GTD & Kanban: Managing The Relationship Between Someday/Maybe & Active Projects

Throw out the schedule

Throw out the schedule

In my previous post, GTD & Kanban: Similarities, Differences & Synergies Between The Two in this series, I talked about using Kanban for managing the flow of work, rather than having any number of projects and someday/maybe items in separate lists which are reviewed every week to a month.  In this post I will describe how using flow to manage GTD projects and someday/maybe lists can be beneficial.  In a future post I’ll describe how this also translates into flowing actions in a context, such as the work place, and limiting the work in progress (WIP) of these actions.

Again, for the basics of GTD I recommend the material linked from Wikipedia.  The basics of Personal Kanban can be found on this very site.

What are “Someday/Maybe” lists and Projects?

Getting things Done (GTD) has a number of horizons above any given action: Projects, Goals, Focus, Vision & Purpose.  These are aimed at providing yourself goals to aim for and to test your choice of actions against, so that you aren’t just “doing”, but are actually moving toward a goal, and these goals join up to achieving larger objectives in life.

In GTD, anything you wish to achieve that has more than one specific  action is considered a project.  For example, even arranging a meal out at a restraunt could be considered a project as you will have to go through actions similar to: who to invite, confirm who is available, when to go, where to go, book a table, confirm booking with invitees and go.  The reason why this definition works is, actions could be in any number of places in your personal productivity system, be it a calendar or a list, and when they are done there needs to be a reminder in your system that acts as a touchstone so that you can ensure a next action is available to move forward towards an envisaged successful outcome.

Any objective that requires action, yet does not make sense to undertake as-at-now, yet you feel this is something you would like to do in the future is considered a candidate for the “someday/maybe” list.  Someday/maybe is reviewed at regular intervals to see if an item needs pulling into the current project list, or, if only one action is required, a contextual action list or placed on a calendar.  Why have a someday/maybe list?  Someday/maybe lists assist in clearing your head by placing all these wishes and thoughts into a trusted and regularly reviewed system.

Managing Someday/Maybe & Projects by using a Personal Kanban

Rather than have multiple flat lists, one for projects and one for someday/maybe with no interaction between them other than once a week if not longer, lets use a Kanban to represent both!  The example bellow includes prioritisation, a step for the initial brainstorm of what success looks like and what actions may be required, the doing part (working), and the done part.  All with WIP limits for focus.

project kanban

Lets do a quick illustration:

  1. You get a new project at work called “Project A” that is going to require several actions, so you place it on the backlog as you have plenty to do already.  The backlog acts as your someday/maybe list.
  2. A space becomes available on your “Should” lane, which prompts you to look at your backlog for possible projects to start prioritising, you assess the items against your current Goals at work, and select Project A.
  3. Over time, Project A moves from “Should” to “Ready”, and before undertaking the work, to the elaboration lane for envisaging a successful outcome and working back to the next steps from where you are.
  4. Once Project A moves to the “Working” lane, you place the next action discovered as part of elaborating into the appropriate context list or date on the calendar.
  5. Actions get performed overtime, and eventually the successful outcome is achieved and Project A is placed in the “Project Goal Achieved!” lane.

Clearly, due to the variance in size of knowledge work or personal projects it’s difficult to set a limit on “working”, so I suggest you experiment with this number, and try to keep it as low as possible for focus.

Going back to the purpose of someday/maybe, it is possible you have single discreet actions on your backlog now, so it is worth moving those items to an appropriate context list or calendar entry when the time comes that you wish to do something about them.  Personally, most of my Someday/Maybe items were and are projects, so I don’t mind the backlog being closely associated to projects.

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8 Responses to GTD & Kanban: Managing The Relationship Between Someday/Maybe & Active Projects

  1. Pingback: GTD & Kanban: Series Overview | Personal Kanban

  2. How does this work in with your primary work board. For example, if I have a “daily tasks” board that lists out the backlog items for me and my team, would this represent a second “someday/maybe” board that would need maintaining seperately? Would this imply that work from your primary board would be represented at a higher level on the “someday” board?

    • Hi Ryan, In a way you can think of it like how you said. A high-level board that describes at a coarser grain level your goals you wish to achieve (called projects here in GTD terms), and a lower level board to describe the current actions being individually pulled through to achieve the goals. This can also be achieved on one board using horizontal swim lanes. I’ll describe this all in a lot more detail in my next post in this series. I highly recommend reading around GTD to get more detail on this. Hope that helps? Chrs P.

  3. Tom says:

    You could also rename the MOSCOW lanes to priority filters (and separate them in horizontal lanes if necessary).

  4. Olof says:

    There never was a third part in this series, right? Too bad, as it was very helpful to get started with kan an coming from a GTD perspective.

  5. Omar says:

    Please continue the series !

  6. Chuck says:

    My team assumed that there must be a minimal waste of workforce and similar categories were invented. After couple months our manager tried Kanban Tool and we use thos categories in this tool.

  7. Excellent blog you have here but I was curious if you knew of any community forums that cover the same topics discussed here? I’d really love to be a part of community where I can get feed-back from other knowledgeable people that share the same interest. If you have any suggestions, please let me know. Appreciate it!

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