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Quilter’s Kanban- A guest blog post

I don’t know about you, but I need all the help I can get staying organized! Today’s guest blog post shows one method of keeping track of all the projects and quilts that come our way.

Quilter’s Kanban – A Guest Post by Elita Sharpe
To learn more about Elita check out her website, Facebook and instagram.

Like many people, I wear many proverbial hats. While it’s been pretty easy for me to divide my time between quilting and homelife, I also have longarm clients, teach privately, am involved in online bees and organise semi-annual quilting retreats. I can’t keep all of that straight in my head. I love lists but for all those tasks, it can be confusing.

I decided to adapt something I use in my other job as an admin assistant with an IT department. Our department does a lot of application development and uses a methodology called Kanban to make the processes run smoothly.

Kanban is a Japanese term meaning card. Simply, Kanban allows for a visual flow of the work. Imagine that you have three bins in your office. The first one is full of all of the things you want To Do. The second bin is your Work in Progress and you can only have three project sheets in it. The third bin is for the items that are Done. Most people can reasonably handle 3-4 projects simultaneously. Multi-tasking sounds nice but the research shows that in fact, when you go above this number, your effectiveness drops by 20% for each additional project. When you limit the number of WiPs you have ongoing, you are more productive. When you are finished with a WiP, it gets moved to the Done bin. You then have an opening in the WiP’s bin so you can pull something from the To Do bin.

Screen Shot 2014-03-07 at 2.30.50 PM

Each colour is assigned to an individual, with each person having a task to progress the project. Kanban isn’t a scheduler but a project manager. These techniques work great in a group situation but are harder to implement when there is one person with many projects.

My schedule includes general “Quilt Time”. Because I have multiple activities ongoing, my Quilter’s Kanban needs to be a little different. I’m a very visual person so I use the colours to represent the different creative streams and the horizontal rows to show the project tasks. Using the colours this way allows me to go to my Quilter’s Kanban board during Quilt Time and see at a glance what I have time to work on. The expectation is that everything flows forward, in manageable chunks. Nothing moves forward if there is no space. It is possible to reorganise projects if needed. By seeing the status of everything at a glance, I can choose how best to use my time.

This is my Quilter’s Kanban. The chart above it is for my students as well as for any new quilts I want to work on. The chart helps the student understand where they are in the process. Once I finish a quilt top, it goes into my “Basket” on the top row the of the Quilter’s Kanban.

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From the Basket, I pull projects forward into the queue, keeping the working number to four. For online Bees & BOMs, I have different steps to complete the tasks. Once the quilts are completely finished, they go into a binder with the details. For blogging, I can see easily where I am for each stage of the weekly posts.

My Quilter’s Kanban is centrally located in my sewing area, which is essentially a big square hallway so any time I pass through, I can easily keep track of what I need to do. I like that I don’t have to waste time figuring out where I am for each project in order to get on with it. Overall, Quilter’s Kanban keeps me more organised, making me more productive with my time, and less stressed about what to do next.

What about you? Do you have an organization method that you find helpful?


8 Comments on Quilter’s Kanban- A guest blog post

  1. I found somewhere in internet smart rule of 3 by 3. It like when you stand 3 meters from kanban board you need 3 seconds to figure out everything about certain process. Me and my manager tried to count the time we need to describe all processes (and its stage, priority, resolvers etc.) that takes place in company and are displayed on Kanban Tool. In 2 minutes we descibed about 10 projects…

  2. I just love the Kanban’s idea. Elita, i wanna say it’s really an amazing post. Yeah! helpful too.

  3. This looks like a GREAT system! Thanks for sharing.

  4. Donna Siller // April 6, 2014 at 3:06 pm // Reply

    Just awesome!!!

  5. I like the Kanban idea. For sure I need better organization for get to my backload of things to do.
    linsquilts.blgospot com

  6. I am a beginner and love that you put a “start” button as I’m overwhelmed with where to really start. I like this idea, I’m trying to manage my time better and this is a great idea!

  7. Awesome! I, too, have many projects to try to keep straight and keep up with. This is helpful, especially the WiP part where you can’t have any more than 3 or 4 in there. I will be using this in the future. Thank you!

  8. Amazing post Elita! So helpful!
    I will definitely do that Kanban chart. Thank you for sharing!

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  1. Finish Along Quarter 1 Tutorial – Quilter’s Kanban – When Life Meets Logistics, With Elita | The Littlest Thistle

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