We had a long series, which is soon to become a mini-book, on why you should limit your work-in-progress (WIP). In it we focused on the dangerous side effects of being overworked, of which there are many. Those articles show how an organization might begin to limit WIP, but not really the individual.
And, since this is the Personal Kanban site after all, we should probably talk about how we, as individuals, can limit our WIP.
For this first post, we’re going to start with the simplest answer. The sports shoe answer – just do it.
The key to just doing anything is not doing everything else. David Allen promotes a “stop doing” list to compliment a “to do” list. In that vein, here we don’t want to prematurely end tasks you are working on an never revisit them, but we do want to postpone some tasks so that other can be completed. In the beginning, a large part of our READY column will be populated with tasks we know we already started, but are setting aside to focus on the few tasks in WIP.
The first thing to do here is to recognize that the work you are setting aside will get done. In fact, by setting it aside and waiting to complete the tasks in Doing, you will likely get it done sooner than if you didn’t defer it in the first place. So, calm down, your current fears of delayed completion are due to how long its taken you to finish things in the past – in a non-WIP limited world.
Why was it so hard before?
We covered this in the Why Limit WIP Series:
- It’s hard to remember well in a chaotic environment
- Completion is fulfilling
- Multi-tasking Creates Overhead
- Context Switching destroys our ability to think
- There is no social cost for taking on work
- We have no healthy constraints to stop us from overworking
- We are fundamentally unaware of the impacts of our workload
When we limit our WIP, we are able to focus, complete faster (much faster), and likely have an end product of higher quality.
We’ve been told over the years that productivity is a good thing. However, true productivity means completing things of quality – not simply doing lots of things at the same time and completing very little.
It should be common sense that if we focus on one thing, we will complete it faster.
We need to lose our irrational fear of not being productive, and replace that with embracing being effective.
So calm down, take a look at the task at hand, focus on it, and finish.
This will work most of the time. However, there are some complexities. We want to know:
- What is the right thing to work on?
- What is standing in my way of completion?
- How large of tasks should I be taking on?
- I have so many people counting on me, how do I tell some of them to wait?
- I’m interrupted so many times a day, how can I focus?
We will cover these in upcoming posts.