Do, Doing, Done: Creative Ways to Use Kanban with Workflowy

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August 9, 2021
kanban boards with Workflowy

Many people who have been trying different methods of workflow and organization are probably familiar with the Kanban method, even if not by name. In the Kanban method, a list is organized in (at least) three categories: one column for “to do” items, another for those in progress (“doing”), and a third for accomplished items (“done”). It can be very satisfying to watch a task progress through each step. And this method especially helps with group-oriented tasks.


Traditionally, this method is accomplished through tactile tools like sticky notes and a whiteboard or wall. But Workflowy takes this productivity tool to the next level and offers a multitude of creative possibilities.


You might have noticed that there are two view options in Workflowy. You can flip between these views by clicking on the button on the top righthand corner. One is the traditional “list” version that tracks bullets in a vertical list format. The other option is the fractal board, which displays bullets in a horizontal card format much like Trello or Monday.com. You can drag these cards across columns in a board, within cards, and embed boards within a list format (see image below).

Screenshot from YouTube.

You can experiment with the many creative ways to use boards, beyond personal task management and workflow. 

  1. Use your boards for project collaboration. Your board can be private or public. Share your board with your team––you can share it separately than other files––to see each the progress of each project through each step. One user shared that she manages her team using fractal boards. She can view each team member’s list of tasks at a glance and the progress that they are making. Pro tip: use mirror bullets to copy and paste the task on your team’s board onto your own private workflow. Whatever changes you make on your private list will carry over to the mirrored bullet on the team’s board.
  1. Use boards to visualize your weekly planner. Scrolling through a board that lists tasks from Monday–Friday can help see what’s realistic to accomplish in a given day and offer the ability to drag tasks to a different day. Alternatively, you can mirror items into a “today” list. But some users might find having the weekly task visual in a board format to be more helpful. 
  1. Experiment with using the Kanban method on household projects. What is holding certain projects up? Try making the project to-do list as specific as possible under “doing” or “active tasks.” If you are in the middle of painting the bathroom, for example, break the steps down into each room or each step of the task: tape the room edges and baseboards, sand, spackle, paint coats 1, 2, and 3, etc. This will help you visualize what needs to be done next and prevent bottleneck.
  1. Use Kanban boards to meal prep and grocery shop. Thinking ahead about what you plan to eat during the week helps you save money, stick to healthy recipes, and think ahead about what you might need to buy on a grocery shopping trip. Like Pinterest, you can add recipe links or files into your cards. 
  1. You can even use the Kanban method for big events like hosting holiday parties or wedding planning! Remember that you can add pictures, links, and files to help you visualize your ideas. Tag your wedding planner on the board so she can see what is on the list to do and what the two of you have accomplished together. It feels good to be so organized on such a stressful event!

There are a few tips to make your Kanban journey a successful one. First, make sure that you have your settings on “show completed tasks” which you can adjust in the upper-righthand corner by clicking the checkmark. I generally like the tidiness of seeing tasks disappear, but having this feature turned on can help you visualize what you’ve accomplished during the day and what still needs to be done.

Second, limit each column to a realistic number of tasks for each day or each project. Most Kanban method experts say that you should cap your “active” projects to avoid multitasking or missing deadlines. 

Third, experiment with having a “board within a board.” For example, if you have a simple three columns in your board such as “backlog,” “active,” and “completed,” try putting another board under “active.” This board can include all the steps necessary for a project, such as “review” and “waiting” and you can drag the item through each step of the process and figure out where tasks might get stuck.   

It’s worth carving out some time to fiddle around with what organization and boards work for you and save you creative brain space in the future. For more, watch our YouTube tutorials on fractal boards and Kanban boards.

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[…] 其实我们还可以从大纲这种数据结构上挖掘得更深入些。之前一些App借用了大纲的概念,并将其转化到思维导图。我订阅了一年多的WorkFlowy,尽管最近因为需求不大而停止订阅,但我依然认为其是一个非常好的思路整理和笔记工具。疫情以来,WorkFlowy的更新反倒活跃了起来(也是因为此前太风平浪静了),印象深刻的更新之一是可以将大纲转换为看板,很有趣的设计。 […]

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