This Low Tech Tool Helps You Track and Accomplish Projects, Goals, and To-Dos

I hear this question from assistants quite often, “I have so much to do. How can I make sure it all gets done and nothing falls through the cracks?”

A common solution is time blocking. This is where you make a to-do list of all the things you need to get done and then write those items into your calendar. You literally block out time to accomplish each task on your list.

There’s one major problem with this…no one else cares about your calendar. I can block time from 9:00 to 10:00 AM to write a blog post on our real estate website, but if my agent comes in and needs a listing agreement printed up for the 11:00 appointment he forgot to tell me about then I have to move that time block for the blog post somewhere else. And if I’ve already booked up the rest of my day with other things, then I have to move something else.

So I’m giving myself permission to stop feeling guilty about not time blocking. My entire day is one eight-hour block with one item on it: work on what you had planned until something more important comes along. 

Am I right?

So I’ve been driven to find a better way to manage my time. And we all know, there’s no such thing as time management. There is only self management. Ok, fine. So how do I manage myself better?

Essentially, I had to get my shit together. I’ve learned about myself that my brain is capable of holding onto things I need to do and if they are still undone, my brain wants to keep reminding me. So I needed a way to get those thoughts out of my head and into a system so my brain can finally let those things go.

Enter Kanban.


Kanban is literally signboard or billboard in Japanese. Typically Kanban is used in IT or manufacturing, but in it’s simplest form, it can be used personally or even with your real estate team.

Kanban is a physical/visual system for managing your projects, to-dos, and goals. To create a Kanban board, you will need one of the following:

a. a whiteboard, masking or painting tape, sticky notes, a Sharpie, a dry-erase pen

b. a corkboard, 3×5 cards, tacks, masking or painting tape, a Sharpie

c. a wall or window, sticky notes, masking or painting tape, a Sharpie

Heck you could even use a sheet of paper, sticky notes, and a pen if you just want to try it out.

Next, you divide the board into the following three columns:

To-Do | Doing | Done

Then, for each item on your to-do list, you write that item on its own sticky note and stick it in the To-Do column. At this point you might want to prioritize your to-do stickies. You can physically arrange them so that the ones at the top are more important than the ones in the middle or bottom. Or you can rate them. Use a simple 3, 2, 1 scale, or even large, medium, small if you want to think about them in terms of the time it will take to accomplish each task. This is important in the next step.

The next step is to move several of the sticky notes into the Doing column. You may choose a different name for this column such as W.I.P (work in progress) or Today. I also suggest writing a number under whatever word you choose as your column header. Anywhere between 3 and 5. This column is then limited to that number of sticky notes you can put in there at the same time. At the beginning of the day, you will look at your To-Do stickies and decide which ones you are going to work on. Obviously you should work on the highest priority ones first, but you may also choose which ones you can accomplish today by choosing by size of project. Over time, you will figure out what you are capable of. You might choose one large to-do, one medium to-do, and a couple of small to-dos. Just be sure to limit your board to only 3-5 stickies in the Doing column.

Then, as your day progresses, work on the stuff in your Doing column and ONLY those. If something new comes up that takes priority over something you are currently working on, write that thing on a sticky note, put it in the Doing column and remove something else by putting it back in the To-Do column.

The brilliance of this system is that you can easily SHOW others what you are working on. So when your agent comes to you and says, “I need you to work on this right now.” You can point to your board and ask, “Of the items in the Doing column, which would you like me to remove so that I work on this new thing?” Now the decision rests with your agent. You can work on the new thing without feeling guilty for not being able to accomplish everything you wanted to get done today.

When you complete something, move that sticky to the Done column. Your job is to move every sticky out of the Doing column and into the Done column. If you do this right, you will easily be able to accomplish all of the tasks in your Doing column.

You may also want to divide your Done column into two sections; one for Planned and one for Unplanned. That way you can easily see how much of what you are accomplishing is truly planned for and how much is stuff that you are being interrupted with.

At the end of every week, you take down the stickies in the Done column and celebrate all you were able to accomplish!

There are several variations you can implement with this as well. I like to divide my Doing section into Doing and Waiting. I have found that I will be working on something in my Doing column and then get to a point where I am waiting on something else before I can finish that task. In that case, I move the sticky note to the Waiting section and proceed with some other task from the Doing column. By having a Waiting section, I don’t have to worry about dropping any balls. I can easily see what tasks are not going to be accomplished without further information.

You can also color-code your tasks by choosing different color stickies. Maybe red for listing related activities and green for buyer related activities. You could even make this a huge board for the entire team and color-code by person.

To dive deeper into the subject, I highly recommend you view Jim Benson’s website. He’s the creator of Personal Kanban and I think you’ll get a lot more ideas of how you can implement this for yourself and quite possibly for your team.

You can also see many examples of personal Kanban boards here.

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  1. Pingback: Goal Accomplishment for Teams – The Assistant Files by Elizabeth Gilbert

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