Kanban is a methodology that focuses on process efficiencies in manufacturing. Some know it better as the “Toyota Production System” made famous by Taiichi Ohno. The basic idea is that you can gain efficiencies through a pull system that is organized by cards or other visual markers to control the flow of work in a system. While having its roots in manufacturing, the system has seen wide adoption in software engineering and is considered by many to be a very good system to aid in getting projects completed efficiently with the least amount of stress on workers.

Well, that’s great but what does that have to do with sex? In our humble opinion, a lot! Americans are not having as much sex as they used to despite the significant positive physical and emotional benefits it offers. Take a gander at the subreddit /r/deadbedrooms which has over 203k subscribers, to get an idea of bad the situation is. We know anecdotally that sex generally dies down the longer the relationship lasts. The limerence just dies away for most people and that, as far as the researchers tell us, is quite normal. But to the sexually minded, there seems to more to the problem:

According the General Social Survey, a profile of American behavior that has been gathered by the National Opinion Research Council at the University of Chicago since 1972, the fraction of people getting it on at least once a week fell from 45% in 2000 to 36% in 2016. One study of the GSS data showed that more than twice as many millennials were sexually inactive in their early 20s than the prior generation was. And the sharpest drop was the most recent, in the years 2014 to 2016.

The indicators of a falling bonk rate are everywhere. In 2016, 4% fewer condoms were sold than the year before, and they fell a further 3% in 2017. Teen sex, which is monitored by the Centers for Disease Control, is flat and has been on a downward trend since 1985. And the fertility rate—the frequency at which babies are added to the population—is at a level not seen since the Great Depression.


But Why?

Well, there are a lot of reasons that we know of, and a lot that we can only guess. Some have suggested that it’s a logistics problem while others suggest it’s just a result of the pressures of modern life including parenting and social media. For us, and for a lot of the couples we talk to, it definitely comes down to the modern life argument.

Work is pervasive these days, especially if you work in a field like technology as we both do. We’re always available and have been conditioned to always check Slack or email in the evenings and on weekends (and worse, vacations). That’s not to say that we always drop everything to engage but the just act of checking can be distracting and exhausting; reminding us of the frustrations or troubles that we are supposed to have left at the office.

As parents, it’s obvious what causes distractions there. Some days it’s just the hustle and bustle of getting the kids to their activities. Other days it’s dealing with cleaning up messes/accidents or homework projects or playdates. By the time we finally get the kids in bed, we have precious little time to ourselves before we have to go to bed so that we can wake up early and do it all over again.

Enter Kanban

Our Kanban board gives us an easy and straightforward way of communicating what we want when we want it and lets us see each other’s progress towards delivering that to us. As we mentioned, Kanban is a pull system and thus the impetus is on the partner to “pull” in the “work” for the other that needs to be addressed. Cognitively, this alleviates some of the pressure that many people feel when they try to “push” their needs onto their partners.

If you have never used a Kanban board before, here is the basic idea:

  • Work is represented by cards on the board. In our case, these are needs and/or desires that we want the other person to do for-or-with us. It could be sexual (a blowjob) or practical (neck rub).
  • The cards are ordered from top to bottom in terms of priority/importance with cards at the top being more important than the cards below them.
  • As cards are completed, they are moved to the right into the appropriate column. Typically, cards move one column at a time and they can move backward (though this is not ideal and usually signals a problem).
  • Some columns have a “work in progress” (WIP) limit. This is the control part of kanban and it lets us focus on the limited tasks at hand without getting overwhelmed. For these columns, only a certain number of cards may be in there at any given time.
  • Within each column can be one or more “swimlanes” or statuses. These allow a sort of subcategorization and are typically seen as horizontal lines or lanes on the board.
An example of moving Kanban cards.

There are countless digital Kanban systems like Trello, Jira, and GloBoards but we talked about it and decided that the visual and physical aspects of a board placed near the door to our bedroom would be the best option so that we can’t forget (regardless of aesthetics)! We see it whenever we leave the room. Also, the physical act of moving the cards serves to reinforce the cognitive and emotional connection to the “work” that was done.

How We Do Bedroom Kanban

Our bedroom kanban board. Excuse the glare.

Our Kanban whiteboard consists of four columns:

  • Awaiting – Needs and desires that we want our partner to do to-or-with us. There is a four-card limit here for each of us (eight total).
  • Happening – This signifies that the card/s in that column is going to be done within the next two days. We have an individual WIP limit of two cards here (four total cards in the column).
  • Reflection – After one of us meets the needs of a card, we move it into Reflection and it means that the next time we talk, we have to reflect on the experience and communicate what went right or what could have gone better. This way, we always learn from each other, especially with new/adventurous cards.
  • Done – Cards can stay here for a minimum of two days. This column gives us a cooldown period for a particular activity.

We purchased colored magnetic whiteboard cards so that moving cards along was easy. Jonathan has green cards while Mina has yellow cards. You will also notice small magnetic thumbtacks on the board. When placed on a card, as it is on “Toys & Video”, it means that the card has been there for at least a day (one pin = 1 day). This gives us a measure of age so we can avoid stale needs and quickly identify what needs attention!

Board Layout

You will notice that there is a horizontal line across the board. Above the line represents Jonathan’s cards (green) and below the line represents Mina’s cards (yellow). We keep the very bottom for extra blank cards and thumbtacks. Jonathan and Mina write their own cards but only the other person is allowed to move that card along to the next column.

The large white space to the right is used for general notes to each of us. Mina leaves the house for work at about 5 am so she goes to bed early while Jonathan works from home so he stays up later but subsequently sleeps in later too. This makes transient communication hard but now we have a central place to put things bedroom (or otherwise) related.

Finally, you will notice the small red boxes in the top right corner of our respective rows. The magnetic thumbtacks that we bought came in multiple colors and we use this field to signify how each of us is feeling from a sexual perspective. Think of it as a temperature marker for how sexually satisfied we are. Green is good, yellow means some attention is needed soon, and red means that something really needs to be addressed ASAP. Jonathan, being a guy, typically flags yellow or red when they haven’t been able to have meaningful sex for more than a few days. Mina typically flags yellow or red if there are more emotional or connectedness needs that are not being met.

Example & Conclusion

As an example, let’s say that Jonathan has two cards in the Awaiting column: “Let’s 69” and “I use toys on you” in that order (top to bottom). Mina looks at the board and since the “Let’s 69” card was at the top, she immediately knows that one means more to Jonathan than the toy card. She loves to 69 so this will be easy. She takes the card and moves it into the Happening column with every intention of doing it that night. Unfortunately, later that night, Mina gets bogged down with some after-hours work and is so tired she ends up falling asleep! Seeing that she moved the card but that it’s not getting done today, Jonathan places a blue thumbtack on the card signifying that it will have been there for at least a day. The next day, however, Mina and Jonathan are finally able to connect and the card is fulfilled. She moves it into the Reflection column and the next evening, during their nightly chats, they discuss the card. Jonathan really enjoyed it but said that next time he’d love for it to last a little longer. Mina takes note of this and agrees…she was just so turned on and wanted to be penetrated that she changed positions quickly. She then moves the card into the Done column where it will remain for at least two days before it is either erased for something else or moved back to the Awaiting column to be repeated. Obviously, this is a trifle of an example as 69’ing is pretty easy to accomplish most nights but you get the idea.

In sum, Kanban and bedroom organization has helped us a lot with making sure we know what each other’s needs are and how we are feeling from a sexual and connectedness perspective. It’s visual, physical, and informative in a clean and understandable way. Give it a shot and let us know if it worked for you!

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