what is a task board and how to make the most of it

“When you visualize, then you materialize.” This quote of the American psychologist Denis Waitley perfectly summarizes one of the most effective tools used by modern leaders for managing their time, team process or even entire companies.

Although there are different means to use for visualizing work, there’s hardly any tool capable of outperforming a task board. That is, of course, if you know how to make the most of it.

If you are not confident that you’ve mastered the art of workflow visualization, I suggest you stick to the end. What awaits you in the next paragraphs will help you gain a better understanding of what a task board is, why you need it, what types of boards are available and how you can make the most of them.

What Is a Task Board?

As vague as is may sound, the most simple explanation of a task board is a “board where you visualize all your tasks”. It can be as basic as a plain whiteboard with a list of items that you want to complete or a complex digital Kanban board integrated with multiple other platforms.

Why do I say Kanban board? Because the majority of task boards that you can find available are very similar in structure to the ones used in Kanban, consisting of multiple columns that represent different steps that an assignment must pass to be completed. However, keep in mind that there’s still a significant difference between them.

Why Do You Need a Task Board?

Task boards can take your personal “To-Do” list on the next level by giving you the opportunity to gain a far more comprehensive point of view of all your affairs.

Unlike your personal “To-Do” list, a task board may show you how far along toward completing an assignment you are. You just have to have the discipline to update the progress on your board in a timely fashion.

To explore the full range of benefits that come with using task boards, we need to go through the typical use cases of these boards.

Types of Task Boards

Visual management boards can be categorized into 2 main types depending on the scale of use:

  • Personal
  • Team

Personal Task Boards

In general, personal task boards serve to organize all the things that an individual has on their plate to complete.

You can keep yours strictly professional, or visualize everything you don’t want to forget (e.g. attend UI design webinar on Wednesday, August 29). You can even turn your email into a personal task board so that you can keep it organized and manage your inbox with ease.

Personal email task board containing just 3 basic columns:

Personal task boards usually have simple designs including just a few columns for the different stages of progress. The main benefit that comes with implementing a personal board is that you can easily manage your tasks and rearrange their order of execution in case of unforeseen circumstances.

Team Task Boards

Team boards are great for making it transparent who is doing what all the time. To be effective, these boards need to mirror the process steps that your team follows when working on their assignments.

With the help of team task boards, you can monitor how work items are progressing and how much work is on the table for your team. This will allow you to manage the capacity of your team based on the current workload.

How to Make the Most of Your Task Board?

Putting up a visual task board is quite easy, but making the most of it – not so much. What you’ve read so far is just scratching the surface of all the value it can deliver to you and your team.

Over the years, I’ve learned from experience that visualizing your workflow is barely enough to manage your personal, team, or company assignments effectively. This is why I’ll share 3 tips for making the most of all the possibilities that task boards can give you.

1. Implement Kanban

As I mentioned earlier in this article, most task board layout templates that you’ll find available were inspired by the visual boards used in the Kanban method. This is not a coincidence as the method relies heavily on visualization to achieve continuous process improvement leading to evolutionary organizational change.

Putting up a task board will help you see what you’ve got going on and what awaits in your backlog. Implementing it in combination with the other 5 practices of Kanban will help you manage your workflow in an increasingly efficient (over time) way and achieve continuous improvement.

2. Make Your Boards Globally Available

Physical task boards are fantastic for building the habit of visualizing your work and updating its status based on progress. However, as you become more adept, you’ll start noticing some limitations.

For example, physical task boards are not suited for visualizing the work of remote teams. Even with contemporary communication tools, updating a physical board when all team members are dispersed will require additional effort and will come with some lag as real-time updates will be quite the challenge.

On the other hand, online task boards will allow you to manage your work from any point of the globe with an internet connection.

Most of the contemporary software solutions come with a variety of other added functionalities like workflow analytics, card dependencies, ability to integrate with other platforms, etc. With their help, you’ll be able to turn your board into a globally available base of operations to your organization.

3. Map Board Layout to Your Process

When you visualize your work items on a personal task board, you drive at your own tempo. You can stop and look around before proceeding with the next task and there’s little chance to lose control. On the other hand, team boards are more difficult to manage because there’s a lot more going on.

Map your task board to your process

To make the most of your team board, you should consider the specific steps of your team’s process. Afterward, you’d want to map them on the board in a way that tells you more about their status than the fact that they are in progress.

For example, a typical software development board would have columns like:

  • Tech Design;
  • Coding;
  • Testing.

You can even draw horizontal lines across your board to build swimlanes for distinguishing between different priorities, types of work, etc.

Following this logic, I encourage you to start slowly if you have no experience using task boards. It is wise, to begin with, a personal board and then move onto a more advanced solution for team visualization. This way both you and your team will be able to see the benefits of using task boards and avoid internal resistance.

In Conclusion:

Task boards are a fantastic tool for visualizing your work. They are by far superior to any “To-Do” list as boards provide a more comprehensive point of view for managing your tasks.

There are 2 basic levels of workflow visualization that you can put to practice:

  • Personal
  • Team

Team boards tend to be more complex and require more skill and experience to manage. To make the most of your task board, you should implement it in combination with Kanban and use it as a base for improvement.

Starting with a physical whiteboard is a good way to build a habit of keeping your task board up to date, but in time you may need some of the added functionalities of online task board solutions.

Last but not least, don’t rush to complicate your task board until you understand the dynamics of managing a complex process and have given your team enough time to get comfortable visualizing their work.

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