This will surprise exactly no-one who reads this blog, but when I’m letting my fear keep me from writing, I waste money on planning supplies. Here’s my new entirely unnecessary toy: the Kanmido 10 Min Work Life Balance Planning Board aka a personal Kanban board.
Kanban was designed as an information tracking system for lean/just-in-time manufacturing, but it’s also super useful for keeping track of multiple writing projects simultaneously. I have a big whiteboard on my wall behind my desk I use as a Kanban board. I have columns for first conception, drafting, editing, cover commission, proofreading, and release. Each project gets one sticky note, and as the project goes into different phases the sticky advances across the board. Or, alternatively, the sticky stays exactly where it is for two years. This latter is more frequent. But the system does help me keep track of what’s where, what I have to do next, and why I absolutely cannot take on any new projects until 2022.
The Kanmido board is a variation on the idea. You’ve got columns for Today, This Week, and This Month, although of course you could change these to whatever you like. You use stickies for your tasks/appointments, and advance them across the columns – from right to left, like manga – as each becomes your priority. And unlike a whiteboard, you can tuck the board into your planner/notebook and take it to the cafe/office/meeting with you.
The back of the board has spaces for “whole life” tasks. No idea what these might be. Recreation? Apparently other people have lives outside of working. I haven’t got the hang of that yet. Maybe in my second half-century.
Kanmido intends you to use yellow stickies for must-do tasks, pink for want-to-do tasks, and blue for appointments. Handily, the stickies are built in to the bottom of the board, and refills can be found, but a) not easily, and b) they’re pricey. Hell, the whole board is pricey. Should this speak to you, definitely shop around: prices on ebay vary by over 100%.
I tried Hobonichi Coco Fusen refills in the Kanmido board, but they’re so much shorter they don’t really work. When you remove a sticky the end of the stack falls out of the board at the back.
The boards come in A6 (105 x 148 mm / 4.1 x 5.8 inches) and B6 (125 x 176 mm / 4.9 x 6.9 inches). They’re 2mm thin. The A6 fits perfectly inside an A6 notebook like a Stalogy or Hobonichi Planner/Original. The B6 is smaller than A5, so it easily fits inside a Leuchtturm large, Moleskine large, or Hobonichi Cousin.
The Kanmido board comes with a weird paperclip thing, with which to fasten it into your main planner, by using a tiny clear plastic loop attached to each top edge of the board. This kind of works. It does stop it falling out of your planner if you’re walking around, but the lower edge of the board is still free to slip out of place.
So, should you buy one of these?
The process of tracking tasks/project status is great, but seriously, this is expensive for what it is. You can DIY this. Cut a piece of card to size and laminate it. Here’s one I made in sixty seconds with an unused divider and a sharpie, which fits the cheaper, larger, and more common 3M post-it flags.
This column system won’t work for you if you find the process of writing your to-do list out each day helps sift through what you can safely forget. But if you have a lot of tasks to complete in series it can feel fucking good to pull them along the columns and see the progress you’re making.
Still, I have two annoyances with the Kanmido To-Do Board.
- It’s hard to find pens to write on the stickies. A Pilot Twin Marker works the best, because that sucker will write on anything up to and including window glass. Frixion pens also work, but all the rollerballs I’ve tried smudge easily, or the ink pools and won’t form letters at all.
- Because stickies only have adhesive on one end, once you write past half way the free end starts flapping around and it’s hard to write neatly. I have to try to hold the end down to hold it steady. The stickies are tiny. My hands are not.
Something else to consider, generic paper post-it flags don’t seem to stick well enough; they peel off within 30 minutes. You really need to use more expensive film stickies.
Disappointingly – but entirely predictably – the Kanmido doesn’t add value to my life. Because I spent money on it I’m going to force myself to use it for the rest of the month and see if I can make it work for me. Maybe I can use it for all those mosquito tasks that never make it onto my actual to-do list, and I can pick one to work on each day. That might work. I’ll update in March. If you try the Kanmido, or if you hack your own, please let me know how it goes for you.