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Ric Raftis Consulting

Mastering Task Management with Obsidian’s Kanban Plugin

Ric Raftis consulting logo

Introduction to the Kanban Plugin for Obsidian

When it comes to task management, the Obsidian Kanban plugin by Matthew Myers emerges as an excellent example of simplicity and customisation. While numerous plugins have been created to enhance Obsidian’s functionality, the Kanban plugin stands out for its intuitive visual interface and adaptability to the user’s unique workflow requirements. This article will guide you through the installation and operation of the Kanban plugin, designed to streamline your task management within Obsidian.

Obsidian Kanban in Community Plugins

Obsidian Kanban Community Plugin

The Concept: The Legacy of Kanban Boards


Taiichi Ohno _ the father of Kanban Boards
Source: Wikipedia

Originating in the 1940s, the first Kanban system was devised by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota Motor Corporation. The Kanban board was initially implemented to monitor the production process within Toyota but has since been widely adopted across numerous organisations to track various workflows.

The adoption of the Kanban board within Obsidian facilitates an useful and quite visual personal task management system, one that aligns with the historical efficiency of this time-tested methodology.

Installing the Kanban Plugin

Installation begins by navigating to the settings at the bottom left corner of your Obsidian vault. Proceed to the “Community Plugins” section and turn them on if you haven’t done so before. From Browse, search for “Kanban” in the community plugins and proceed with the installation. Once installed, you will need to enable the plugin. After activation, it is wise to review the accompanying documentation to fully harness the plugin’s capabilities.

Kanban Plugin installed.
Kanban Plugin installed.

Setting Up Your First Kanban Board

Creating your first Kanban board is straightforward. Invoke the command palette with Ctrl/Cmd + P, type “Kanban” and select “create a new board”. Name your board and begin populating it with lists such as ‘To Do,’ ‘In Progress,’ and ‘Done,’ to reflect the stages of your workflow. The accompanying video demonstrates how this is completed.

Empty Kanban Board ready for populating with tasks.
Empty Kanban Board ready for populating with tasks.

Adding and Managing Cards

Cards represent individual tasks and are added to the respective lists. Simply click on “+Add a card” underneath the selected list. By default, new cards are appended to the end of the list, a preference adjustable in the settings. For card management, remember that Shift + Enter allows text input across multiple lines, streamlining the process of card creation. This can be amended to Enter in the Settings, but is probably best left as Shift + Enter.

Utilising a Prepared Kanban Board

A prepared Kanban board might include additional lists like “Pending Response” or “Brick Wall”, each serving specific tracking purposes within your workflow. Cards can be edited directly or transformed into separate notes, depending on your requirement. This flexibility is a testament to the plugin’s adaptability.

Populated Kanban Board
Populated Kanban Board with Useful Lists.

Working with Individual Cards

There are two very useful options when working with cards. Right clicking on the card or on the three dots to the right of the heading provides access to the menu.

The first is to “Create a new note from card”. Clicking on this option opens a new note to the right of the Kanban Board. It will be named the same as the first line of your card. You can complete the note and return to the Kanban Board. You should be aware that there is not a link from the new note back to the card. 

Creating Cards and Links in Kanban
Creating Cards and Links in Kanban

The second feature with Cards is to “Copy link to card”. Clicking on this option will create a link back to the card. You can then go to any note in your vault and paste the link in to the note. The “Parent” property may be useful if you use that. You can also use this method to return to the note you have just created with “Create note from card” and insert the link back to the card.

It’s important to note that cards must be in view mode, not edit mode, to utilise these features.

Link Back to Kanban Card
Link Back to Kanban Card

Moving Cards Between Lists

Moving tasks between lists is as simple as dragging and dropping cards. This visual relocation aids in tracking the progress of tasks through different stages, from inception to completion, providing a quick visual record of your current task status.

The accompanying video provides a demonstration of moving cards from one list to another.

Archiving Cards and Lists

Archiving tasks and lists is a mechanism to clear completed items while retaining a record. Archived items are only accessible within the Markdown view, which can be toggled using a hotkey (e.g. Ctrl + Shift + K). The archive stores items with a timestamp, allowing for historical reference.

Conclusion and Advanced Methods

The Obsidian Kanban plugin is an invaluable asset for managing tasks, offering a visual and interactive experience reminiscent of traditional Kanban boards. While this article covers the essentials, advanced techniques, such as linking multiple Kanban boards for individual projects, can further enhance its utility. Such methods provide an integrated overview of all projects from a centralised Kanban board on your home note.

The Obsidian Kanban plugin is more than a tool—it is a productivity partner that adapts to your needs, enabling a more structured and efficient workflow. Embrace this plugin to transform the way you manage tasks and projects within the versatile environment of Obsidian. It is also another tool where links between tasks and notes can round out your workflows.

Although Kanban Boards may not suit every project, they are extremely flexible within Obsidian. With a little practice you will be well on your way to mastering task management with Obsidian’s Kanban Plugin


2 thoughts on “Mastering Task Management with Obsidian’s Kanban Plugin”

  1. Great article, Ric!

    I use a similar system to manage my work.

    Because Kanban cards exist as tasks, other Obsidian plugins, such as the Tasks plugin, can be integrated fairly well (Kanban cards can be given due dates and can appear on task queries/Todo lists.)

    Also, the MetaEdit plugin has a ‘Kanban Board Helper’ feature that can be enabled to change a corresponding note’s properties when a card is moved to a new Kanban lane.

    You have done a great job writing this up!

    1. Thanks Scott. Good to hear of the integrations with other plugins like the Tasks. I didn’t want to complicate things too much. I felt the Kanban board often gets overlooked as a simple task management system in favour of more complex systems when they aren’t needed. Mind you, there is plenty of room for them to co-exist in a vault. Cheers.

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