I will talk about three time management tips that will help you get more things done as a Product Manager Time management is important now more than ever, given that we are surrounded by an endless number of notifications and distractions. Context-switching has become the norm in fast-paced work environments, leading to burnout and a decrease in efficiency across teams. On a personal level, doing too many things at once disrupts your focus, hurts your productivity and will make you overall less happy. By learning how to effectively manage your time it will be easier for you to focus and get your daily work done, it will increase your productivity and it will help you advance in your career. The next 3 tips that I’m going to share with you are also applicable to roles outside of Product Management.
Tip #1: Block out 1-2 hour chunks of uninterrupted “focus time” in your calendar every week
Tip #2: Use your calendar as your to-do list
Tip #3: Complete small requests as soon as they come up
Now let’s dive deeper into each of these tips and cover some examples. The first tip is to create blocks of uninterrupted “focus” time. These are 1-2 hour blocks of time that you set intentionally in your calendar to make progress on the individual items in your to-do list And make sure to NOT let other people schedule over your focus time. Some examples of the items that I work on during my focus time as a Product Manager are: writing requirements, putting together presentations, finalizing the roadmap, conducting research like reading about recent trends and the competitive landscape also thinking about the strategy of the products we are developing, and responding to a string of emails. As a PM a lot of our time is spent in meetings talking with multiple teams to figure out what is the best technical solution to build that will solve the problems of our users, and coordinating the development and the launch of that solution. Because of the cross-functional nature of our role, some days will be completely booked with back to back meetings leaving PMs with little to no time during the day to complete our individual work As a PM you will get pulled into lots of meetings, some of which your input is not required so a big portion of your week may be spent preparing and attending meetings and this is one of the reasons why having uninterrupted focus time is crucial to getting work done.
The second time management tip is to use your calendar as your to-do list. Throughout the years that I’ve been in the work force, I’ve met people across different industries and teams that overestimate the work that they can get done but due to competing priorities, they don’t follow through. It seems like there is always more work than what we can get done but I’ve seen that people who do what they say they are going to do and get it done on time are more successful in their careers than those who don’t. This relates to a piece of advice that I’ve heard many times from effective product leaders. If you do not prioritize time for yourself, no one else will. If there are open time slots in your calendar, people will assume that you are available and they will grab that time to meet with you or if they are nice, they will only message you during those open time slots and check in with you before scheduling a meeting. This common scenario is what led me to start using my calendar as a to-do list. When I began my journey into Product Management, I would find myself encountering the same problem on a daily basis. I had a never-ending to-do list written across multiple mediums like notebooks, post-it notes, google docs, and individual sheets of paper scattered throughout my desk which made it very hard to keep track of everything that I needed to get done As a result, I would forget to complete some tasks, I would unconsciously be working on things that were not as important as other items, and I was only able to get a handful of tasks done in any given week but once I started centralizing my to-do list in my calendar I found myself completing all of the high priority items in my to-do list, and the lower priority tasks that I was unable to complete I would move them on to the next day, Using my calendar as my to-do list has ensured that I get ALL of my work done Since I am a visual learner, what helps me see what I need to focus on any given day is to color-code tasks in my calendar So I organize tasks and events in my calendar into three colors: orange, blue, and green. Color-coded in orange are any new or existing tasks that I have to get done Color-coded in blue are any meetings where I’m an attendee and color-coded in green are any meetings that I am leading The distinction in the color of the meetings that I have to attend versus those that I am leading allows my brain to quickly know what meetings I have to prepare for Over the past few weeks, I’ve been looking for ways to improve my color-coding system So I’m currently working on figuring out how to best categorize the tasks in my calendar to better understand how I’m spending my time every week. Some of the categories that I’m considering are: Team meetings, individual meetings, refining requirements, replying to messages, and individual work If you have any tips on tools or resources that you’ve found helpful in tracking your time please comment down below, and I’ll make sure to check them out. Using my calendar as a to-do list is a habit that I have found extremely valuable in helping me become a more reliable and productive Product Manager.
The third time management tip is to complete small requests as soon as they come up. This last tip has helped me solve the common problem of people not following through on action items after a meeting. As a PM you will often be flooded with lots of small requests like answering questions via emails or slack messages, clarifying requirements, scheduling meetings or sharing status updates about your product And believe me, it’s easy to forget to follow through on items that don’t feel like high priority A common scenario for PMs is attending meetings where people will have multiple requests such as asking you to schedule a follow-up meeting, and also to reach out to the engineering team to get the latest status on a feature Before I began implementing this tip, I would respond by saying that I’ll do them later but I found myself forgetting to follow up due to competing priorities until someone pinged me about it and then I would get stressed out to get answers as quickly as possible But now when I get a request during a meeting I take action immediately to ensure that I don’t forget to do it. And this saves me from stressing out more than I have to and helps our team move forward. Another benefit of taking action immediately is that everyone gets answers to their questions more quickly. What I’ve seen happen often is that stakeholders have follow-up questions to their original question but by providing them with an answer in the moment those additional concerns can also be addressed which avoids back-and-forth conversations in the near future. An interesting finding from research conducted by productivity companies such as Amplitude and Asana shows that people spend more time organizing or thinking about doing something than actually doing the work. By putting this tip into action it will ensure that you spend more time actually doing your tasks rather than just thinking about doing them.
To recap the three tips that will help you get more things done as a PM are:
Tip #1: Create blocks of uninterrupted “focustime” every week
Tip #2: Use your calendar as your to-do list
Tip #3: Take immediate action on small requests that come up during the day
By putting these 3 tips into action you will gain better control of your time and keep your team moving forward.