Guide to

Personal Agility with Kanban Journaling

What is Kanban Journaling?

Kanban Journaling combines the core principles of Kanban and Flow with a paper dot or grid journal and enables you to reduce stress and establish a great work-life balance. 


A number of other journal systems already use visual symbols to make it easy to scan the page for critical tasks, notes, and additional key information.  These systems live up to the first principle of Kanban to visualize your work.  Where Kanban Journaling is different from the other systems is in the usage of all four principles of Kanban to enable you to balance your day and facilitate flow.   This is done with visual symbols along with learning the key rituals of how to set reasonable work limits, a strong understanding of your goals, just-in-time delivery, and continuous improvement.   In the next sections, we will explain how to set up a journal and how to perform the rituals. 


What is Kanban and Flow?

What is Kanban?

In the 1940's, Toyota created a set of methodologies around "just in time" delivery to reduce waste and increase productivity in its factories.   This was the foundation of what we now call Lean, and Kanban was a key methodology within Lean manufacturing.  

Kanban is a Japanese word meaning visual signal or signboard.  The Kanban system is a visual system for managing work as it flows through a process.  That visual system can be implemented in many ways from the commonly used Kanban board to even be stamped on the thing that is being produced like a coffee cup.  In our case, we are going to be using it inside a journal to make it an even more powerful productivity tool. 

Kanban Journaling is built around both the visual signals and a set of key principles that make it all work.   The principles, when applied to your journal, are key to improving your daily productivity, reducing stress, and achieving flow.  Here are the 4 principles:  

  • Visualize your work

  • Limit work in progress

  • Focus on flow and just-in-time delivery

  • Continuous Improvement 

Examples of Visual Signals in Kanban:

On a cup​, letting the barista know what drink to make

Placed on a glass wall to indicate tasks that need to be done

On a whiteboard with a workflow

What is Flow?

Flow is a positive mental state when you are completely absorbed and focused on a given activity.   When you enter this state, your entire mental energy is involved to the point you could lose track of time, and you are are in your most productive state.  Entering and maintaining the flow state requires some key factors to exist:


  • Engaging and achievable tasks

  • Clear goals

  • Focus and concentration on the task at hand 

  • Being well-rested and in good health   

The key benefits of being in flow are:

  • Increased creativity and enjoyment

  • Higher productivity

  • Improved skills and learning 

Flow is a balance between the reduction of stress and boredom

An observer's view of what flow looks like

Setting up Your Journal

Overview of Journal Setup

Setting up your Kanban Journal is straightforward.  The index tabs on the left will guide you through the process.   Allow yourself about 30 minutes to set up your new journal.  Happy Kanban Journaling!

Setup Index


Rituals for Success

Personal agility and success with Kanban Journaling come from making it a part of your daily rituals.  Now that you have set up your journal, this set of posts and videos will show you how effective use it as you approach and execute your day.   More articles will be available soon.  So please check back soon.   


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