Email Kanban

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How to use Personal Kanban to manage your email.

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  • I'm not sure exactly why, but 'visualizing' a list of emails and seeing which ones are read and unread seems to have far less of a pull, far less of a kanban feel, than cards on a wall. This approach just doesn't work for me.

    On the other hand, wouldn't it be cool to have an email client that gave you a card-on-a-wall view of your email threads? Here's how that might work:

    1. Emails arrive in your inbox.
    2. You triage them quickly - read, delete, archive, act.
    3. The 'act' emails could go into a separate 'act' folder.
    4. You then switch to 'kanban view' of all your 'act' emails. The new ones will be in the 'backlog', or maybe a 'pre-backlog' till you decide to commit them to the kanban. It would also show the other columns you've set up, and where your other emails are already at in the flow.

    This way you could integrate your tasks and emails, but get a real visual flow of things.
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Email Kanban

  1. 1. EMAILKANBAN1
  2. 2. EMAIL KANBANA way to use Personal Kanban to manage your email.2There are only two real rules with Personal Kanban:1. Visualize your work2. Limit your work-in-progress• http://www.personalkanban.com/pk/personal-kanban-101/Your email can come from any source, including emails yousend yourself.You can use any email system that has subfolders and ‘MarkAs Read’.That’s it!
  3. 3. WHY EMAIL KANBAN?Five reasons to use Email Kanban:1. You need a way to visualize your current and upcomingwork.2. You need to limit the amount of tasks you aresimultaneously working on (work in progress limit).3. You need to archive your information effectively.4. You can not afford any delays caused by missing anemail.5. You want to use one system to manage both tasks andemail.3
  4. 4. HOW DOES IT WORK?1. Visualize your work (Backlog)Identify your backlog of work (your To Do). This includes theemails and the tasks you need to perform based on thecontent of those emails but haven’t started yet.Examples:1.As a software tester, I have just been notified of a build thatis ready to test via an email from the build process.2.As an agile practitioner, I want to keep abreast of agiledevelopments and have just emailed myself a link to a blog.Mark (or leave) all new emails in your inbox UNREAD.4
  5. 5. VISUALIZE YOUR WORK(BACKLOG)5
  6. 6. HOW DOES IT WORK?1. Visualize your work (In Progress)Emails that you are actively working from are left read and inyour inbox.If a higher priority email or task arrives, you may wish to markthe email as unread again.If the task is blocked, forward yourself the email with the reasonit is blocked in the body or subject.Example:1.The build I am waiting for is ready. I mark a low priority emailas unread, read the notes in the build email, and begin testing.6
  7. 7. VISUALIZE YOUR WORK (INPROGRESS)7
  8. 8. HOW DOES IT WORK?1. Visualize your work (Done)As you complete the tasks and finish with the email, makesure the email is marked as read and then sort it into theappropriate subfolder.This could be your spam, trash, or archive folders.Example:1.I have completed testing the new build, so I move the buildemail to my archive folder.2.I read the department email about snacks and quickly sentit to my miscellaneous administration folder.8
  9. 9. VISUALIZE YOUR WORK(DONE)9
  10. 10. HOW DOES IT WORK?2. Limit work-in-progress (WIP)Use subfolders to store lower priority emails. They can be left unread. Useyour main inbox folder for higher priority emails only.Keep archiving low priority emails and completed tasks until “you see whitespace”. Aim for less than 10 active tasks (10 read emails). Inbox-zerotechniques may help here.You should now be able to easily identify your next task.Example:1.The agile blog email I sent to myself doesn’t have to be reviewed rightnow. I move the email my Agile subfolder. I mark it as unread to separateit from the Agile emails I have read.2.I finish my current task, archive the email, and notice new emails havearrived. I quickly archive the low priority emails. I then work on the highestpriority task still in the inbox. I leave the rest as unread.If using a desktop email program, set your work-in-progress limitbased on your inbox window height10
  11. 11. LIMIT WORK-IN-PROGRESS11
  12. 12. TAKE TIME TO MAKEIT BETTERPeriodically review your Email Kanban and look for ways tomake it better. Some questions that might help:•Will you have nested subfolders? Why?•How long are your email tasks In Progress? What is your leadtime? Should this be improved?•If you use automatic inbox sorting, can the emails be marked asunread?•What are your priorities? Are they truly reflected in your EmailKanban?Nobody knows your work better than you do!12
  13. 13. IMPROVEMENT (LEAD TIME)13
  14. 14. WORKFLOW SUMMARY1. Work on your current task until complete. Break up largertasks into smaller tasks if necessary.2. Review your inbox. Are you approaching your WIP limit?1. If yes, for each piece of email, decide:1. Whether to leave it in the main inbox or move it to asubfolder.2. Whether to leave it read or unread.2. If no, pick the next highest priority task and begin.3. Periodically review your process for opportunities tomake it better.14
  15. 15. Email: jgraham.wpg@gmail.com15

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