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Productivity hacks weekly in bite-size chunks. Just up your alley if you're at least slightly geeky or a tad bit obsessed with Evernote or WorkFlowy!

Kanban Calendar - WorkFlowy Style

Frank Degenaar

WorkFlowy - the lightweight heavyweight contender

If you've never heard of WorkFlowy - or outlining for that matter - the latter half of 2014 has a heck of a lot in store for you. Also, WorkFlowy is PERFECT for task management - for both complex, individual projects, as well as being a complete personal task management solution (for all your combined tasks). Today I'm showcasing WorkFlowy as a full-blown Personal Kanban system - in all its simplicity and all its versatility. And, as is the case every week, I'm showcasing WorkFlowy as a Kanban Calendar solution. Read about the concept here... and also take a look at a few examples of how to apply my Kanban Calendar system in a few other apps previously posted on. If you're already a WorkFlowy fan, you won't mind if I go all Cat in the Hat on you. If you're a Cat in the Hat fan, you'll appreciate WorkFlowy that much more. 

Cats A-Z and that VOOM! thing

SPOILER ALERT! In Dr. Seuss' nutty "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back", a pink ring that the Cat in the Hat leaves in a bathtub gets a little out of control and ends up staining the entire snow-covered back yard with pink spots. A typical case of things getting worse before they can get better. During the pink-spot-elimination process, we are introduced to Little Cat A, who in turn lifts his hat to reveal Little Cat B, who then produces Little Cat C from under his hat... all the way down to little Cat Z, who then unleashes a Voom - which cleans up the back yard (not before Little Cats A through V use an arsenal of primitive weapons including pop guns, bats, and a lawnmower to try and eradicate the spots) and puts all of the other Little Cats back into the big Cat in the Hat's hat. (Pics shot using Evernote's document camera).

Zoom in on the Voom!

In WorkFlowy, you'll never need to go a Cat in a Hat within a hat within a hat, 26 levels deep. At least, for your sake, I hope not. But its more than possible. Just saying. As complex and as detailed as you want to get, WorkFlowy also gets as simple as you want. One can zoom in at any point in any outline, to isolate exactly what you want to focus on. Take a look in the video clip at Little Cats A through Z nestled one within the other in WorkFlowy... all the way down to the Voom. Notice how one can either visualize the entire hierarchical outline from beginning to end... or one can see the parent and child nodes in linear fashion at the header of your WorkFlowy dashboard - to show you how you got to where you are. Just in case you didn't get enough of it, here's a link to that WorkFlowy list you can tinker with.

Kanban (& WorkFlowy) makes due-date app features redundant 

Someone on the WorkFlowy blog commented:

"What about overdue tasks? For me WF is anything but a task manager." 

This was my response: 

"WF can be a spectacular task manager. The very nature of getting an application of some sort to let you know that you have an overdue task (in the form of a notification or alert) means that you’re flying blind. You let your tasks sneak up on you. If you have a decent way of previewing upcoming tasks by date, at least even just your tasks for the next day, then overdue or due-date features are kind of redundant, and quite honestly, a pain in the butt. Take a look at Kanban, for instance. One of the most productive task-management systems with 2 main principles at its core: (1) Visualize your workflow, (2) Limit your work in progress. Believe it or not, WF is perfect for implementing the Kanban principles. Put on your thinking cap and you will have found a variety of ways to implement task management in WorkFlowy."

"Organize your brain"

Organize your brain. Not only is this WorkFlowy's slogan - but that's what you can actually do. Let's see how we can organize our brains in WorkFlowy - Kanban Calendar style. This is easier to explain than the Cat in the Hat thing. If you're not familiar with the Kanban concepts: (1) Visualize your Workflow and (2) Limit your Work in Progress, take a quick look at this preamble I made some weeks back. I just saw this right now as I was writing: Workflow/ WorkFlowy. Pretty cool.

Let's get a quick bird's-eye view of my Kanban Calendar template. You can expand, collapse and zoom in on any section you want:

  1. Project (Backlogged) tasks
  2. Today's tasks 
  3. Date-specific tasks in the Calendar section.

At the heart of this Kanban board, in the Today section, I have an Eisenhower Matrix  (quadrants 1-4) to help prioritize my tasks. The Calendar section is where all date-specific tasks go, so that I don't need to set reminders/ due dates for any tasks. I can visualize everything one day at a time as my tasks stream towards today. 


Pulling Project tasks into Today

There are at least 2 ways to skin this cat. If one has multiple tasks they want to pull (transfer) from the Project section into Today's section, it is especially helpful in iOS/ on Android to tag your Today section and any individual tasks you want to transfer with "#t"... then simply pop that tag into the search bar (or tap/click on the #t) and voilà - the pertinent parts of what you want to transfer are condensed into a simplified list. On your smartphone or tablet, transfer the tasks one at a time by dragging and dropping into Today's section. On desktop, use the keyboard shortcut "Alt-click-click-click" selecting multiple tasks and dropping them into Today's section all at once. For the sake of brevity I will show a combined approach on the desktop app. Enjoy the dramatic "Ride of the Valkyries" soundtrack I know you've been dying to hear ;-)


Tomorrow - Only a day away  

In the Kanban Calendar, it all boils down to this: When tomorrow becomes today, transfer the tasks from the next day in the Calendar section into Today's matrix, i.e. - drag and drop tasks from Monday, January 1st into one of the priorities you have set up for Today. Then delete that day from the Calendar section.

Expenses & recurring tasks

Click to advance to the next pic in the gallery on the right... One way to track expenses throughout the month is to append an "#exp" tag to each. When you use WorkFlowy's search feature or tap/click on any #exp tag, the list will be whittled down to show only expenses under their due dates in the Calendar section. Once you have gotten any expense out of the way, drag and drop it to it's next due date a month down the line. For that reason I suggest you have at least 30+ days plotted in your Calendar section. You would do the same for any recurring daily, weekly or monthly tasks. Recycle them.

Contexts - Where it's @

Flip to the next pic in the gallery. If you're into GTD, you may want to group tasks according to contexts. I often do a lot of reading and the like in my hammock - therefore "@hammock". Simply pop your context into the search bar.

So there you have it folks. That's a pretty decent setup for Kanban. There's a lot more to say about tasks in general - but tomorrow's another day. It's a piece of cake setting up your own Kanban workflow in WorkFlowy, but just in case, I'll leave you with the template you saw in the video clips and screen shots. By the way, the "Voom!" that gets all the Little Cats back into their hats all at once, is one of 2 things (Windows/ Web): Either (1) double click on the main title you've zoomed into to expand all parent nodes... and then double click again to collapse all children nodes. (2) If you can remember this keyboard shortcut: Ctrl + Space, it fully expands and collapses any node you put the cursor at. 

Followup post:

What happens when we have individual complex projects which have their own workflow? How do we integrate them into the Kanban Calendar setup? Here's a followup post:

WorkFlowy - Double Kanban