Productivity Tips: How to Make a Progress Board

A progress board is a personal productivity tool that draws inspiration from several productivity frameworks like kanban and the Action Method.

First -- what is a "progress board" and why do you need one?

Dogs are not impressed by productivity. Amanda McCormick

A traditional kanban board usually consists of cards or notes that represent stages of work items. You can move these items across a bored into different sections that denote "awaiting production," "work in progress" and "completed work."  

I created the "progress board" because a kanban board can sometimes be a little too complex and fine-grained for my personal needs. At the same time, I have a lot of personal and professional goals I want to keep track of, as well as a number of clients I want to keep happy.

My solution is a "progress board," a tool scaled down for the needs of a small business or individual entrepreneur, with room for holding projects, goals and priorities.

In this tutorial, I'll give you some tips on making your own. 

Step One: Outline Your Progress Board


The original name of the progress board was the "anti-procrastination board" but I felt I needed something more catchy. I also wanted a name that was an accurate descriptor of what this board should help you do -- which is to make progress on your dreams! 

For me, a productivity system must help you see and remember the "big picture" -- goals, hopes and dreams and why you get up every morning, as well as the details you need to track to get things done. 

I also feel strongly that entrepreneurs must strive to maintain a healthy work-life balance, so I wanted those items to be on there as well. 

My progress board is divided it into three columns that work like this: 

Column 1: Projects and status -- here's where you put your day-to-day projects and where you are at with them. Each of my projects will be represented by a colored index card. 

Column 2: Priorities and goals -- in the top middle section, there are three slots to contain daily priorities, a closer look at the steps involved in projects that are "active." Goals is a changing list that keeps me reminded of what I'm working toward.  

Column 3: Important large projects and personal project details -- I wanted a little more room to keep focus on important creative projects and personal goals. For example, I exercise avidly and want a place to put a half-marathon training plan or weightlifting program. If you want to take up sailing or quilt-making, put your tasks and plans here.  

Sketch your board out on a piece of paper. You know what kinds of tasks and projects you need to keep in front of you. 

BONUS: Check out this electronic progress board. You can make your own copy to help you plan, or simply keep your progress board "in the cloud" where you can reach it anywhere. 

Progress Board -- Gather Your Supplies

Progress Board -- Gather your Supplies. Amanda McCormick

What you need: 

  • A dry erase board
  • Tape 
  • Index cards 
  • Sticky letters

I went all out on my progress board, but the truth is, all you really need is a piece of poster board (though I think a large dry erase board would be better). 

If you'd like to add flare, use clothespins to keep your index cards on. 

Progress board -- Create your sections

Progress board: Create Your Sections. Amanda McCormick

I thought a lot about layout here during this phase of the plan.

Research tells us that we scan in an "F-pattern" so we pay most attention to items in the upper left hand corner. That's where I placed my "active" projects.

I wanted day-to-day priorities to remain central, so I placed them right in the middle, along with goals.

Finally, I mapped out a full third of my board to give full due to important personal and creative projects. Your quadrants might look a little different, and that's why I urge you to spend a little time sketching your board. 

Progress board -- Put it into action

Progress Board
A Finished Progress Board. Amanda McCormick

How will you use your progress board? Hang it on the wall, and your goals are always right in front of you. Review it a couple times of day to stay on track. 

I'm a big believer in creating your own productivity system, and I think a progress board can be a great tool in achieving that. 

Find out what works -- and what doesn't. It's all up to you.