A few months ago, I went on a tear about my OmniGraffle-based Kanban status board. I had many people telling me I was doing it wrong and that I should have used one of the dedicated Kanban online tools, like Trello. However, since this board was just for me, I didn’t see the point in that.
However, about a month after that post went up, a beta Kanban plugin showed up for Obsidian.md. This isn’t an online-based tool but just a simple plugin to create Kanban-style blocks from a markdown file. Moreover, it lets you embed Obsidian page links in the blocks. It isn’t particularly pretty or customizable. (However, the developer continues to improve it and add features.) Regardless, it is a dead-simple way to put together a Kanban board inside of Obsidian.
Since all of my projects are already in Obsidian, this got my interest. I spent just a few minutes with the plugin before deciding it was time for Status Board 2.0
I learned a few things using Status Board 1.0, which initially had four categories: Active, Hold, Waiting, and Done. After using it daily, I realized I only needed two columns: active and hold. Projects to me are either active or on hold. The reason they may be on hold is that I’m waiting on a client, or I don’t have time to deal with it right now, but regardless it is on hold. Also, once the project is done, there’s no reason for me to keep it on the board. I don’t need a trophy case of completed projects. I need focus. These cards are only pointers to the actual project page. Deleting a card does not delete the project. Once I finish a project, I delete the card, and it is, satisfyingly, “off the board”.
So I had already starting to evolve my status board to only have two columns for each area of my life. Bringing this over to the Obsidian Kanban plugin, I could re-create that for every area of my life on a single board. I’ve got these two columns for MacSparky, Field Guides, the law practice, and personal life. Each one has a column with active and on-hold projects that I can move back and forth. Above is a heavily redacted image of the current Sparky Status Board 2.0.
Where Status Board 1.0 had links to the OmniFocus and Obsidian project pages on each card, Status Board 2.0 has an internal link to the Obsidian project page. (OmniFocus links and much more are on the Obsidian project page.) At first, I also included a few short notes about why a project was in the hold column, but that was silly. I already know why every project is on hold and don’t need to spend time documenting it on the Kanban card.
I have incorporated this into my day-end shutdown routine. So, in addition to working through OmniFocus at the end of the day, I also take a look at “the board”. Anything still active gets my particular attention, but I also scan all of the projects on hold to see if I can move them to active status for the next day. This often will spur a flurry of text messages and emails to clients and co-workers to get projects rolling again. Because all of this is in Obsidian, if I want to jump right into any particular project, I need only tap on it, and Obsidian takes me there.
Status Board 2.0 isn’t as pretty as Status Board 1.0, but I find it just as effective. I keep the status board in my root level directory of Obsidian to access it as needed throughout the day. Also, when I put this in full screen on my Mac, it gives me those same feels I was getting before with Status Board 1.0 in full-screen mode.
I know many of my readers will be saying, “I told you so” but in my defense, this plugin did not exist when I first started creating Status Board 1.0. I still stand by my initial position that a cloud-based Kanban board does not make much sense for an unshared, personal status board.
I doubt this is the final iteration of my status board, but this is the current one. Indeed, if money were no object, I would instead build a wall-sized Flipboard machine in my studio just like you used to see in airports and train stations. Every morning it would make a satisfying rolling and clicking sound as it updates to show my active and hold projects across the wall. At least that’s the dream.