seder right would be a challenge. The meal is served in the middle of the Seder, not just when the guests arrive. We also knew there would be a lot of uncertainty. Potatoes don’t always cook the way you want them to, and guests never arrive all together. It would be difficult to plan everything perfectly. However, we knew we would both feel a lot more comfortable if there was a plan, to help keep us on the same page when we started making adjustments… and we always have to make adjustments.

The night before the Seder, we went through all the things we’d have to do. We’d used Kanban-style visualization techniques before (to pack for trips and track jobs around the house), and there are three cabinets in our kitchen that work great as Ready, Doing, and Done lanes. So at first I started listing out each major task on a sticky note, but I quickly felt this would be inadequate.

Time was an essential component of everything we had to do. We couldn’t just pull tasks when we were ready. The brisket had to cook for hours; potatoes had to be peeled and seasoned before going in the oven; matzo balls had to chill before going in the water to boil; and different things had to be ready at different times, paced to the rhythm of the Seder. Coordinating the timing of each task was one of the main reasons for our planning exercise.

The solution we used was to write the time required for each task on the upper right of the sticky note. This allowed us to get a good picture of the overall flow. Working backward from the end, we started to determine when we wanted each task to complete. We also recorded that information on the sticky notes. Finally, through a little quick subtraction, we determined the times we needed each task to start, and put that on the sticky notes. We tried to keep our number of concurrent tasks low—thus limiting our work in progress—by staggering tasks where we could. Once this was done, we had a plan. We went to bed, comfortable and confident.

The next morning, things started to go awry. The Seder’s co-host, who was expected to arrive early to help with the preparations, had a family emergency and couldn’t come. This was a significant problem. The plan had assumed she would be there. She was also bringing the Haggadah, so my wife started looking for alternatives online, a task we hadn’t anticipated, and one that took a long time to complete.

The brisket pan turned out to be too large for the meat and its sauce. At some point, all the sauce cooked down and started to burn. We caught it in time, but reworking the brisket dish in the middle of the other preparations was an emergency we hadn’t counted on.

But our visualizations were resilient. We were able to absorb these unforeseen issues into our plan without disrupting our overall flow. One reason for this was the slack we’d built in the night before. We had arranged the plan to keep the number of concurrent tasks low. This helped. The act of planning had also allowed us to see what needed to happen at specific times and what could be flexed. To make up for the time and hands we’d lost, we started pulling flexible tasks ahead when we had a little slack. Having the start time on each task made it easy to identify what to do next; when either one of us came free, we could grab it and get started. The visualization also allowed us to talk about what we were doing and where we were with it. We didn’t have to waste time talking about what to do next and could quickly help each other when necessary. The Kanban was our shared view of our work, an effective distributed form of cognition.

The final result was a fun Seder, an excellent meal, and nearly perfect timing, in spite of the inevitable hiccups. Our Kanban Seder was wonderful, and I’m looking forward to doing it again next year.

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Is Your Project in Limbo?

Limbo is completion out of reach

Limbo is completion out of reach

What happens when we start a project and it is honestly overtaken by events?

We start a project in good faith and then, because context changes, we have to set it aside. It’s work-in-progress, so what do we do? The project isn’t done, we will likely come back to it, but it could be weeks or even months before we touch it again.

These projects Limbo projects – we are unclear when they will start again, we only know that we’ve started them and that they are no longer our priority.  We are moving the project from being active to being just another option that may or may not be exercised in the future.

Some people who are, shall we say, really into their Personal Kanban will lose sleep over this. But one word of (hopefully) enlightenment – Personal Kanban is more about understanding our work than it is getting specific things done.

So, we now understand that we have a project that is either in Limbo or getting close to Limbo.

Ask a few key questions as soon as possible and with as many people involved with the project as possible:

  1. Limbo Really? Is the project really in Limbo or are we simply being distracted by something else? (Make hard, but informed choices when interrupting a project).
  2. Quick Payoff? Can the Limbo project be focused on and quickly completed? (Even if you greatly reduce the scope of the project, can you quickly realize some benefit from the work done thus far?)
  3. Future Knowledge? If you are putting this on hold, what will you need to know in the future when you start up again? Write a note to your future self about the state of the work, why it is that way, and the location of any half-completed work.
  4. How Could This Happen to Me? Be very critical of why this project was allowed to start, only to be abandoned. Abandoning a project is very expensive and very wasteful. Figure out why this happened and take steps to avoid it in the future. Limbos cost money.

Again, Limbos are going to happen. They happen to everyone. Since our contexts and priorities change, it would be foolish to expect that every project we start on will be completed. The goal here is to use the Personal Kanban to understand our work, recognize when a project is in Limbo, and to act responsibly.

Seattle, WA

Pretty Awesome Image: http://ichigopaul23.deviantart.com/art/My-Limbo-Wallpaper-364369944

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You Are a Role Model

fortuneAt some point, maybe at many points, it strikes me that we are all role models. We all influence each other. We are a network of emotions and actions.

When we do something, positive or negative. Kind, indifferent, or cruel. Self-centered or altruistic. Other people notice. Other people react.

This is systems thinking in the social sphere. Social media is a social system. We have seen how they can be built, enjoyed, and exploited. Work, home, friends are also social systems.

I’m not going to go into any false spiritual spiral with this, I’m just going to note that there are systems in which we operate. Personal, political, economic. At home and at work. And how we act, how we present ourselves, how we interact with others – makes a hell of a difference.

In the 90s, before New York City became mysteriously friendlier, I woke up one morning in Tribeca. I went for a walk with my friend Brian. We went into a shop to get some coffee. Brian was animated and talkative, but when the person came to get his order the exchange went like this:

Person (aggressively staring at Brian): What d’you want?

Brian: (looking away, like the other person isn’t there): Coffee.

He gets Brian his coffee.

Person: Here.

Brian: <no response, grabs coffee>

Person to me same thing: What d’you want?

Me: (Looking back at him, smiling) I’d also like a coffee, please.

Person stares at me a second, trying to figure out if I’m for real.

Goes to get coffee.

Comes back and hands it to me.

Me: Thank you.

Person walks away.  Stares at me.

Brings me a muffin.

Person: … You have a nice day, okay?

Me: Really?

Person: Really. <Person then smiles back>

My friend Brian was one of the nicest people on earth. But in the 90s New York system, he was expected to act a certain way. On my part, I didn’t do anything hokey or over-the-top, I was just not unpleasant.

Brian said, “I’ve never seen that guy be nice to anyone.” I was a role model, just by being human. It doesn’t take much.

When we get overworked, we get stressed. When we get stressed, we get unpleasant. When we’re unpleasant, we behave unpleasantly. We we do that, we spread it around.

So, I’m not saying “be nice all the time.” What I’m saying here is that if we build our systems to avoid overwork (likely one of the largest sources of stress we have), we are improving other systems we engage in because we will be better actors in those systems.

So recognize that you are a role model. You are an active part of many social systems.

Blogged on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas

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Two Goals Quickly Visualized

I realized that I had fallen off the writing wagon. I had become a non-writer.

That was really bothering me.

I sat down several times to write blog posts and wrote portions of them or huge rambling missives that went nowhere.

Soon it became clear that I needed a goal and to visualize it. It was pretty simple really. It looks like this

Two Goals Quickly Visualized

Two Goals Quickly Visualized

 

I wanted to make sure that I wrote blog posts and participated on Twitter. So I made a quick (ugly) chart over my done column on the board by my desk. It has the days of this week with two swim lanes – one for blogging and one for entering 3 tweets per day  into Social Flow.

I then mark down how I felt about them when I was done. Overall, it was pretty good. No home runs there, but it was okay. (I’d make a big mouthed smiley for one I was really happy with).

What I’m doing here is quickly visualizing, rewarding, and evaluating a goal. Since they’re daily tasks, moving the stickies would be redundant and perhaps even annoying. But setting up a rapid feedback system helps immensely.

 

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Sharing Your Story

Everywhere we look we’re discovering people around the world – from all ages and all walks of life –  are tailoring their Personal Kanbans to some very specific needs, and in some very unique ways.

Are you one of those people?

If so, we invite you to share your experiences on the Personal Kanban website, and serve as an inspiration to the global Personal Kanban community.

Are you using Personal Kanban in conjunction with an online tool like Evernote or Google Keep? Have you incorporated a calendar feature into your board? Applied a particular email filter? Used it to extend your GTD practice?

Is there an online Personal Kanban tool or mobile app you’re particularly fond of? Or did you opt  for a physical board instead, preferring to use a wall or window or desktop Personal Kanban?

Do you use it primarily at work and/or, are you using it at home with your family? Have you used it to track an interesting project? Tell us!

These are questions that when answered, have the potential to inspire others in ways they never considered.  So share your Personal Kanban story with us. It doesn’t have to be too involved or complicated – we don’t want to break your WIP limit!  We’re looking for a quick paragraph or two describing how you’ve implemented Personal Kanban. And if you want to share pictures of your board, even better.

So consider sharing your story.  We look forward to hearing from you.

Thanks!
Jim and Tonianne

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Finding Hidden WIP

Can you find the hidden WIP in this picture?

Can you find the hidden WIP in this picture?

Limiting Work in Process (WIP) is not easy.

Our work is largely invisible, which means it’s hard to notice. It creeps up on us. Well, heck, it’s invisible, it just walks right up – bold and unabashed. It doesn’t have to sneak – we’re simply blind to it.

Then, one day, we notice it is there.

Over the last three weeks, we’ve worked with several groups that are shocked when we’ve found hidden WIP. To them, we seem like ghost hunters finding inefficiencies and overload where there was previously only air.

So, how can you find hidden WIP?

It’s easy: always assume it’s there.

When you start from a position of knowing that there’s more WIP lurking, you examine the shadows more closely. Here’s three common shadows:

Big Tickets – People are always asking about ticket sizing. If your tickets are too big they have lots of room in them. Lots of room for WIP to hide. Lots of tasks that you can start and not finish. Lots of ways for the ticket to get stuck. Ultimately, the big tickets have lots of shadows for WIP to hide. Tickets get bogged down because one or more of those hidden tasks is hard to complete. (Note to some: user stories are usually pretty big tickets).

Overfocus on Team Work – Time and again we see teams limit their WIP on a team board, but overlook the individuals. So the team will have a WIP limit of 5 or 6 and be meeting that limit just fine. Upon examination, however, one or two people are involved in every ticket. Since our work is completed by people, overloading them defeats the purpose of the Personal Kanban in the first place.

Self Deception – We put things on the board that we want to put on the board. Everything else … hmm. We’ve seen software teams overloaded with unboarded support tasks because they weren’t “real work”. We’ve seen researchers overloaded with unboarded administrative tasks because they weren’t “real work.” We’ve seen people with dozens of incomplete tasks that were “too small for the board.”

Tonianne and I now look for these things out of habit. We immediately look for oversized expectations, individual overload, and unreported work every time we see a board.

Image from Cecil Goes Wild … which could be used to teach kids about hidden WIP.

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Finishing Feels Good

Yes, finishing feels good. When we complete tasks, we feel better than when we have a pile of incompletes just lying around. Incompletion creeps up on us, overloads us, and crushes us. The more we fail to complete our work or realize our goals, the more susceptible we are to hopelessness, doubt, and fear.

So … completion would seem to be a pretty clear winner.

So, why don’t we complete? Because we have competition for our attention. E-mail, Facebook, conversations with colleagues, and the other 25 tasks we are working on simultaneously are constantly competing for our focus.

(Even now, I looked up, my Facebook browser tab says there are 2 replies there. I started to move my cursor up to check on them and said, …. hey, you’re writing a blog post! Get that cursor back down there…)

Neuroscience has found that when we finish tasks, we get a dopamine rush. We actually do feel better. However, interruptions trick the brain. They can be like instant gratification that gives us little dopamine rushes. We find ourselves incurring more and more distractions that, like any indulgence, feel good at the time and leave us feeling empty later on.

The tricky bit here is we no longer have space as individuals to concentrate. Whether we are at the office or at home, our focus is impaired by these constant interruptions. We cannot focus and complete. This costs us, our companies, and our families every second of every day.

In order to complete, we need some help. We need something to ground us, something to focus us, and something to propel us. Once we have these elements, projects at work become easier, communication becomes smoother, and motivation is easily found.

The key here is not to have that help seem like the solution. The help here is to find our own ways of working. We have discovered though, that a few simple tools have helped people and organizations craft their own ways of working.

Tool 1: Visualize Your Work – Creating a Personal Kanban immediately lets you and your colleagues know what you are doing now, what you have done, and what is coming up next. That grounds your work in a tangible system that constantly reminds you of what needs to be completed.

Tool 2: Limiting Work-in-Process – Our distractions create work overloads. We take on too much work and then have to manage all those tasks in-flight. Limiting our active tasks as individuals or as work teams is vital for completion.

Tool 3: An Eye for Improvement – In order to really improve how we work, we need to actually understand what improvement looks like and how to achieve it. In Lean, this is called “Kaizen” (Continuous small positive changes).

We don’t want improvement like “Starting tomorrow I will do everything exactly right,” because large unrealistic change is unrealistic. Learning, however, to take on small improvements makes all the difference.

Potent Combination

Our goal here is to understand our work, do just enough to get quality work completed, and always be looking for ways to make work better / more enjoyable / etc.

Learning More ….

Reading: Doing a search on the Personal Kanban site for “Visualize Work”, “Limit WIP”, and “Improvement” will give you some food for thought.

Workshops: In March of 2014, I’m going to be teaching a few workshops on exactly this combination with Kaizen expert Mark Graban in Phoenix (Mar 10) and San Antonio (Mar 12).  We did one class in Seattle last year that went so well that this year we’re doing two!

Conversation: We’ll be hosting a 2 day conversation on this February 19 / 20 in Seattle called Kaizen Camp.

 

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Killing Email Interruptions: Personal Kanban using LeanKit, Gmail, and Zapier

Quick intro from Jim Benson:

We’ve asked Chris Hefley from Leankit to write a series of posts showing how to integrate tools many of us use everyday with our Personal Kanban. These are fairly technical posts, but also very powerful ones.

In this first post, Chris mentions that his aim is to keep his inbox at zero by taking action items and moving them directly to his Personal Kanban. Tonianne and I have also noticed that we also tend to act on emails the moment they arrive. This means that we allow email to interrupt our flow of work – then we get to the end of the day and are disappointed by how we let those interruptions derail our day.

Chris lays out a simple mechanism to move emails into your Leankit Personal Kanban that can both clean out your inbox and give some of those interruptions their proper priority. Also, I’ve turned Chris’ post into a video which is at the bottom.

Take it away, Chris

———–

I aspire to keep my inbox at zero. About once every couple of weeks, I actually get there. I’ve got several tools that I use to help me with that, including moving emails to my Personal Kanban board in LeanKit.

LeanKit has a connector available for Zapier, a cloud based integration hub. Zapier provides hundreds more connectors with other applications, which makes it very easy to connect LeanKit with Gmail, ZenDesk, BugZilla, BaseCamp, and many more.

In this article, I’ll show you how to set up a “Zap” to create a LeanKit card based on an email in Gmail, complete with a link back to the original email, so that you can get that “to do” item onto your Kanban board and out of your inbox.

First, you’ll need to go to Zapier.com and create an account. There’s a free account that should work just fine, and if you need more integrations or faster synchronization you can upgrade later.

Once you’ve created your account, you’ll be asked to create your first “Zap”, and presented with the screen below:

Setting up Zapier with LeanKit

On the Trigger (left) side, choose Gmail, and choose “New Thread”.

Setting up Gmail with Zapier

On the Action side (right side) choose LeanKit and “New-Add Card” for the action.

So that when a new Thread is created in Gmail that fits the criteria we will add later, it will create a matching card in LeanKit.

Setting up Gmail with Zapier

Follow the steps in Zapier to set up your Gmail account:

Integrating your email

…and your LeanKit account.

Set up Zapier to LeanKitNow, in a separate browser tab, go into your gmail account, open an email, and create a Label called “lk” (or something similar) for that email. (Help for how to create a label in Gmail: https://support.google.com/mail/answer/118708?hl=en)

Back in Zapier, in the filter for your Gmail Trigger, choose the “lk” label you created in the previous step (it could take a few minutes for the label to show up after you’ve created it. If you don’t see it after a few minutes, try saving your “Zap” incomplete, and then coming back to this step.)

Filtering Gmail Triggers

In Zapier, Choose the LeanKit board you’d like to add cards to. This will allow you to select from any board in your LeanKit account (that you have access to with your login).

Filtering the LeanKit Board

After selecting the Board, you’ll be able to select the lane you want new cards added to, and the Card Type you want for your new cards.

Choosing the Lane

For the Card Title field, add the Gmail fields  “From Name” and “Subject”, and add “Plain Message” to the description field.

You can also add “ThreadURL” to the Description field if you’re using Basic or Team edition to provide a link back to the email. Or follow the instructions further down to add the link to the card header if you’re using Portfolio edition.

Selecting a card title

Test it like so:

Test

Set up 2

If you’re using LeanKit Portfolio Edition, you can use the “External Card ID” field. Add “ThreadID” to this field from the list of available Gmail fields.

External Card ID

Open your LeanKit board in a new browser tab, and in the settings for your leankit board, enable Card ID, and set it up as shown below. The {ID} field is where the Gmail ThreadID will go.  (Check the gmail message url by opening an email in your browser and confirming the format of the url shown below for the email).

Card ID

Now, the link to the original thread will appear in the header of the card, allowing you to quickly jump back there without opening the card to view the description.

Links on Cards

That should do it. You can test the Zap and turn it on in Zapier. Now, all you have to do is label a message in Gmail with “lk” and then archive it to get it out of your inbox. The next time the Zapier sync process runs, it will pick up that email and create a LeanKit card for it.

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