The Tooth Fairy does Kanban in WorkFlowy


January 21, 2016


If you haven’t yet heard of Kanban or given it a try, it’s time. Kanban has 2 core principles: “Visualize your WorkFlow” and “Limit your Work in Progress”. WorkFlowy’s flexibility is second to none when it comes to implementing Kanban workflows.

There are innumerable ways in which Kanban can play out in WorkFlowy. I’m going to give you the simplest of illustrations – a very real and significant project I undertook recently. My daughter is at that age where I’ve had to step into a new and unfamiliar role as Mr. Tooth Fairy. I’ve taken on this challenge with determination – well, that is after a rather awkward fail the first time ’round. I decided that “Take 2” would enlist the help of WorkFlowy. After all, I’d been using WorkFlowy to organize my whole entire life… so why not the events of a cultural phenomenon surrounding an itsy bitsy tooth? This kind of thing requires some concerted coordination, I kid you not.

Visualize your Workflow

Kanban involves grouping the individual tasks of a multi-step project in a way that most makes sense to you… generally moving tasks, one by one, through a couple of “stages” you’ve set up:

Traditionally, one has “Backlogged”, “Doing” and “Done” stages. You could change the names of the stages if you wish. Instead of “Doing”, you could use, say, “WIP” (Work in Progress) “Working on”, “Next Action” or“Active” – like I have in the screenshot above.

You could add extra stages like “Waiting”, which could include items that have been delegated to others and which are out of your hands for the time being. You could throw some “GTD” into the mix and subdivide your Backlogged stage to include sub stages like “Someday”, “Maybe”, “Next Month”, etc. WorkFlowy has the depth to accommodate any structure you have in mind.

It’s really helpful visualizing your workflow: how tasks are connected to one another in the grand scheme of things, how much one has already achieved and what still lies ahead. Nothing is hidden – unless you decide to focus in on something.

Limit your Work in Progress

As we all know, you can collapse the parts of WorkFlowy that you don’t want to focus on, especially with larger outlines (not necessarily this one):

… or you could zoom in on what you want to focus on.

When you’ve got a lot on your plate or you think you’ve maybe bitten off more than you can chew, you can easily “push” tasks out of your “Active” stage – and in so doing, limit your work in progress, focusing relentlessly on what David Allen calls the “Next Action”. If your next action is a tad complex… simply break it down further into even smaller tasks. Find the very next concrete thing you can sink your teeth into. Sometimes it all starts with a Google search. Other times it requires reordering your tasks to get clarity. Once you get clarity on any project, you’ll soon see that your project’s bark is worse than its bite.

A takeaway

I’m tearing out 2 chapters on Kanban from my WorkFlowy book for you. You’ll get to take Kanban for a spin with what I like to call my “Kanban Calendar” – for global task management… and also a Kanban dynamic to structure your writing in general.

Here’s my Tooth Fairy outline you can rearrange and tinker with.

Don’t hold out on us!

If you’ve got any tips for us or an outline/ template you’d like to share with other WorkFlowyans, please pop those links into a comment below. Especially Kanban-like ones 🙂

Get EXCLUSIVE bite-sized  WorkFlowy  updates: tips, tricks & news about FREE online workshops with Frank Degenaar. Sign up here.
0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

[…] If you’re looking to stretch your organizational skills for projects, see how “The Tooth Fairy Does Kanban in WorkFlowy”. […]

7 years ago

I am retired. Therefore GTD does not interrupt coffee & donuts with “morning joe” in the AM and Uncle “Tito” (vodka) & pickled herring in the PM. I adopted “wf” after reading Frank’s book. With no deadlines other than coffee and booze I am not pressed. However Kanban (so aptly described by Frank) lends itself on how I can put pieces of disparate information in a workflow that fits my comfort level.

I do not use #backlogged, #doing #done (why? – no deadlines) but do use a process learned from Nathan Schafer: on pushing bullet items I have am working on to the “top spot” in subject item level. Other items politely take the next spot lower. This, of course, gives me a handy “visual” reference on what I have avoided..

A shout here for Nathan… His workflowy recipe for recipes, shopping lists, and inventory is slick!

7 years ago
Reply to  bnphillips

Yes, slick would be the word when describing Nathan’s setup. I’m taking a couple of pages from his book as I bring my culinary skills up to bare-essential scratch.

7 years ago

I’m now a big fan of Kanban and have been using it successfully in my WF instance since reading your Kanban chapters a few months back. Thanks!

Subscribe to the newsletter

We'll send you a weekly roundup of the latest posts


Workflowy replaces your notebooks, stickies and bloated apps with a simple, smooth digital notebook that makes it easy to get organized and be productive.