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Discussion Forum > The Repeat Test and Personal Kanban

I tested the Repeat Test last week. It's a means of eliminating time wasters and it worked beautifully. I think this group would really like it as you can use it alongside any approach to productivity.

I'm also testing Personal Kanban this week and wondered if anyone here has given that a try? I'm interested in your feedback if so.
April 27, 2013 at 16:43 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson

In the past there has been a lot of correspondence about Personal Kanban on this site. Some people have found it works really well for them - though I have to say I've never been a fan of it myself.

I suggest you use the site search box to find the references.
April 28, 2013 at 12:06 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Melanie,

If I remember correctly, Erik was one of the most enthusiastic about Personal Kanbans, even posting several videos about the way he used it:

This 3-pages long thread should be a good place to start and give you lots to think about :-)
"Sequencing projects in Autofocus "
April 28, 2013 at 14:17 | Registered CommenterHugo Ferreira
Mark, if you don't mind, what didn't you like about it?

Hugo, that was so kind of you to hunt down for me. I'm off to check out those threads!
April 29, 2013 at 3:48 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson

If I remember correctly my main trouble with it was that it wasn't capable of handling a vast number of things to do, and if you put too much into it it simply jammed up.

But I didn't spend a lot of time road-testing it thoroughly, and maybe it can be used like SMEMA simply for the things which are most on your mind at present.
April 29, 2013 at 9:33 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Thanks, Mark. That makes sense!
May 2, 2013 at 5:03 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson
I'm done with my review of Personal Kanban. I had a similar experience to you, Mark. Trying Eat That Frog this week.
May 3, 2013 at 14:31 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson
About the Eat That Frog approach… the author advocates to "persist with that [high-priority] task until it is 100 percent complete" saying it "is the true test of your character, your willpower, and your resolve."

Isn't this a polar oposite of the "little & often" principle advocated by Mark throughout this site and in his different systems?

Although I do like the "single-mindedly focus until it is 100 percent complete" approach (and have used it quite successfully on occasions in the past), what I've found is that it's always at the expense of "dropping the ball" on some other matters and it's not very sustainable long term… it always feels like "project-crunching" time.

On the other hand, too-little-too-often also makes me feel like I'm just treading water and not progressing much.

I guess the trick is be to find the *balance* between the two, right?… like with everything else in life :-)
May 6, 2013 at 3:34 | Registered CommenterHugo Ferreira
Little-and-Often and do-till-done are two different tools. Like pens and pencils, there are many applications where either will work well, and it boils down to personal preference. There are times, though, when neither works and you need a marker.

I prefer little-and-often for never-ending tasks like most housework. Do a bit, see where it takes you, and tomorrow do a bit more. It's also good for tasks that are prone to careless mistakes if you work too long at them. I cleared a few thousand ancient email in a month that way. In my experience, the biggest danger of little-and-often is it's easy to add too many large projects. It's only another five minutes each day. That wee five minutes is the first thing to be dropped when life gets busy, and the project never gets done.

Do-till-done is good for tasks that get spread out over others' space, like the triennial garage cleaning. We re-organize things and clean the corners. If we did it little-and-often, we'd have the winter tires and fertilizer spreader on the driveway for weeks. On the other hand, by the last hour we're tired and grumpy and prone to bad decisions. It's often a long time (triennial) before we can psyche ourselves up to doing the job again. Also, while we focus on that, we neglect other maintenance tasks, including little-and-often tasks.

I find most projects need a mix of tools. Pulling a few weeds every time is good for maintenance, but it doesn't make sense to spread fertilizer one square foot each day.
May 7, 2013 at 16:47 | Registered CommenterCricket
It is possible to combine Little-and-Often and Do-Till-Done.

One example would be the 3T method, in which you write a list of three tasks, rotate round them until two of them are completely finished and then write another two to make the list back up to three tasks.

That is capable of dealing with very large tasks (such as garage cleaning), while still keeping a stream of smaller tasks attended to.
May 8, 2013 at 9:32 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Housework and garage cleaning are interesting studies from the time management point of view.

The basic question to answer is do you tidy/clean by room (e.g. Bedroom, Kitchen) or tidy by subject matter (e.g. Tidy Books, Make Beds) throughout the house?

Applied to one room do you tidy/clean by area (Sort Filing Cabinet, Tidy Desk) or by subject matter (e.g. Tidy Papers, Put Away Files).

My experience leads me to believe that most people use the first (Tidy Bedroom) approach, but that the second (Tidy Books everywhere) approach is more efficient.

When my own office gets disorganized, I know that the quickest way of getting it back in shape is to go through a six-stage process:

Stationery (which includes anything not in the other five)
May 8, 2013 at 9:48 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
> Pulling a few weeds every time is good for maintenance, but it doesn't make sense to spread fertilizer one square foot each day.

Wonderfully put, Cricket! That's a sentence worth quoting :-)
Thanks for your comment, it did help me put things into perspective.
May 8, 2013 at 18:07 | Unregistered CommenterHugo Ferreira
I do a mix of area and subject matter. Every example of one method has sub-examples of the other.

Anything using equipment (broom, vacuum cleaner) is by subject matter (sweep), and in larger time chunks. Some areas need sweeping often, so all of those are done in one chunk. Do-till-done. Other areas, though, don't need it as often, so I aim for one or two of them each time the broom is out. Little-and-often, one extra corner at a time. Sometimes, though, if the routine sweeping was easy, or if too many corners have gone too long, I'll do most of the corners. I used to keep track of which corner was done when and plan how often I'd do them, but the whole "does it need to be on a list" conversation got me looking at it. Spending an extra 15 minutes a week with the broom, sweeping whatever catches my eye, works better than planning which corner to do when.

If the process of cleaning creates a mess (hauling stuff out of the garage), it's by area, so the area is useable as soon as possible.

Often the goal is "clear living room table so we can eat in front of the TV." That's by area. One step, though, is the subject "things to deliver to Daughter's room".

Grabbing books from all over the house doesn't work. They're often buried, and are part of the scenery. They become obvious when they're the last few things on the table.

Dirty dishes, though, are collected by subject matter. (Do-till-done, and done often!)

I keep my desk and room sorted by subject matter (mostly), so area and subject are the same thing.

This has got me thinking. Are there some things I do by subject that would make more sense by area, and vice-versa?

One of the problems I have, and it's very obvious now that I'm home after six weeks in an office, is that I always start with the same subjects. Email, then kitchen, and way down the list (and never reached) is the filing backlog I declared three years ago. Fifteen minutes a day would clear the filing in a month.
May 8, 2013 at 20:40 | Registered CommenterCricket
I've been enjoying this discussion and have been wrestling with some of the same issues this week with Eat That Frog. As for housework, I have 8 people living here and most of them are here all day, every day. If I didn't have systems in place for managing the mess, I'd be in trouble.

The kids and I clean for 10 minutes per floor (basement, main, upstairs) in the morning. I assign two bathrooms to kids or these would be ignored. In the evening, we spend 5-10 minutes on the main floor and basement. Laundry is assigned days, though it's often off-schedule. The kids have weekly tasks like vacuuming and dusting assigned to particular days. Other chores like cleaning woodwork or big decluttering jobs tend to get done in the summer when school's out or when we're getting ready for a party. I'd like to schedule these regularly, but I know I won't do them unless there's a good incentive. Organizing is one of my favorite things to do in the summer anyway.
May 9, 2013 at 15:33 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson

<< way down the list (and never reached) is the filing backlog I declared three years ago. Fifteen minutes a day would clear the filing in a month. >>

Even quicker would be to junk the lot!
May 9, 2013 at 16:32 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
<<Even quicker would be to junk the lot! >>

Quicker, yes, but nerve-wracking. Yes, 90% of it is garbage, but some of it is warranty papers. The pile is small enough that I can find things in it when needed.

Aha moment! The grand rule of organizing is: Spend much time organizing things you need frequently, since the time will pay off, and little time filing things you use rarely, since it's faster to look through the big pile once or twice than sort it all carefully. Maybe I should stuff it all in one file, label it with start and end dates, and call it done. As a grand plan, though, I don't like it. It feels like a slippery slope. I'll think more about it.

Melanie, that reminds me of Guide camp. Large groups have patrols and lists and charts, even if they were experienced. Small groups of inexperienced campers have the same structure. They learn the system so they would be ready for larger camps, and seeing the big picture reassures them that everyone takes turns. Small groups of experienced campers, though, can skip the organization and just share the load.

I'd love to have a routine for the kids, but no success yet. The only time available is between school and extra-curricular activities, and the youngest finds school so overwhelming that she needs the break. Some weeks I think I need to stand firm (it's only 10 minutes), other weeks I see how much more relaxed we all are when I just do it myself during the day, other weeks I think how wonderful it would be if she put her own lunch dishes by the sink.
May 9, 2013 at 17:45 | Registered CommenterCricket

<< Yes, 90% of it is garbage, but some of it is warranty papers. The pile is small enough that I can find things in it when needed. >>

Go through it and take out the stuff you really need to keep, then junk the rest.
May 9, 2013 at 19:17 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

> Maybe I should stuff it all in one file, label it with start and end dates, and call it done.

Coincidentally, I just spent today's morning revamping my archives to implement a straightforward shoe box "system" :-) just like that, in an yearly rotation period:

- Each new paper to archive goes into the box, at the top.
- At the end of the year, close the box and open a new one to start over.

I keep the current year's box and the previous one in the house; everything older goes to the storage attic.

All the old half backed attempts at keeping everything filed & categorised (even in the simplest alpha-order) always fell apart sooner or later (and even faster than that once the kids came along, this last few years).

So I just called it quits: got everything older / half-categorised / needs-filing into a box labeled "…–2011"; put all of last year's papers into a "2012" box in most-recent-on-top "shoe box" style (was already sifting through them to file taxes); and opened a new box for "2013".
May 9, 2013 at 20:51 | Registered CommenterHugo Ferreira
For ongoing *paper* documents (and I trying to keep that really small by using e-statements and e-documents whenever available) I use circular buffer of 12 sections of a regular file box - one section per month. In the beginning of a month, say, May, I junk the contents of ”May" section, quickly sorting thru it to make sure there is nothing important there (as all these papers are one year old now). The freshly emptied section is now used to store all papers for the current month. Repeat monthly.

This system has following advantages:

1. Decision are really easy. Just keep anything that has slightest chance of being referenced again. If you need it within a year again, it's right here. In a year's time it will be either recycled/shredded or permanently stored (or may be even left there for another year) - it's usually a clear choice at that time as well.
2. Easy access to 1-year worth of recent documents without the overhead of storing lifetime worth of documents.
3. Filing by date is much easier than, say, alphabetical filing, and provides arguably better search capabilities.
4. Optionally, it can be used as a "follow-up" system. In order to remind myself of some task in July, I just put the related document into "July" section. It will be promptly discovered in the beginning of July during the monthly quick review.
May 10, 2013 at 12:39 | Unregistered CommenterMisha
Some great ideas!

Hugo and Misha, do you use that for warranties and insurance papers? Or just repetitive things? What if you need a manual or warranty for something you bought a few years ago and you don't remember which year? When you're done with it, which year do you put it in?

Misha, I agree. After a year, it's usually clear which things can be tossed. Your system keeps less hidden junk than Hugo's.

My system for miscellaneous papers is something like yours, but without the formality of monthly folders, and, sadly, without clearing the old folders regularly. An Everything book from 2008 with just a few pages in it of meeting notes (including medical), random ideas and driving instructions. A few pages will get scanned into EverNote, a few will get typed, a few will get tossed. Some are written in shorthand and need deciphering first. And anything to be filed in the basement, although a few months ago I started a separate pile for that. (Basement is long-term accessible filing, just far enough away that I don't want to run down every time I have something for it.)

The scariest part is I don't know what's in it. Sometimes I do an inch in 10 minutes, other times it takes 10 minutes to deal with one paper (especially if written in shorthand).

That's the pile that's gotten out of control.

Taxes get their own file. Having everything in one file and ready to go at tax time is important. Bank statements and utility bills go in a folder by year, and get sorted after year-end. Sorting and bundling before the December statement arrives is frustrating.

I finally have a better system for receipts and manuals. I used to be able to match them quickly and file them by category. That system broke when the kids came, and it took me 14 years to admit it. An unknown number of them are in the backlog.

Now I write the date of purchase on the manual and file it by category (the same files as before) where the family can find it (and in theory refile it). Receipts worth keeping are filed by date. If something needs a warranty repair, we have to go to both files. I don't like it, but have to accept that it's better than sticking to the old system, where everything stayed in limbo because nothing got matched.

Now onwards. My big music theory exam was this morning, so no more excuse to put things off. Time to triage the big list and my desk. And knit samples for the June printing deadline for courses I teach next winter. And find the words to that poem I want to perform tonight.
May 10, 2013 at 20:02 | Unregistered CommenterCricket
Manuals and longer-term warranties go into a separate box right away - there's not many of them, so search is easy. (Again, majority of manuals are available as PDFs these days - just Google it and toss the paper copy). 1- or 2- year warranties go into the circular buffer. All insurance documents, bank, credit card and utilities statements are all electronic.

As per Tim Ferris, reduce before automating.

Why do you keep receipts? The only 2 reasons I have are for reimbursement and proof of purchase for warranty. The former go to the buffer, the latter are stapled to the warranty card in the separate box. Almost all receipts already have electronic copy - in your order confirmation email, or at least in the bank statement. Amount of cash transactions is negligible, and all bank/credit card transactions are getting recorded and categorized by automagically (oh, and they are getting cash back points too ;)

I don't have many handwritten notes, and those get scanned and chronologically stored in Evernote. Unless, of course, the notes are of temporary (or of questionable durability) nature - in that case buffer is the place.
May 11, 2013 at 0:20 | Unregistered CommenterMisha
(sorry Melanie, I guess we've highjacked your thread :-) I'll be brief…)

> (…) do you use that for warranties and insurance papers? Or just repetitive things? What if you need a manual or warranty for something you bought a few years ago and you don't remember which year? When you're done with it, which year do you put it in?

I use it for everything that is to archive that has a date on it :-)

Warranties and receipts also… if I ever need them (very, very rare) they are either in the last 2 years or it's not worth to look any further because it's out of warranty anyway. When we're done with it, it goes back to where it came from.

Manuals go into the "manuals drawer" since, in theory, they would live through the entire lifespan of an appliance, so you could refer to them if needed. In practice, I found that I'll much quickly google the model number to get my answer than riffle through that drawer. Whenever we move houses, I'm sure I'll just bin the whole lot.

> (…) Your system keeps less hidden junk than Hugo's.

Well, what I call "junk" never makes it in there in the first place. This is a bit in "GTD-fashion" but every paper coming into the house is either to do something about it (e.g. a bill to pay; goes into a simple tray in plain view and into the box when done), to discard (e.g. advertisements; goes to recycling), or to archive (into the "shoebox" it goes).

Anyway, I second what Misha said. For many years now, I've been moving as much as possible to electronic format, trying to get rid of paper altogether.

The whole pile archived for 2012 in only 1,5 inches tall. To me, the non-existent cognitive effort and, might I say, pleasure of just tossing a paper into the box pile more than makes up to any time it takes to flick through it, on the very rare occasion that I need to.

Furthermore, I'm not alone in the house :-) My better half is the designer/artistic type, so I know I've found a simple successful strategy when I manage to get her to do it ;-)
May 11, 2013 at 18:39 | Registered CommenterHugo Ferreira
Increasingly I'm just scanning everything into Evernote. It's easy to mark stuff up if it still needs action or bring it forward for review. To find stuff, use tags, notebooks and the search function. No need to junk old stuff.

90% of what we file will never be looked at again.
May 11, 2013 at 21:29 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
"Increasingly I'm just scanning everything into Evernote"

Mark, surely you don't mean "everything". Land deeds, titles for your autos, boats, etc, stock certificates, investment contracts, 1099's, tax forms, capital dividends, etc? Even statements which will reveal your sensative info? Evernote was breached in March this year and their encryption on notes (which only includes text) is far from stealth. True, I could go to the bother of using another program that would encrypt far more securely yet still.....once the thieves have the documents, they have almost forever to crack the code(s) once they decide it's worth downloading your account notebooks.

The only things I keep in Evernote are notes, manuals, photos, etc that I'd be willing to post for the world to see.
May 12, 2013 at 19:13 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go
"90% of what we file will never be looked at again."

Because I only keep what I might need, I cull my papers and computer files at least once a year when I cull them. Because the statute of limitations is a whooping 6 years in my state, I've kept everything that I can label "proof" or cover my butt. Because the statute is twice as long as most other states, many assume that you won't have the proof to prove that you paid in full or that whatever is registered legally, etc....or correspondence necessary to back up a complaint. I've been armed over a dozen times with nefarious companies, hospitals, doctors, government trying to put the squeeze on me. Because I keep a seven year revolving system, I've always been victorious in every dispute. For added measure, I've kept every tax return since 1967. In the usa they can claim intent to fraud the government and it can go from 7 years to forever. They did that to my dad. He was so conservative with his tax claims that they were forced to refund him thousands of dollars.....because he saved everything that was in the category of "proof". LOL! Maybe if I move to a different state I could save on lesser bank safe fees, lawyers, etc. Until then, I cull my filing system yearly. p.s. Nothing makes it into the system unless it's proof. Evernote and computer files handle not legally binding proof. I'd have to rent a storage space and pay the bank prohibitive fees for many safe boxes if I didn't cull the system annually. Some is digital (low priority proof) and some low priority proof is in paper form but all the stuff that could either cost me a lot of money or possibly rankle the government is protected in the bank. How can you pay taxes, tend your investments, etc without reviewing your important papers: digital or hard copies?
May 12, 2013 at 19:29 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go
Regular culling is one place my systems break down in regularly. Routine receipts and statements are kept separate, and are easy to cull. The irregular stuff, though, is a challenge. Manuals are by category, so I need to go through all of them every few years.

Learning as I Go is right about digital. If it's online, it can be cracked. It's an arms race between the encrypters and the hackers, and the encrypters sometimes blink.

Our fling system (warts and all) is already set up for printed receipts, so I print the electronic ones. We still have to keep the emailed receipts, though, in case there's something hidden in it to prevent forgery. Computers make our lives easier, right?
May 13, 2013 at 15:01 | Registered CommenterCricket
Hi Cricket
Everybody is so quick to go totally digital yet many documents need to be the original or a legally stamped copy especially in a court of law. In fact a few times I avoid court just stating that I had the irrefutable hard copies with ink signatures. If someone want to go digital they aught to research which documents can be digital and legally binding. I figure that I have to keep lots of documents anyway so I carefully tend to them. I have copies (digital and print outs simply for my easy access if I need them.) Also people don't realize that the statute of limitations isn't only variable by state but also variable by type of claim or type of law suit....or what you need to keep if Uncle Sam challenges you.
True, the feds were forced to pay my dad lots of money in refunds (he wasn't looking for a refund. He simply wanted to prove that he wasn't committing fraud against the government. The IRS has many reasons (some hare-brained) to red flag you. Who knows why they chose my dad.

Also people will try to alter binding contracts, falsely demand payment, etc. Geez! I seriously believe that they knew I have brain damage and hoped that I wouldn't be able to protect myself adequately. I go overboard to compensate. LOL!

I don't keep my manuals in the same system nor my personal photographs. I don't mind if I'm lax tending to those but I'm OCD paranoid when it comes to my money, investments or freedom. LOL!
May 14, 2013 at 0:17 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go
Learning, I want to be you when I grow up. :-)
May 14, 2013 at 3:34 | Unregistered CommenterMelanie Wilson
learning: "Evernote was breached in March this year and their encryption on notes (which only includes text) is far from stealth."

Agreed, please pause for a moment before shovelling everything into Evernote. This is essentially a multi-client Storage as a Service offering with indexing and search capability at the front end. It provides convenience but, as with any service based IT, you also outsource control of your data.

Evernote will respond to legal and lawful requests for data and this data is not subject to UK laws. Evernote could be breached technically or otherwise and your data stolen. Evernote could be bought by another company and your data now falls under new terms. They could go under and take your data with it, which is now sitting on hardware assets that will be sold to offset debts.

In short, there is a huge hidden price to pay for the convenience of using Evernote. I would suggest buying 3 large external hard drives from different manufacturers and encrypting them (Truecrypt is free, OS solutions are available). Keep your documents on secure devices and periodically flush them to the disks and store the disks in different locations.

It's very easy, safe and you retain complete control of your own data.
May 14, 2013 at 13:50 | Unregistered CommenterChris
Hi Mel

No you don't unless you're a masochist!
May 14, 2013 at 17:23 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go
Hi Chris
You are so correct with your cautions. I was shocked to learn that some small businesses keep their client data in Evernote! One (that I'm aware of) was an attorney! GEEZ! People are lulled into blindly trusting corporations, authority figures, etc. A previous lawyer I had was pissed when I gave him a stamped copy of a document rather than the original. I had to badger him just to get the papers filed prior to deadline. If anything is important enough to you, you must take control. I'd NEVER trust anybody to keep certain documents. People too gung ho on total digital systems don't realize what a PITA to get certified copies and some documents are no longer available. I had some stocks from the 1970's where the company got bought out. They liquidated the stocks.......but not enough. I fought with them and they kept insisting that the splits were correct. When I sent faxes of the old 1970's certificates, I no longer had to threaten them with filing a court case. Those old documents yielded me almost 4 times what they said my stocks were worth. BTW, the original certificates could not be requested. I can tell you many war stories. I even encrypt my notes when I'm commissioned to write and require two ink signed copies of the contract....just in case! (Once it was "lost" by a lawyer) They were SHOCKED that I kept two copies with ink signatures. I trust NOBODY! LOL! ....Not because of only greed but of ineptitude as well! GEEZ! I wonder how society functions the way that things are managed.....
May 14, 2013 at 17:56 | Unregistered Commenterlearning as I go