The Home Geek

Diary of a Consultant in pyjamas and slippers

A little introduction – Why home will never become a second « work place »

“This is a good idea. But are you not afraid of becoming crazy?”

That is the exact reaction of one of my colleague when I explained to her what this was all about. Writing in a blog where I would describe my experiments of applying at home any business concepts, methods, tools or ideas taken from the workplace. From a purely operational perspective, it could make sense. But from the perspective of any-decent-human-being-who-wants-to-have-a-cool-life, it sounds awful. Truly awful. Close your eyes, and just imagine yourself dealing with your household in the same way as you are behaving in the office (NB : it is important to just imagine at this stage please, do not ask your wife for real to prepare a powerpoint deck for tomorrow and to leave it on your desk so that you can pick it up at 7am – this would undoubtedly be a very bad idea). Just imagine…Team spirit… Time management… Deliverables… Project plan… Strategy… Lean delivery… Efficiency… Project Management… Communication channels…

I told you… awful.

However, if you are currently in front of your desk reading this post, it is certainly because you have asked yourself the same question as me : Why are we spending so much time and effort to improve our performance at the work place, and so very little as soon as we cross the threshold of our lovely home ? We all agree to say that our households are more important than work, therefore why is it work, which captures most of our energy, creativity, focus and determination, and not home? Why are we keen to question ourselves and our ways of working when we are sitting on our desperately depressing open-space hotdesk, whereas we are stubborn, dull and stick-in-the-mud as soon as we get back home?

I hear you… Home is not work, work is not home, and you definitely don’t want home to become another work place! Actually, you want to “protect” home from the influence of an increasingly overwhelming job, by refusing any work-tainted bits or pieces of any kind in your beautiful household. According to you, wearing your pyjamas is a noble act of resistance.

But you’re lying.

Yes, you’re lying.

You’re lying, because:

  1. You cannot be a fundamentally different person at home from the one you are at work, and your job and ways of working certainly mean a lot about you, which do certainly not contradict the one you are at home
  2. You certainly check at least 5 times your professional e-mail on your smartphone every night while pretending to listen carefully to your lovely partner and kids
  3. Work certainly represents a significant chunk of your conversations and thoughts while you are home
  4. You cannot deny that “stuff to do” is fundamentally just “stuff to do”, irrespective of it being business or personal stuff
  5. Any of you who never had a “to-do list” both at work AND at home, please raise your hand

Here is the fundamental question: Why is your career taking off whereas your personal projects are still at the starting point and constantly delayed until next year just because supposedly “it will be easier next year”? (How crazy is that? Next year is always better when it comes to acting!). The primary answer is that the resources you give yourself at work to achieve your goals are way bigger than the ones you give yourself at home in order to achieve what are nevertheless the most exciting projects of your life. That is an undeniable fact.

My name is Thibaud, and I am 28. During the day, I am a Management Consultant, i.e. a professional of project management for businesses implementing all sorts of changes. Working on projects is my day job, and after a few years in this job I can state that I have worked on a decent amount of very diverse projects for different organisations. I have experienced different methodologies, management styles, working cultures, work ethics, etc. but every single time all the parameters have been defined to achieve the business goals set by the business (with more or less success…).

In my personal life, I also have many projects: Becoming an accomplished violinist, owning my own guest house, becoming a truffle hunter, and above all, making my wife and my future family happy. It all sounds less complex than cross-divisional business transformation, but my ego is definitely convinced that succeeding in the latter while failing at the former could definitely be the greatest shame of my life!

Succeeding in personal projects does not demand less resources or determination than succeeding in professional ones. Therefore, in the light of these challenges ahead of me, why on earth should I deprive myself from the most powerful and precious skills, knowledge and tools that I developed in my work life, just because “home is not work”?

If you are interested to follow my journey, please don’t worry. Home will never become the “second workplace”. Neither for me, nor for you or anybody. Firstly, because a man who knows where he goes is less likely to lose himself. Secondly, because methods and concepts are in essence neutral, only their use is meant to be business or personal life-related. Finally, because if things become confusing in our minds, our pyjamas will remind us where we belong…

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I have migrated the blog on a new host! Please visit my new website at

I am looking forward to seeing you there!

Thibaud – The HGC

10 good reasons for using Kanban at home

Building on my previous post about how Kanban is a relevant tool to manage projects in a household, I would like to highlight a bit more details the benefits of using this very powerful tool in a personal context.
It is a given that Kanban is an effective tool to do stuff, develop software, deliver projects, manufacture products etc. But when it comes to personal lives, kanban has amazing attributes, which make it a very suitabl tool. Here are 10 good reasons for anybody to start to use Kanban at home to manage all sort of activities.

  1. It makes work dynamic, not a burden – On a Kanban, tasks are moving forward, even when they are not completely done. You can always reflect any progress made, even just an incremental step, which means that the board looks different every night. Even when you don’t do anything, your environment may change, which can add new tasks, and that also makes your Kanban evolve. It is a dynamic tool, and you can embrace this dynamic by pulling actions towards completion. On a Kanban, the stuff to do doesn’t sit there, heavy and overwhelming, waiting to be completed. On the contrary, tasks are light and full of energy as if they were just calling you to be moved a step forward. On a Kanban, the work flows like clear water, in sync with the flow of your always evolving life. And this goes much beyond product manufacturing or software development.
  2. It empowers you – Kanbans are visual, therefore it is a bit like a map of what is going on at the moment in your life.

    When you stand in front of your Kanban, determining your next priorities, you’re a bit like a general in front of a major battlefield’s map, making the key decisions to achieve a victory.

    This is incredibly empowering, and gives you the feeling of being in control of your life. It would be a shame not to leverage of this amazing sensation to manage the most important bits in your life.

  3. It is your baby – Your Kanban is entirely personal and customisable. It is 100% made by you, it looks like you, or more importantly you have total freedom to make it look like you, visually but also like the way you think or process information. It’s your baby, and you can tailor it in a thousand more ways than you can tailor to-do lists, diaries, or self-organisation apps.
  4. It is inclusive – it is much easier to gather people and grab their attention in front of a board that is structured, simple and colourful, than in front of a spreadsheet that can only be owned and understood by the one who built it. The visual and simple nature of the Kanban makes it attractive and friendly, and straightforward for anybody to get on board with it. This attribute is highly valuable for a team in the work place using Kanban, but also for a couple or a family at home to manage their own stuff, as it doesn’t require any fancy skills to build and manage one. And it is big enough for everybody to input in it, even at the same time.
  5. It is simple – Most project management software is usually complex, and it takes a while to master them and use them effectively. Even then, you don’t usually use more than 40-50% of the features available.

    In comparison, Kanban is a simple tool to master as it develops at your own pace. You use 100% of the features constantly as you have built them all yourself based on your needs.

    That why even when it becomes iteratively more and more complex, Kanban remains very simple for anybody to embrace. And as a consequence, this simplicity makes it a preferred tool to be considered in a household.

  6. It is improvable – There are a thousand ways to improve your Kanban in order to make it more effective. Whereas at work you need consensus from the whole team to make any change to it (and you also have to convince your manager that the idea comes from him/her), at home you just need to agree any new change with your partner, potentially your kids and that’s it. And even if you guys don’t reach an agreement, it easy to settle this with a « let’s try for a couple of days and see if it works or not ». If it works, you just keep the change, if not, you just scrap it. Easy. The most important thing is to let your creativity do the job in order to find new ways of working that suit you best.
  7. It makes life positive – on Kanban, the tasks you are currently working on are always put into a broader context : the context of the other tasks you are working on, the ones you have to do later, and the ones you already executed etc. You can also visualise the bigger picture, ie. your ultimate objective, or an interim one. Putting things into context always reminds you of the purpose of what you are doing (the why), and it is very important when it comes to personal life : we often convince ourselves that we do things (especially the mot annoying ones) because we have to, and we often forget that we do them to enhance our environment and make our home a better place. Kanban enables you to take that distance and always keep the why in mind.
  8. It respects your freedom – One of the biggest strengths of Kanban, and one that is the most difficult to understand at first : Kanban is a tool that help you prioritise your tasks, but it doesn’t tell you what to do WHEN.

    The purpose of Kanban is not to tell you how much has to be done in which timeframe, it is to tell you what you should do next and why.

    This means that Kanban does not overwhelm you with stuff to do – it just puts you in the best disposition to pull into your plate the task that is the most relevant for you to do now. And if one day you just want to do nothing and just play on your X-box, you can, your Kanban is not going to send you 10 reminders per minute to do more stuff. It makes you effective, that’s it.

  9. It is scalable – I’ve never worked with Lean or Kanban properly in the office (I am more used to Scrum Agile), but I know it is used in some of the best software development teams in the world (eg the one developing the Microsoft X-box), where it is applied in very complex programs involving several dozens of people. At home, no doubt that a Kanban can help you manage most if not all of what’s going on in your household. My wife and I manage more than five projects together, and I can comfortable say that this covers all of our life as a couple. And it could easily integrate more ramifications, as it does not challenge the primary idea of limiting your work in progress.
  10. It is FUN – Managing a spreadsheet ? boring. A to-do list ? boring. An action log ? boring. A plan ? boring. Moving coloured cards around the board is way more enjoyable for all the people involved. It gives the relevant support for passionate discussions around what to do and how to do things. That is true at work, but even more at home, because of the nature of the things to do, which directly relate to what matters most to us in life. Working with Kanban is a bit like playing board game, except that nobody loses at the end.

How we effectively manage our couple’s projects using kanban

Since May this year, I’ve had a wedding ring at my finger. This means that my life has changed a lot. Not on a day to day basis because my partner and I have been living together for for years already, but because marriage gave a new flavour to our relationship, which is now tainted with a greater sense of… long term. Hence we started to speak more openly and in more details about our long term projects, aspirations, hopes, etc. Even though that exercise of speaking to each other was highly valuable, we were determined not let those ideas evaporate and our aspirations remain only a dream. That is how our Kanban adventure started.

Being a management consultant (I am sure you got that at this stage J), and working with the Agile principles on a daily basis, I was convinced for a while that several of those principles would be relevant in a household. Therefore I seized the opportunity that was in front of me: I bought a white board, some sticky notes, a few markers, and we made the decision to try and make all those common projects a reality using a Kanban.

And here is our Masterpiece:

Our masterpiece
Our masterpiece

I am almost a bit emotional when I look at it as it reminds me of all the knowledge, ideas, thinking and effort we put into it.

It doesn’t look like much, but I promise you there is much more than you imagine.

What is a Kanban? (reminder)

Just a short reminder on what a Kanban is. It means signboard in Japanese, and this is what it is: a board divided into multiple columns, each representing an activity of a sequential process. And when there is a task to do, it starts on the left of the Kanban and goes through all the board towards the right, until the final column (usually Done). Therefore, a kanban is a bit of a map of your work to and in progress.

Kanbans are at the centre of the lean approach aiming to deliver things with the minimum waste and to foster continuous improvement. If you want to know more on Kanban, please read my article about the various techniques of managing projects.

But, in brief, here are the principles of Kanban:

  • It is a tool to visualise the work to do and in progress by moving little cards across the board to represent their status
  • It is not fixed. It is a flexible tool, adaptable to any situation, and improvable over time
  • It is used to limit the work in progress. You shouldn’t put more than x tasks in the “in progress” column (you defined the number) in order to avoid bottlenecks and to keep the focus on what has been started

That’s about it really… and believe me, its simplicity makes its strength!

How is our Kanban structured?

This is how our Kanban is structured today (I insist on the TODAY as it hasn’t been like this since the beginning and it is unlikely to remain exactly like this forever):

The kanban's structure
The kanban’s structure


Our kanban columns reflect our own working process
Our kanban columns reflect our own working process
  1. The gold mine – this is the name we gave to our backlog. Well honestly we didn’t like backlog (it’s still written at the top but we don’t use it any more). It reminded us of work and changing the name was a way for us to get more ownership out of new system. It was important for us to label it with a phrase that was reflecting all the positive side of our projects. The gold mine contains a full high level backlog for the topic in scope, which means that it fixes the ultimate end of the project as we have it in our mind today. Each yellow post-it represents an item in the backlog, something we’ll have to do in order to fulfill our dream.
  2. Projects – This column contains only one backlog item that we prioritised and we want to deliver. It is short term enough to give us tangible benefits to look for, but long-term enough to keep us busy for a week or two. We created it because we felt initially that were was a layer missing between our ultimate purpose and day to day tasks. We needed something in the middle to drive us and give us the feeling that we are always moving towards tangible success. Now, this layer actually constitutes the unit of our gold mine.
  3. To-do – This is the prioritised project, broken down into actionable tasks. Our project (yellow post-it) is still too big to represent one action on the Kanban. It would stay forever in the “in progress” column and that would demotivate us. Plus we would have to add lots on details on the post it in order to explain what we need to do to complete it. Therefore, our solution was to break it down into smaller actions, each fixed on a smaller sticky note.
  4. Coming – The prioritised actions for the next day. We are only allowed to pull into In progress any of the actions that is in this column. We are usually a bit more loose and open during the week-end on this one, and a bit stricter during the work week.
  5. Actions – In Progress – Represented with the two-arrow symbol, this column contains all the tasks that have been initiated, and that we are still able to progress forward. This is our pure work in progress
  6. Actions – stuck – Represented by a little forbidden symbol, it gathers tasks that cannot be progressed without input from an external source. It does not depend on us to move forward
  7. Happy – ? – This is our test column, and I personally think this is one of the most important one. When we’re done with something but are waiting for the result to be achieved, that’s where we put the task. I think that this gap between “I’m done” and “the task is over” is a major problem in to-do lists, but something that can be fixed easily with Kanbans.
  8. Happy – Happy – A smiley face, representing the task as completed and the result achieved. We let our achieved output pile-up until our weekly meeting


Our theme are formulated in a positive way, so that we always remember why and to which purpose we do things
Our theme are formulated in a positive way, so that we always remember why and to which purpose we do things

Swimlanes represent themes. There are multiple projects that my wife and I are managing simultaneously, and therefore we have a sub gold mine for each of them. However, in the To do column, each project is prioritised with an indicative priority order, reflecting which one is our current priority overall. For example, as we are getting closer to Christmas, the project related to Family & Friends was the top priority. However, in the new year, it is very likely that we are going to prioritise some more personal stuff for a while as this period is usually pretty quiet.

How does our Kanban work?

The flow of our kanban
The flow of our kanban

Project initiation:

  1. We build the backlog, or gold mine (more on that later…)


  1. We move items from the gold mine to projects when we want to work on the next project in line (always the most important / obvious) – this is the item we are going to work on for the next couple of weeks or so
  2. We break down this project into actionable tasks (usually those tasks represent up to 1 hour of work roughly)
Project broken down into tasks
Project broken down into tasks

We prioritise the projects from 1 to 5 based on the overall importance

Priorities are stated, from 1 to 5.

We remove the Happy tasks and acknowledge our output


  1. We move the tasks from To-do to Coming to highlight the ones requiring action in priority
  2. We highlight the fast track actions with a little sticker – reflecting urgent & important actions
Fast track action - to be completed as a matter of priority
Fast track action – to be completed as a matter of priority


  1. We move them through In progress, stuck, ? and happy based on achievements

Also, for time-sensitive actions that need to be actioned at a certain point in time (eg check-in on a flight), we usually put them into our calendar until they need to be actioned, then we put it on our Kanban with a fast track sticker.

For time sensitive actions that can be performed at any time, we put them on our board and write the due date on the card.

Our Kanban itself is a couple’s project

Our Kanban and the system it supports are still very young (c. 2-month old), and there are another thousand ways we can improve it in the future. However, both my wife and I acknowledge that it does work, and that this is the right tool for us. Why?

Simple because it is a simple tool, with very few rules, and which is open to be improved and adjusted in many ways so that it can fit the personality and the needs of the people using it. My wife was new to Agile and Kanban until I brought them home a few months ago. And very quickly, she adopted it, and made a lot of suggestions in order to adapt it to make it friendlier for her and for us. For example, she had the idea of removing the business jargon and turn it into a more personal and positive one. She also had the idea of putting little stickers to highlight the fast track tasks etc. This is one of the most powerful strengths of Kanban: it includes everybody, give a place to everybody working with it.

Our Kanban is a bit of a project in itself for us, something that belongs to us, that we are proud of, and that we are determined to develop over time. It contains most of our aspirations together, and is the only place that does so, that’s why we are much dedicated to take care of it.

Get your household under control in 6 simple steps and less than 15 minutes

This article is a follow-up on a first article describing how I manage my home’s recurring tasks effectively and more importantly effortlessly.

Following on my previous post about how my wife and I managed to get our household under control, I wanted to share with you a little guide on how to get started to do the same in just a few steps. I also made sure that my methods were adaptable to the different types of home settings, such as homes where there is no white board, small flats etc.

1. If you don’t have a white board but have space in your flat/house

If you don’t have a white board, I recommend you buy one if you plan to be more ambitious in the way you manage not only your household’s tasks, but also the projects for you, your partner, and/or your family. But absolutely no worries, don’t forget that we are… AGILE! And with the Agile mindset, we don’t wait til later to get started.

Here, our assumption is that you don’t have a white board yet, however you have some space available in your home, like on a wall, or on the fridge.

All you need is:

  • Sticky notes – 2 different sizes


  • Markers


  • Nice to have : blu tack
I know it’s a bit ugly…

And that’s it!

Step 1: On the bigger post-it notes, write all the recurring tasks you need to do in your household – one post it for one task (5′)

Don’t step more than five minutes on it, you can add any other task at a later stage any time.

Write all your home's recurring tasks (here just a sample)
Write all your home’s recurring tasks (here just a sample)

Step 2: Order them roughly from the most frequent to the least frequent (3′)

Just to give you a sense of order: identify the most recurring tasks in an easier way

Order from the most to the least frequent
Order from the most to the least frequent

Step 3: Place them on the wall or on the fridge in the same order. Leave space next to each sticky note (3′)

I like the idea of the fridge, because it is a location that it fairly central, visible by all, and which grabs the attention when it comes to home management (many people put their shopping list on the fridge for instance). Also, you are not taking the risk of putting a stain on the wall if you work on your fridge.

Put the notes on your fridge (or wall)
Put the notes on your fridge (or wall)

You are now ready!

Step 4: Choose the tasks you want to perform the day after and place smaller sticky notes next to them (1′)

Imagine that doing those tasks altogether should take between 30′ and 1h MAX. These are the tasks you committed to do tomorrow. No more, no less. Therefore, when you come back from work tomorrow, look at your notes and just do the tasks in an automated way. It is important not to think but just act. The previous version of you was much more enlightened than the one you are when you are back from work.

Add small sticky notes next to the tasks you commit to deliver tomorrow. Don't be too ambitious! Better to ave a little done than a lot undone
Add small sticky notes next to the tasks you commit to deliver tomorrow. Don’t be too ambitious! Better to have a little done than a lot undone

Step 5: Every time a task is done, tick it on the smaller sticky note (1′)

Have another look at my first article about how I manage recurring tasks to understand the power of tickboxes and why the brain likes them. Be careful to remove the note from the wall before ticking it as it may stain the wall.

On D-Day, every time a task is done, tick the corresponding box
On D-Day, every time a task is done, tick the corresponding box

Step 6: Repeat step 4 for the day after, and again every day (1′)

Step four takes less than one minute to do

The next day, start again. No need to remove the boxes from the day before - it tells you what was done recently and what wasn't.
The next day, start again. No need to remove the boxes from the day before – it tells you what was done recently and what wasn’t.

2. If you have a white board

The steps are exactly the same as previously, except for steps 4 and 5: Instead of putting smaller sticky notes next to the bigger ones, you can just draw a tickbox next to the tasks you commit to perform. And you just have to tick that box once you are done with your activities. In summary, the process looks like this:

Step 1: On the bigger post-it notes, write all the recurring tasks you need to do in your household – one post it for one task (5′)

Step 2:
Order them roughly from the most frequent to the least frequent (3′)

Step 3: Place them on the board in the same order. Leave space next to each sticky note

Step 4: Choose the tasks you commit to do tomorrow and draw tickboxes next to them with the marker

On the board, just draw tickboxes for the next day with a marker
On the board, just draw tickboxes for the next day with a marker

Step 5: Every time a task is done, tick the box with the marker directly on the board

Tick the boxes when the tasks are done
Tick the boxes when the tasks are done

Step 6: Repeat step 4 for the day after, and again every day

Tip: You don’t need to erase the previous tickboxes from the week – leaving them on the wall or the board helps you visualise which ones have already been performed earlier in the week and the ones not done yet.

Repeat the same the day after
Repeat the same the day after
  1. If you have no white board and no space

No need to panic J For students and urban people in general, it is more challenging to find place in the flat or in the house in order to implement the little system I just describes. In this case, there are other solutions. Of course, feel free to be creative and find your own setting. Don’t forget that the most important thing is to find a system that suits you, your life, your personality, and you needs. Therefore, the solution below is just an example of what you could do if space (even on the fridge) was an issue. I am not using it, but I imagine it working just fine as it is in line with the same principles as described above.

Step 1 and 2 don’t change, you just need smaller versions of the sticky notes (feel free to split them into smaller pieces)

Step 3: Place them on the left side of a note book

Place the notes on the left side of a notepad or a note book
Place the notes on the left side of a notepad or a note book

Step 4: Choose the tasks you commit to do tomorrow and draw tickboxes next to them with the marker

Step 5: Every time a task is done, tick the box with the marker directly on the notebook

Draw and tick boxes every day
Draw and tick boxes every day

Step 6: Repeat step 4 for the day after, and again every day

The column the most on the right hand side is the one referring to the next day. The only drawback is that when you come to the end of the page, you need to move the notes to another page, which accounts for another 5′ every week or so. But, as mentioned above, feel free to adjust the system to find something that suits you better over time

  1. Continuous improvement

Don’t forget, this article is about getting STARTED. It doesn’t mean that the system will remain the same forever. On the contrary, it is likely to change, and it is a good thing. Just a few tips to manage the ongoing change on your system:

Tip 1: Apply the system as it is for one week abiding by the rules precisely (if you afford not to respect your own system from the beginning, it is unlikely to be effective. It is better to apply it strictly and identify the remaining areas of pain)

Tip 2: Process only one change at a time (your brain is unlikely to follow if you process too many changes at once and the risk is for you to “lose” your system as you just can’t follow. I know, this one is pretty simple, but it is still a good tip to remember as we are about to work with Kanbans)

Tip 3: Visualise the benefits once in a while (always important to remember that we do that for a reason)

Don’t forget that the ultimate purpose of getting your household under control is to free more time in order you to do things that are important for you.

How to manage your household’s boring tasks effectively and effortlessly with a simple system?

The first challenge for my wife and I was to take control of those endless and boring tasks that never stop : chores. We both quickly identified them as the first obstacle in our way to get more freedom in our lives, as they take a significant amount of time, particularly on week-end. When not being taken care of, they build-up, and more importantly they are in essence annoying : there is very little value and self-fulfilment in executing them. As a consequence, they often generate frustration.

The solution to the chores problem, everybody already knows it, including us : we need to do a little bit of them every day. But what little bit ? As I come back home, after a long day of work and a long commute, the last thing I want to do is to think about which boring stuff I should do first. I am likely to be overwhelmed by everything that has to be done, therefore the only thing I want to do is just to give up straight away and run to either my phone (procrastination !) or my X-box and forget about them. In both cases, we can’t expect a very productive output.

However, in not even a couple of weeks, my wife and I came-up with a very simple and effective system to manage chores, that works perfectly in our household. This system works because :

  • The tasks are getting done and dishes don’t pile-up on our sink
  • It literally takes less than ONE minute per day to « manage » this system
  • Doing those tasks is not even boring any more

How did we do that ?

  1. Commit on what you plan to do a day ahead

When it comes to do boring stuff, there is rarely action without commitment. With chores, action doesn’t have to be long, just long enough to get the most important stuff done (most important = Agile) every day.

The way we do it in our household is simple : every night, before going to bed, we gather for 1 minute in front of our white board and ask ourselves what are the most important tasks we need to do the day after. Tasks are ordered grossly on the lower section of the board from the most frequent – on the left, such as preparing the dinner, do the washing-up, empty and fill the dishwasher – to the least frequent – on the right, roughly once a week, such as buying the groceries online. And every night, in barely 30 seconds, we agree on the tasks for the next day by drawing a little square next to the ones we selected.

Each sticky note represents a recurring task
Each sticky note represents a recurring task

Both of us, in front of the board, agree on the actions that sound reasonable and realistic for ourselves to do the day after. If we plan to go home early, we naturally put a bit more. If we plan to go out and come back late, we barely put anything. The benchmark that we have in mind for a normal day is about 30’ to spend on the recurring stuff. Why 30’ ?

  • Because it equates to c. 1h per day together, which is a ‘round’ figure, suming to 5 hours for the work week. And 5 hours for the work week, that sounds way enough to do what needs to be done
  • 30’ sounds reasonable, like ‘not too much’, so that we can have the impression to actually do stuff without ruining our evening. 30’ is just… decent !
  1. Let the « thinking you » from the day before be the master of the game

Now, the day after, when you come from home after a long and tiring day, that’s the moment when the magic of the white board operates : it tells us what need to do.

No need to think, no need to process any information, we just have to trust the « thinking us » from the night before, who perfectly thought through what was the most important things to do, and follow their lead, thanks to the white board, which captured this thinking and is now giving it back to the « present us » in the most visual and simple way.

It takes only a few seconds to process the information from the white board, and our brains are completely relieved of any stressful considerations such as « what do I need to do now ».

One condition though is to make our white board visible, ie in a location where we can’t miss it. It is exposed, therefore it is much easier to rely on it as we don’t even have to make the effort to have a look at it.

Making the system pretty much effortless and natural is very important to make it work.

  1. Leverage the power of tickboxes

As mentioned above, every night we just draw a little square in front of each task that we identified as being the most important ones for the day after. This square is actually a tickbox, that just needs to be ticked once the task is performed.

Ticking boxes makes your brain happy and calm

I’m sure you’re tempted to laugh, but please do NOT underestimate the power of tickboxes. Tickboxes make your brain happy, because your brain loves acknowledging that something is complete and is not pending, because it relieves it from the pressure to have to keep thinking about this item. Unidentified and undone things generate stress and anxiety in mind and body. Ticking boxes removes this source of stress and completely relieves the ming.

Come on, don’t you enjoy ticking the boxes in your to-do list at work when you’re done with something ?

This simple system brings peace in the mind because it relies on two characteristics, that are proven to generate effectiveness in any environment :

  • Visualisation of the work to do
  • Acknowledgement of the completion of the tasks

This combination makes the different between peace and stress, effectiveness and procrastination, productivity and waste of time. And between you and me, ticking boxes to recognise that boring stuff is over does generate satisfaction.

  1. Spend time together to make it more enjoyable

My wife and I try to make the chores less of a pain for us by doing them together and taking advantage of this time together to talk about our respective days. You know, like just speak to each other, as couples do ! Is there any better moment to do so than when we are both lightly busy doing some almost automated activities? We decided to turn that « annoying » time into a quality moment for ourselves.

It is a mistake to think that quality time together is spent in a restaurant or any other fancy place. It is usually in the most obvious places that we spend the best moments with our relatives. For us, doing our minimal chores every day together is a bit like our depressurization chamber, where we make the move in our mind from work to home.

Again the magic operates : to us, this time is not so much about « doing chores », but more about « telling each other about our respective days ».

  1. Visualise the benefits

How could the following not sound appealing :

  • A home that is neat pretty much all the time, which is much more enjoyable on a daily basis
  • There is only very little to do when the week-end comes, which is the first sign of… freedom. Now we actually have more time to plan and do some proper activities we like
  • I have the comfort to know that every day I have dedicated quality time to spend with my wife to speak about anything and everything
  • It generates a virtuous cycle : As everything is properly maintained and taken care of, they are much less difficult to deal with on an ongoing basis :
    • Laundries are structurally smaller (= less time to spend on this sh***, and less time spent on ironing as well)
    • The flat is generally tidier and cleaner (= less long to clean this time)
  • It costs us only less than one minute of planning per day

But the biggest benefit from far is that taking our recurring tasks under control started to free more time to my wife and I. And we can allocate this new time available to things that really matter to us, the projects that we want to carry out together. And this is definitely the major takeway from this post : we have the feeling that we are taking our life under control because we are actually making time for ourselves, in order to work on our life projects. And this is priceless…

There is no such thing as a ‘small’ task

The other day I have been trapped in a very silly way. Let me tell you why and how it is relevant for the sake of this blog.

Currently, I am trying to change one of my bad habits: going to bed too late and be tired the day after. So, I took the resolution to go to bed at 11pm max every night before a working day for three weeks, hoping that the new habit will be embedded in me at the end of that period. Following the recommendations of Leo Babauta in The Power of Less, this the only bad habit that I am addressing at the moment in order to keep the focus. The others will come later.

Last Sunday, I was determined not to do an exception. At 10:45pm, I turned the TV off and made the last preparations in order to go to bed. 10:55pm, I was about to go to bed when suddenly… I saw that some laundry had to be hanged on the dryer. Nooooo…!

Dilemma: Ruin my efforts to endorse the new habit, or ruin the laundry by leaving it wet into the laundry bag until the day after?

I chose option 1, because I accepted the idea it was a minor break to my rule (11:15pm is kind of the same as 11pm, isn’t it?). But I learnt an important lesson: there is not such thing as a small task. And it is even truer when we work Agile. I already know this from the workplace, but it was not that obvious that it would also apply at home.

Very small tasks do exist: they take not more than 2-3 minutes. Those are the ones we have interest to do now because the logistics of dealing with them at a future time is more costly than actually executing them straight away – e.g. Reply thank you when somebody is sending you the file you need.

But 10-15’ tasks are very very sneaky. They don’t sound like much time, but actually they are. And when there are multiple ones awaiting in the to-do list, they can be a nightmare, worse, a day-killer. And if we consider and treat them in the same way as very small tasks, ie. execute them when they come without properly prioritising them with the rest of your workload, it is very likely they will negatively affect your productivity.

So, on Sunday, what happened? During the day, I considered that the laundry was a very small task. But laundry is deceitful as putting the clothes in the washing machine takes two minutes indeed, BUT the pain comes later when we have to hang them – this is an additional 15’. So even if I hadn’t planned to do one laundry during the day, I just did, because I had a couple of minutes available. However, I didn’t count for the hanging… Therefore, here I am, 11:15pm, putting underwear on a dryer, moaning that I screwed up my new resolution because of that stupid laundry.

But now it makes sense. And at work, I understand much better why all those small items in the backlog are sitting there, waiting to get done, even though they don’t take much time to do. Now I know why: they’re not the priority. And if they don’t take much time, they do take time. And at the end, even 15’ can make a difference… and not a small difference, but a big one!

How we manage our household’s business – Overview

This post is the first of the Lab category, and I am quite excited about it. Lab means that it is going to describe any type of tools, methods, app etc that I experienced myself, and about which I am keen to share practical conclusions. So you should hopefully find some stuff that would be directly applicable and useful.

I should have been written and shared a while ago, but I didn’t want to do so before giving some insights bout the Agile concepts. Here we are, I am going to describe now the system that my wife and I built together in order to manage our household’s life.

As it could be a bit long to describe it all now, I will start with an overview. I promise you it’s worth it. It’s incredible how this new way of doing things already started to transform our life in depth, whereas it has only been a month that this revolution was initiated. We’re already starting to wonder how it would be possible for us to manage our lives without it, despite the fact we’re still at the early stages and significant improvement is still possible.

What is our household’s life ?

My wife and I decided that we needed a tool to cover all the dimensions of our life together. But what is our life together ? And, more difficult to define, what is not part of it?

  • The recurring stuff: all the boring activities that have to be done in any home : chores, cleaning, preparing the dinner, shopping etc.
  • Our diary: all of the activities that are time-dependent and that are either not related to work, or taking place outside of our working hours
  • The non-recurring stuff: All the one-off not-so-glamourous activities, ie improvements we want to make in our home : maintaining and decorating the house, get a better way to manage the admin stuff, organise our holidays and weekends etc.
  • Our personal projects: Our short, medium and long term plans together, that we both agree we want to make progress on. Those are our dreams, an we want to fit them into our current life, at least the journey to make them a reality one day

As you can see, we included in our system both positive things (our personal projects) and boring activities, as well as all the grey area that is in the middle. The reason for that is that those topics are undeniably tied to each other :

  1. This is the same overall timebox that is used for all those activities, ie our free time together. As they all lead to some to-do’s, we need to be able to identify and prioritise the most important actions at a certain point in time, irrespective of their nature. Let’s not forget that a key assumption is that time is a scarce resource.
  2. The positive stuff is an incentive to do the boring stuff, a bit like a reward. Not as clear-cut as « when we are done with all the chores, we’ll work on our dream project », but more as « we can work on our dream project now as we know our life is in order and things under control ». The whole approach is about getting the relieving feeling of having control over our life…

What is not part of our household’s life ?

It may sound as a surprise, but purely personal stuff is excluded from our system. Here, I mean what is not « common » but purely individual. This blog for instance, is something that I manage on my own, separately from the household’s business. My wife manages her own hobbies on her side as well. Why ?

Because from a time perspective, the personal stuff have a completely different dynamic than the common stuff, at least at this point in our lives. We decided that those activities would be carried out in a different time, ie when we both agree that we can allocate some time to our individual stuff (eg in the 30’ before going to bed), when we’re not with each other (eg when I am in the train on my daily commute, or the nights I am home on my own etc). Even though we are dedicated to have a happy life together, it provides some comfort to know that we still have a little private garden, where we can do things we like on our own and manage them in our own way, without having to make compromises.

For the recurring tasks : Daily checkboxes

Checkboxes are a very powerful tool : they make the brain happy. The simple action of ticking a square just to acknowledge that something is done and dusted can make a big difference between an effective system and a rubbish one. There are some people, for whom ticking the boxes on their to-do lists at the end of the day is the best moment of their day.

We like closing things as it means that we don’t have to think about them any more. Therefore every time we are ticking a box… we’re happy, because we are relieved.

Therefore… why not to use this tickbox satisfaction as a way to offset the pain of the most annoying tasks you have to do in your household ?

That’s what my wife and I did (at the bottom) :


All the more or less boring and recurring tasks are written on sticky notes and aligned at the bottom of our white board, and every evening we just decide the tasks we’ll perform the day after by drawing little squares next to the relevant sticky note.20151211_184546296_iOS

And the day after, when the task is performed, we tick the box we the satisfactionf accomplishing the mission and delivering what we had committed. A nice pre-bed activity, and a very effective one as well.

For the non-recurring stuff and personal projects : Kanban’s

For those who don’t know what kanban’s are, here it is :

All of our life together is on there...
All of our life together is on there…


Kanban means « sign board » in Japanese, an this is exactly what it is : a board, in which columns represents the sequential steps of a process. And the task – fomulated
on a little card, usually in the format of a sticky note, progresses through the process jour
ney until completion. It’s visual, and allows the user to put the actions into the context of the whole project.

There are only two rules of working with kanban’s :

  1. Visualise all your work in scope
  2. Limit the amount of Work In Progress

All the rest is…20151211_190504041_iOS up-to-you. A kanban is a personal thing in the sense that it is suited to the user’s needs and the way his user works. Therefore it fit in our life model, and not the other way around. And that’s why there is absolutely no restrictions in applying it in our personal lives.
I’ll expand more on all the benefits of kanban’s in due course, but you have to know that its killer quality is its simplicity : A white board, a couple of pens, and some sticky notes. When you get the board, you just have to draw a few columns on it and you’re good to go. That’s it !! Some big firms manage their work in progress through kanban’s (for example that’s how the Microsoft x-box has been developed). Powerful isnt’it ?

Kanban and checklist on the same white board
Kanban and checklist on the same white board


For time-dependent activities : a bespoke and home-made calendar

Any tool to manage the work to be done and in progress such as a kanban really helps on managing priorities and  workload. However, it does not record when such or such meeting or appointment is going to take place. Therefore, it needs to be supplemented with some sort of calendar, in order to track the events in our life.

In our household, we made the choice to adopt a bespoke form of calendar, that we did ourselves :


This calendar is weekly and is structured in such a way so that we can track :

  • Any individual or common events
  • If any of us is working from home at any time during the week
  • Menus for all the week
  • If we got any plans for the week-end or not

20151211_190749376_iOSVery simple and easy. And every time we prioritise the activities on our kanban, the first action is to have a look at the calendar to see if there are any obvious tasks that should be prioritised this week.

Actions that need to take at a specific point in time can also be added on a sticky note, and then on the calendar instead of the kanban. This only happens if the task needs to take place on a precise day, not before or not after.

Once we’re done with a week, we just remove the from the pile and go to the next one.

As silly as it may sound, I think our calendar is one of our best wins, because we created it following a bottom-up approach : we felt the need for it and we built it in a way that would suit or need. We had a sort of calendar beforehand, but we were never using it : a common calendar on our iphone. Rubbish. So following an idea from my wife, we just build our own tool. And believe me, you’re more likely to use a tool that you designed !

The incremental effort required to manage the system

My wife adding new items to the backlog
My wife adding new items to the backlog

Here is the additional effort that properly managing system requires :

  • 2 minutes (max) per day to decide which chores need to be done the day after and which tasks from the kanban need to be prioritised
  • 30 min to 1 hour per week to turn your the actions on your kanban into ready (more on that later). And it’s a very fun exercise to do with your other half.

No more ! I promise you, it’s painless and removes you a lot of pain !



Conclusion : finding our own way is a household project itself

As you already know, the perfect system does not exist. But a system that suits you certainly exists, and the search for it is already a personal project in itself, which is quite exciting because it is a very rewarding quest, with potentially a lot of value for you at the end.

I am so enthusiastc when I speak about my household’s system, because my wife and I built it from scratch. We haven’t even digitalise dit. It’s all physical, all bespoke, therefore there is no denying that the whole thing reflects us and who we are to some extent. And making it always better and better somehow means that we are still discovering ourselves and each other at the same time.

This is our project, our first project as a married couple.

How simple things make a greater impact

I am currently working on my next articles, which will be a bit more practical than the ones posted until now. However, as we are going to deal with self-organisation and household management, I wanted to go back quickly on an idea that I believe is absolutely necessary for any of those systems to work: SIMPLICITY.

Simplicity has multiple dimensions:

  • Simple to understand
  • Simple to use
  • Simple to adjust

If the system fails in any of those dimensions, this is chaos for sure, which is likely to lead to a failure to achieve the expected results.

The video below is a presentation by one of Microsoft X-box’s project management gurus about the effective use of Kanbans for software development. Pay attention to the simplicity of the tool, and how the power of the tool is driven from that simplicity. I am amazed by the idea that used such a simple system to develop an incredible product like the X-box.

Somehow, simplicity is the best way to deal with complexity.


Why your home is meant to be Agile (2/2: pieces of evidence)

The Agile principles (mentioned in the first part of the article here) are absolutely relevant in a household, from multiple perspectives:

  • to manage all the recurring things to do
  • to move forward the household’s projects
  • to keep everybody happy

Let me tell you how the Agile principles fit into your home

Action is superior to non-action : stop delaying your projects

The Agile approach encourages us to get started even when not all the information is available. That’s because it is usually impossible or too costly to obtain all the information without actually having started the actual work, as a lot of new information pops-up along the journey. At work, sooner or later, you usually end-up getting started, because waiting has a cost for the business, which is not sustainable.

At home, though, the cost of not doing something is different, as you are the only one to bear this cost : if you don’t start, you don’t get the benefits related to the goal that you would like to achieve. It’s an opportunity cost more than a tangible cost. And this opportunity does not pressurises us enough to convince us to get started.

For example, a few months ago, I wanted to re-build our household’s filing system. A massive task, as it contains all the paperwork for my wife and I (and our cat) for all areas: housing, car, banks, insurances, utilities, education, purchases and subscriptions receipts and invoices, warranties, various guides and manuals, employment information, but also letters and cards we receive, memories etc. well to sum-up: a lot of stuff. I knew, before even starting, that it would be a long task, maybe 10 hours in total. In my mind I had a high level idea on how I wanted the new system to be, but every time I was about to start, I was pulling back in front of the size of the task – What am I going to do with this specific item? With that one? Well… I certainly need to think about it a bit more. Maybe if I do a spreadsheet?

That’s how it all got delayed for another few weeks (all the more that I didn’t do the spreadsheet)

I had not understood the fact that all my ideas would come into place if I was just starting! They would become clearer, stronger, and richer, even though they’d certainly be a bit different from what they were in the first place.

Getting on helps clarify and substantiate ideas, no matter good or bad ones. And as you get on, you get new ideas, even better than the first ones. And no matter how long you spend on thinking about your approach in the first place, it’s often after starting that you get the best ideas. And that’s why action is superior to inaction. And in a household, it’s an absolute truth, because you are the only one accountable to yourself on what you do.

Real progress is made step-by-step, not in one shot.

As we saw on the article about time management, we only got a couple of hours per day to spend on our personal stuff (taking my life as a benchmark). With only a couple of hours per day, you’re never going to make a revolution in your personal life on one day: you just don’t have enough time!

And to be honest, when it comes to your dreams and passions, that may be a good thing: spending 10 hours a day on something you love is the best way to be disgusted from it within a few weeks or months.

What you want is working your way towards that objective in a sustainable way, without losing your sanity and your motivation. And that can be achieved only through the step by step approach: what is the natural next step in your journey to reach your dream, and what can you do today to reach that step?

Whatever is your personal project you want to work on in your free time, if you try to reach the end goal only every day, or even a few steps ahead, you’re gonna lose faith in yourself and in something that is important to you. Whereas identifying and working on the next step will provide satisfying result and keep up your motivation to go on. And your end goal will become more and more achievable every day, without you even realising.

You can do anything but not everything

Clean the house, Get a new filing system, tidy-up the admin stuff, go to the hairdresser, call your relatives, book your next holidays, practice the violin, go for a beer with a friend, send greeting cards for the new year, write a post for your blog, finish yout book, decorate the Christmas tree, iron your shirts, prepare the dinner, play some football etc

And… only a few hours every day to do all of that.

Option1: You can rush and and do everything fast and badly: The likely result is that you won’t even do everything, and you will be frustrated with the poor quality of the stuff and with the fact you still have things on your plate. Rushing will also have made you stressed. In terms of output, most things will have to be re-worked soon anyway as it was badly executed. It’s a clear lose-lose situation.

Option2: You prioritise:

  1. Call your family
  2. Prepare Christmas tree
  3. Writing on blog
  4. Send greeting cards

How much you do in one day doesn’t matter, because you will have done the most important stuff first. And what is not done tonight will be done the day after, if nothing more important came at the top of the list in the meantime. That’s a win-win: you get the important stuff done and you take satisfaction out of the benefits of what you achieved. Also, you are not stressed because you spent the exact effort and focused required on each time and you didn’t try to fit more in your schedule than the time you actually had. It’s a clear winner.

In your household, this exercise is all the more important that priorities are always conflicting: what you have to do (chores etc), what is important for your couple (spending time together, plan common projects), and what is important for yourself (personal projects). And a balance is found between those three components only by constantly working on defining the priorities.

The most important item comes first: don’t leave what matters for the next week-end

When it comes to personal life, importance matters more than urgency. Why? Because missing something important may cost you, even if it’s not so urgent. However, missing something urgent that is not important doesn’t really matter. Very often, important things are not that urgent, because they are important to you, not intrinsically. Therefore, it is critical to make time for them.

At work, I put the most important stuff first in order to give the most value to my client as soon as possible. At home, I try to put the most important stuff first in order to give myself and my household the most value: writing on my blog, spending quality time with my wife. This is more important than ironing my shirts, right?

Ok, we all have a lot of have to’s in our lives, and this is absolutely normal. But too often we turn into have to’s things are rather could do’s, but we just don’t have the courage to question them and just remove them from our schedule. Especially our jobs contain a lot of could do that we consider as have to’s, and it ultimately takes a lot out of our personal time.

Putting what is important to you at the centre of your have to’s and subsequently putting them at the top of your to-do list is a critical step towards achieve more in your personal lives.

Short cycles of work allow continuous improvement

This is something that many people do at work but don’t at home, whereas it is usually recognised as one of the best moments of a work week (for a working team): the weekly team meeting. You congratulate each other on the job done, you agree on the next steps, and you discuss what we could do differently from now on. Simple, logical, and easy.

At home, couple and then married life introduce a dynamic of team in your household – sort of. And working together on a same goal because you love each other doesn’t mean that you are gonna work easily with each other or in the most productive way. That’s why introducing the idea of having regular sessions to discuss, catch-up, share feelings, concerns and ideas about your life together may not be a bad thing at all.

When you love each other, it seems so obvious that you know each other that sometimes you actually forget to talk to each other. I mean talk properly, and open-up a bit to the other. As a consequence, it is a good thing to have as a last resort some pre-planned time in order to discuss how life projects are getting on and if there is anything you could or should change.

In the household, improving is not so important from the perspective of achieving more, but it is critical in order to feel happy at home with each other.

Priorities can change, it’s no big deal

Imagine that you had planned to clean the house before dealing with your invoices, but actually you realised that you absolutely have to pay your bills by midnight, otherwise you’ll have to pay an extra fee… But it bothers you to change your plan because… that’s what you planned…!

Honestly, who cares?

Your job = their priorities (your manager, your client, your shareholders etc)

Your life = your priorities, full stop.

Priorities change because life moves on. The approach is called Agile, therefore if we are stubborn without any rational reason, we’re not gonna make it through.There is no big deal to change a plan, if the revised one is in your best interest. Don’t forget that in your personal life, only your and your household’s interests only matter.

Pull, don’t push: the secret to avoid stress at home

Limiting your Work in progress is a critical success factor in any industry, but it is also highly relevant at home. As all of your tasks are prioritised based on the degree of importance, you just move on to the next one once you are done with the one currently in your plate.

What is time-dependent is in your calendar, and you don’t have to worry about it. The rest (=time neutral tasks) is just prioritised, the only thing you have to commit on is not to move to the next one until you’re done with what you’re doing. And at home, it is important because as I mentioned earlier, priorities conflict: personal projects, house projects, stuff to do, and I can’t imagine with kids on top of that.

It is very tempting to take on everything at the same time in order to keep everyone happy and have the feeling that all the areas of your life make progress. But that is an illusion, because the best way to keep everyone happy, included ourselves, is to spend the effort, attention and focus that a task requires in order to make it valuable. No more, no less.

Avoiding multi-tasking avoids stress and increase the quality of the output, and it increases the degree of enjoyment of doing that single task. No doubt it will benefit to yourselves and to the people around you.


For all the reasons stated above, and also because my wife and I have many projects in life we are trying to move forward despite both working full time, we decided to build, step by step (we haven’t forgotten the lesson…), an Agile household.

And you, are you ready?

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