Austen Authors October 12, 2020: A JAFF Writer behind the Scenes: A New Kanban Board

I love being organized. It really only happens in my professional life, sadly, but I do enjoy it. One of the ways I organize myself is with a thing called a Kanban board.

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this tool before. A Kanban board is a project management tool, though it can also be used for other things. One of the few YouTube channels I follow is a writer who uses a modified Kanban board to track her goals for each quarter.

My old Kanban board. On the right, in pink, is Race Book 4 and on the left, in green is a Regency story. Both are currently set aside, though I hope to come back to them soon.

Essentially, a Kanban board is a whiteboard or other “board” divided into three or more labeled columns. The most basic labels are “To Do”, “In Progress”, and “Done”. Depending on who is using the board and for what purpose, there might be more columns representing more steps. A project is then broken down in to steps (we called this a task analysis in special ed classes in college), each step is written on a sticky note, and then the sticky notes are added to the first column on the left. As each sticky note task is completed, it gets moved over to the right. When a project is finished, all the sticky notes will have been moved to the “done” column on the far right. Kanban boards can be digital as well as physical, and there are several websites that offer them.

Like the YouTuber I mentioned above, I use a modified Kanban board. Instead of columns, I have rows to track progress, though I also have columns for individual projects. The first picture in this post is of the first Kanban board I made, which is currently loaded with two projects … Race Book 4 on the left in pink, and a Regency book I started a few months ago and set aside.

Though it is not labeled, my board is divided into “to do” on the top, “in progress” in the middle, and “done” on the bottom. In the picture of my current board, we can see that I was working on 25,000 words for the race book and 15,000 for the Regency. I put word counts in 5,000-word chunks with a sticky for each chunk, and I have stickies for everything from plotting to sending to beta readers to writing the blurb and making the cover.

Clockwise from upper left: materials, long measurement, wide measurement, the first two lines.

I have long felt that I needed a bigger Kanban board, because I can only put two projects at a time on this small one and there’s not a lot of space in any of the sections. I also feel like the bottom section needs to be a bit bigger. So, I decided to make a new board and document the process. I’ll put at least my newest WIP on it, because my goal is to finish that book first.

I have a package of posterboard on my dining room table, purchased back in April or May for the purpose of making calendars for the kitchen. I know that sounds strange, but there was no money in December for things like calendars and when I finally had a bit of extra, the world shut down. :/

My work surface for this project was the queen-sized air mattress in the guest chambers … because all the other flat surfaces in my house are currently loaded down with other stuff. You’ll see the pile of clean bedding and pillows in one of the pictures further down.

Anyway … the first thing I did was gather the materials for the first part of the project … the posterboard, a yardstick, a pencil, and a marker. I measured the posterboard and found it to be 28” wide and 22” long. Knowing that I wanted three columns, I divided the long end by three and came up with seven and a bit more. I laid the yardstick on the posterboard with the end of the stick flush to the poster, went to the other end, and counted the little slashes that were left. There were nine of those. So, I marked the point of seven inches and three little marks and the point of fourteen and six little marks. (Okay, it’s really a kiddie kind of way to do it but it works. Don’t judge me. Imagine that said in Charlotte’s voice from 2005.) After I repeated the process on the other side, I connected the dots using my yardstick and marker.

Clockwise from top left: the grid, washi tape and scissors, adding washi to the lines, sticky notes and a pen.

I repeated the process on the wide side, with a twist. I knew I wanted the middle section to be no bigger than about six inches but I wanted both top and bottom sections to be larger. This is because there will only be one or two sticky notes in the middle section at one time, but there needs to be room for lots of stickies at the top and bottom. To achieve this, I found my middle point, which was 14 inches. I then counted three inches each direction. I ended up with the top and bottom sections being 11 inches each. I marked the endpoints with my pencil, then used the yardstick and marker to draw my lines. I now had a basic board.

Because I can be a bit of a sloppy doofus, my lines did not come out nice and neat, which you can see in the one picture if you look close. I’m a lover of washi tape, and my entire small board was lined with the stuff. If you don’t know what washi tape is, it’s decorative, movable tape that people use to decorate planners and scrapbooks. I love the stuff, though I don’t use as much as some planner girls and guys. LOL

Anyway, I grabbed the washi off my desk and chose to use the light purple sparkly stuff to cover the sloppy lines. I actually tucked the ends over a bit, which I don’t usually do. It looks a bit neater, I think, and since I don’t intend to add an outside border, I think it works well.

Clockwise from top left, writing out sticky notes, current project placed, 5,000-word sticky moved to “In Progress” position, the finished board in my office.

The next step was to add a project. I used a large green pop-up note to label the column, and small blue notes to list the steps. After I wrote all the steps down, I lined them up in the left-hand column. Since I already have a plot notebook set up, I didn’t add brainstorming or making a notebook or anything like that to the list.

I moved the 5,000 words sticky down to the middle, because that’s my next goal with that story. Then, I took pictures of it, moved it to my office, and took more pictures. LOL

I greatly enjoy using Kanban boards. Moving those sticky notes is almost like crossing things off a list, which is something else I dearly love. LOL I also enjoy creating things like this board.

Have you ever used a tool like Kanban boards? What do you think of the one I made?

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