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KANBAN, GTD, and more productivity frameworks for getting work done fast

Mar 13, 2018

brokers-table-project-management 320x213.jpgAs an individual, you probably have your little tricks and shortcuts that help you manage tasks and stay organized day to day. But there’s probably more you can do to be productive, and if you’re working on a team, then you need to be even more intentional in working toward your goals.

Team projects require way more communication and organization to stay on track and achieve the desired result. We’ve all witnessed a project go awry because of workstyle clashes.

The solve for this challenge can often be found in project management frameworks like KANBAN, Getting Things Done (GTD), and Scrum. Project management frameworks are any combination of tools, methodologies, and steps that move a given project from start to finish. Ideally, they help keep individuals accountable to a common goal through transparency.

Technology teams often employ KANBAN or Scrum systems (often referred to as Agile) to move complicated development projects along. These frameworks work surprisingly well for non-technical teams as well, though. In recent years, Agile Marketing has become a popular way of managing marketing projects, for example.

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Here, we’ll look at the in’s and out’s of each of these three frameworks to help you determine if one—or possibly a combination of 2 or 3—of these methodologies will benefit your team.

1. KANBAN

What it is: KANBAN is a process framework that involves breaking projects up into manageable tasks. It relies on visuals to ensure transparency—you create a board and move tasks through different states (which appear as columns) from the left side of the board to the right, which represents completion. Your different column labels, or “states,” might be (from left to right) “To Do, In Progress, Waiting for Approval, Complete.”

The key to KANBAN’s effectiveness is something called WIP limits. WIP stands for Work In Progress. When using KANBAN, you should set WIP Limits for each column—for example, no more than 3 cards in “In Progress” at once. When you hit your limit, in “In Progress”, you would not move any more cards from “To Do” over until you are under your limit again. This prevents bottlenecks and keeps things moving along.

Who it works well for: KANBAN works well for teams that struggle with bottlenecks and prioritization. If your team tends to bite off more than they can chew, taking on too many projects at once, then KANBAN could help. If you do decide to test out this framework, experiment with timing different projects. Does slowing down and doing what might feel like less at once speed things up?


KANBAN also lends itself well to deal stages, so you can work through each deal systematically and thoroughly.

2. SCRUM

What it is: Scrum is an Agile framework which is similar to KANBAN, but much more reliant on rules and regulations. To set up a Scrum system, you will need to appoint a Scrum master. This person is responsible for monitoring progress and keeping tasks and projects moving. They will also run daily stand-up meetings, in which each team member states their progress on their given tasks. Scrum runs in sprints, which are typically two weeks long. Before a sprint, projects are broken up into tasks and assigned to team members. Team members are responsible for completing all of their tasks by the end of the sprint.

For a more detailed explanation of Scrum, check out this article.

Who it works well for: Scrum works well for teams that are lacking accountability. With frequent status updates, team members feel the pressure to accomplish all of their assignments and are incentivized to work quickly. If your team is fairly autonomous and capable of working well on their own, then Scrum might be overkill. However, many teams find success by blending principles of both Scrum and KANBAN to manage projects.

3. Getting Things Done

What it is: Getting Things Done or GTD is a productivity philosophy popularized by David Allen, a productivity expert who wrote a book by the same name. The philosophy centers around the idea that incoming tasks and projects or “incompletes,” cause stress. Allen created a set system for managing tasks that takes the to-do’s out of your mind and puts them into a framework. He argues that with a system in place, you can focus on the task at hand, rather than being overwhelmed at how much needs to be done.

The five “pillars” of GTD are:

  • Capture
  • Clarify
  • Organize
  • Reflect
  • Engage

The methodology doesn’t so much prescribe how you get things done, but how you prioritize and manage the things you need to get done. By putting tasks into a workflow, rather than trying to hold everything in your head, the goal is to have more time to focus and be productive.

Who it works well for: GTD is great for teams or individuals that struggle with stress and burnout. Often, the sheer idea of the amount of work that needs to get done can paralyze us and destroy our productivity. In reality, if you broke all these tasks down, it wouldn’t be so bad. If this sounds like something you or your team struggles with, consider purchasing Allen’s book or reading this primer on GTD for more information on how to implement the approach.

Project Management Tools

If you’re more of a pen and paper person, you can easily set up a KANBAN or Scrum board, or manage your GTD framework using a whiteboard or blank wall and some post-it notes.


However, technology tools can make project management much easier to share amongst team members, especially if the team is dispersed and not able to be in the office all the time.

The project management tool Trello is the most user-friendly tool on the market for team project management. It is modeled on the KANBAN method and easily customizable to pretty much any productivity framework you adopt. You can easily label your columns, drag cards from one end to the other, and make notes and attachments on each card. There is a free version and various paid plans for teams.

And of course, Apto can help you get more done
Nell Gable

Written by Nell Gable

Nell Gable is a freelance writer who specializes in creating compelling content for CRE companies and startups.

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