Get a Grip on Your Day with Kanban Scheduling in WorkFlowy

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I’ve got a dead-easy WorkFlowy scheduling system for those who don’t have a fixed, predictable daily routine… especially if you’re the boss of you – or you have a significant amount of time between fixed events – and you’d like to try and make it one of those carpe diem days.

This little productivity booster is a standalone dynamic… You can include it in your repertoire no matter whether you’re a date tagger or have a chronological WorkFlowy calendar in place.

Much like an actual calendar, laying out your daily schedule in WorkFlowy will make you more conscious of how your entire day could shape up. It also brings into perspective what is humanly possible.

So… you already know what you’ve got planned for today and you also know what your priorities are – because you’ve got a great task management system in place (and you’ve gone all Eisenhower-Matrix on your tasks)… but quite frequently you may lose track of time and leave some of the not-so-urgent, but nonetheless important activities undone – perhaps due to a lack of scheduling (I can’t tell you how often I’ve missed out on beach time because I kept my nose to the grindstone).

Here’s a shared WorkFlowy list with a template of the outline I’m about to walk you through.

Kanban Schedule basics

In the below GIF, you’ll see:

  1. The “NOW” stage holds tasks I’m focusing on right now.
  2. If I toggle Ctrl+O, it reveals a list of tasks I’ve already completed. I keep them hidden.
  3. The “NEXT” stage holds the rest of the day’s tasks. I keep it collapsed.
  4. Once I’m done with a block of time in the “NOW” stage, I complete it (Ctrl+Enter), expand the “NOW” stage and pull in the next block of time from the “NEXT” stage (Alt+Shift+Up).
  5. I then re-collapse the “NEXT” stage to keep it minimalist.

At the end/ beginning of the day

Once I’m done with my final time block/ task of the day…

  1. I un-hide all the completed tasks (Ctrl+O) and un-complete them (Ctrl+Enter), cut and paste them into my archive…
  2. Copy a list of times from my Schedule Template to the “NEXT” stage…
  3. Then I plot out my fixed events for the next day.

Lipstick on a pig

What is it that they say about putting lipstick on a pig? Anyways… the following is not essential, but it does help to prettify your outline.

  1. I use the Painter for WorkFlowy extension to get a solid background color for scheduled events and make them stand out:

  1. I wrote about colored tags in this post. You can also install this Stylish style.

Practical tips

  • You don’t have to plan your whole day from the get go. You can plan a couple of blocks of time and “fill in the blanks” later.
  • I often pull 2 new blocks (hours) of time into my “NOW” stage.
  • When needed, I use a dotted/ dashed line to demarcate tasks before and after the half hour:

Too much work, you think?

The show and tell is a lot more tedious than the actual doing.

I’ve been using this system for the last 3 months… and it is bananas how it’s helped me to step up my game. By stepping up my game, I mean that it’s helped me to have a smarter and more balanced day.

“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
“It is the time I have wasted for my rose–” said the little prince, so that he would be sure to remember.
“Men have forgotten this truth,” said the fox. “But you must not forget it. You become responsible, forever, for what you have tamed. You are responsible for your rose . . .”
“I am responsible for my rose,” the little prince repeated, so that he would be sure to remember.


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17 Comments

  1. For the past couple of days I have been re-arranging my WorkFlowy outlines to declutter it all. I just have so much! I have also been adding some of the load into my Apple Notes on my iPhone (I’m sorry for the blasphemy). This post is definitely helping, thanks!

    Do you have any tips for making sure my outlines dont get cluttered in the future? I’m talking, I have lots of projects that I intend to do right now, but also some I want to do in like a year, or some only when I have free time etc. I also work with other people, and have tasks that don’t have a deadline, but I need to do as soon as certain conditions line up. Things are getting complicated. Any tips?

    1. Sounds like you need a little instruction on some basic Kanban methods. I.E. You need a system where you’ve got your tasks in progressive stages: Backlogged, Today, etc. A Kanban Calendar helps (I’ll post on that next week). An outline for delegated tasks may come in handy… putting it all together is the challenge.

      Then there’s GTD 101: distinguishing between projects, tasks, reference material, etc. You’d do well to look into my book. It’s not just a book on WorkFlowy, it’s a book about hashing out all of productivity (and organization) in WorkFlowy… Or you could look into investing in the book on GTD by David Allen and a book on Personal Kanban by Jim Benson. And not to forget an amazing book called, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (Stephen Covey), which weighs heavily on the whole concept of the Eisenhower Matrix for prioritization… and to round things off, “The Pomodoro Technique” by Staffan Nöteberg.

      It’ll take you 2 months to read and apply the 4 books above… but it’ll be one of the best investments of time in your life. I consider those 4 books essential to practical, hands-on productivity. Happy reading!

    2. Thanks for the reply! I have a Kanban Calendar setup, however, I feel I just have so much information that the calendar can’t handle it (I mean, my brain cant handle it, meaning the calendar hasn’t done its job.) so yeah. I’ll get reading!! 🙂

  2. What is the purpose of the Now and Next, when you already have time blocks?

    David Allen talks about the Now and Next so you don’t have to rearrange tasks when they become overdue etc. But then I saw the time blocks also and that confused me. Why not just have the current time block zoomed in, distraction free and less management if arrangement?

    1. Good question, Internet Person.

      We’re not so much talking about GTD as we are Kanban. David Allen would not plot everything in a calendar anyways. He says a calendar is sacred and only fixed events go in. Kanban is a whole other kettle of fish… a way to dice up your data visually.

      Let’s say it was 17:00… On my home page I’d like to keep in sharp focus what’s up next… as opposed to the following – way too much clutter!: (bonus points if you can figure out how to get the blue separator/ marker):

  3. I used a simple adaptation of GTD with Omnifocus. Since I´m falling more and more in love with workflowy – also thanks to your input, Frank – I want to do more things concerning my daily workflow in in one program: workflowy. Omnifocus is nice but very complicated. So I set up my GTD system in workflowy. Here ist a shared workflowy list with my template: https://workflowy.com/s/LoHxyLxa56

    I use tags to add context, priorities and dates. I try to use as few tags as possible. I only tag important projects. Everything else has no specific tag.

    So I use #deadline for something that has to be done at a fixed date. As a backup I add a calender date with a reminder. #nextaction, #waiting and #later are obvious.

    Two connected context are #focus and #orga – thats enough for me. #home is everything that I can only do in my house. #read, #errands and #check should be clear.

    The people related tags I use as you showed in your post about collaboration – this system really works great.

    Coming to my lists:
    – Inbox: every thought lands here and is processed and tagged later
    – Task: is wild mix of all tasks. I only sorted by tags. Only at tasks with a deadline I ad a date in front of the task (yy/mm/dd)
    – Habits: Things I do on regularly basis. I check this list every day.
    – projects are separated in clients and my projects
    – references: Is a mix of all things I want to keep for long period. Projects are archived.
    – private: Here I have some shared lists with my wife concerning kids, errands, etc.
    – Ideas / eventually: collection of the wildest ideas for training my idea muscle

    I´m using this system for a month now and I´m really happy. Every morning I follow a checklist you will find under habits / daily in my shared list.

    Since I use workflowy with some clients for collaboration I also check @marcel to know if some colleague has an info or a task for me.

    One of my favorite filters is using @projektX tag. Then I see in one screen all tasks and the corresponding project list. This is great to work focused on one project.

    This is my first post concerning workflowy. I thought it is time to give something back to this community because I learned so much from you Frank. Please excuse my broken english.

    1. Awesome, Marcello. Thanks for the shared outline. That’s money 🙂

      I love the idea of a daily checklist that relates to processes in (and out) of WorkFlowy… I might suggest that you keep a list of saved searches (maybe in the note of each item) which when clicked upon searches from the home screen for any tag. That way you can filter right from your checklist without including an actual tag in the checklist itself (which would pollute the search). Also, you could keep your daily checklist in the Starred Pages Menu to get back to it easily for the next item on your list.

      By the way, your shared template list is editable. Anyone can mess with it. You can change it to view-only and you’ll keep the same shared list link.

    2. Thanks Frank, in the moment I´m just thinking of a good working system. I´ve started reading your book and now it seems the right time to polish my workflowy with nice designs, saved searches and so on. I´m also in contact with flowi.es for my project using a workflowy list as a public website for my business. workflowy really is a great too – reduce to the max.

  4. G’day Frank, (again? :))
    A super slick hack I found for WorkFlowy that I have not seen mentioned ANYWHERE is the fact that you can have a desktop app for WorkFlowy and ALSO retain the Google Chrome Extensions and styles you have installed. (The workflowy app you get from the chrome store is flawed in the sense it does not allow you to do this). All you have to do is go to the drop-down in the top right of chrome, whilst on the http://workflowy.com main page, then chose more options > add to desktop. Make sure you tick the box that says “open as window”. This’ll add a shortcut to your desktop that you can save in any folder and add to your windows taskbar as a completely standalone app!

    The drawback to this is the inability to use a url-bar, so you cant copy and paste links… If anyone knows a way to get around this, please do share!
    Hope this helps some people.

    1. @Frank,
      Ah I can definately respect that reasoning! As someone who works primarily at a desktop computer with constant internet access, that isn’t a worry for me. (Although, I am no fool. I do have the offline WorkFlowy chrome app installed JUST incase.). I guess I can only hope that someone who really needs this stumbles upon my comment. Thanks for such as fast response! 🙂

  5. Hello Frank,

    You did it again!… I am backing up to WF because of your deadly good inspiration… thanks again. 😉

    But what am I still wondering is: how do You use WF and Kanban scheduling during the activities outside the computer. Maybe it is just me and my uncreativity, but I am continuously uncomfortable when using the mobile WF app (Android user).

    Is the Apple mobile version so much better? or are there other ways how to be in better sync (check/update) outside?

    Thanks a lot, keep up the superb work,
    Marek

  6. Hi Frank, this is very nice, I run a fairly similar system – I actually have a hard calendar in workflowy (which I use instead of google calendar or whatever) – it gets brought in to may ‘today area’ each day with that ‘hard outline’ of meetings etc you talk about above, then I build a schedule around that on the calendar – throughout the day I even journal on it in the appropriate time slots and then it gets filed away in the past as a record of my life — I agree that making a plan for your day increases your productivity quite momentously – for me it seems to act as a ‘standard’ or ‘anchor’ for what a successful day looks like and I always achieve more when I do this compared to an unstructured day (I also work from home a lot) – combined with pomodoro’s it also helps avoid that ‘lost in a sea of time’ feeling that can accompany lone-working I find.

    1. Hey Stephen, great minds think alike 🙂

      If it weren’t for multiple infinitely recurring weekly fixed events, I wouldn’t use a calendar calendar. The “hard calendar” in WorkFlowy that you speak of… is that by any chance the “Kanban Calendar”? You mentioned the “Today” area.

      Also, I’m totally with you on Pomodori/ time-boxing for chunks of my work day. Productivity 101.

    2. Hi Frank, thanks for your reply. I suppose hard calendar was a bit vague. I have a calendar list with every day for the next 3 months nested by month for the next 5 months and build it further as I need. Within each day I have sub bullets for all the hours of the day. I use this as an events calendar as you would normally for the future, but then it kind of morphs on the actual day into a schedule / journaller / life logger (except tasks which go somewhere else).

      I think my ‘today’ is a bit different to yours – I believe from what I’ve read that you have a ‘search based’ today section? I tried this and it has some really nice features but it didn’t quite work for me – firstly just psychologically (silly perhaps) I liked it to be more ‘fixed’, but also my greatest difficulty is that a search automatically has all the bullets ‘closed’, which can be frequently frustrating if you are leaving and coming back to it time and again.

      So I have a today list with my inbox, some key current projects, my calendar and then my current calendar ‘day’ fully expanded with events, tasks etc (I have started ‘completing’ and hiding the past since reading this post which is really nice, thank you). Every morning I have a routine where I cut and paste over the next day from my calendar to my today section, run a search for tasks that must / I would like to be completed today and also copy them over to my today section. This manual necessity is of course a slight downside compared to a ‘today’ search, but it only takes about 1 minute. I also use date tags for recurring events etc and run a search every morning when I bring any appropriate for the day in to my today section.

      I tried Kanban but it didn’t quite work for me in it’s pure form … I always seem to end up with an amalgam of a range of different approaches with my own twist – I suppose we all have slightly different requirements 🙂

  7. By the way Frank, in regards to what you said about recurring reminders, I’m not sure if I made this up or stole it from someone (maybe you!) but I have a phrasexpress macro that runs a search for every possible form of ‘today’ that I tend to use.

    e.g. for today it provides: #21-09-16 OR #21-09_ OR #19_ OR #Wednesday OR #21-Sep-16 (I am phasing out the number version of months as I tend to get it wrong) OR #tomorrow

    There are three different types of date tag there you’ll notice – the first is completely specific to this day, the second specific to this day every year, and the third specific to this day of the month – and obviously #wednesday comes up every week.

    So with this method I am able to have recurring reminders (The underscore is important, otherwise a search for #21-09 would also bring up #21-09-16) and have removed my need for a calendar (I still use a more typical to do app for time based reminders and inconsequential things in the same way you have mentioned using apple reminders).

    As I say it’s quite possible I didn’t invent this at all, but in case it’s useful I thought I’d let you know. The issue with this compared to an automated programme is that I have to manually run the search every morning, or I could miss an important event.

  8. I suggest an additional planning tool that you can set up in Excel or Google Sheets. I use this on days when my schedule is not already structured for me by my workplace. I have a start time, and a list of tasks with the amount of time I’m guessing each might take. I then add the amount of estimated amount of time to the start time, which gives me a new time, and each task is subsequently added in the same fashion. That gives me a picture of how the day might go. I then adjust and sort things to my liking. I reduce the stress of a day like that by adding a few minutes the amount of time for each task, so that I’m not rushed or constantly looking at the clock. The more time you add to each task, the more time you have for spontaneous thoughts or conversations or what-not.

    Of course, there’s only so much time in each day, and this method gives you a realistic picture of what you might get done in a day. That is how I prioritize: I know something has to get done, and so I make sure it’s always scheduled for sometime in the day, and doesn’t get pushed off the schedule. It also allows me to break tasks down into segments, doing some of it today, some another day, etc.

    Seeing how the day ACTUALLY turns out (it’s almost never the way I planned it) is enlightening. The more I do this, the better I am at guessing how much time to give each task.

    I hope your readers can use this. If anyone wants to see the Excel/Google Sheets functions I set up for this, let me know. Please email me directly, because I don’t usually check back on blogs very often.

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