Thursday, September 28, 2023
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Priority Management for product managers

Setting Priorities for Product Managers

Time, you have never enough of it. Every day you are balancing priorities and making choices between work and personal life. At work, you have to balance things further and make sure that there is enough time to manage all your tasks. As a product manager you  are continuously shifting gears between operational, tactical and strategic activities and there never seems to be enough time to satisfy everyone. How do you ensure you are spending time on the right things and are setting the right priorities?

Focusing on the issues at hand is the biggest threat to any product manager

If you are not making choices, they will be made for you. It’s as simple as that. The decision is if you drive your own goals, or if you are fine in executing the goals of someone else. When you are not on top of your agenda and driving your own goals, you will find quickly that your time is being consumed in fulfilling other people’s goals. Your mailbox is full and needs attention, your customers are crying and need your help, something is not going as planned in the dev. team and your expertise is required. Just reflect on a typical week to realize that you have made a lot of people happy, but you. Your goals are untouched, and your monthly report states that you have not reached your objectives.

Product manager, dare to choose

Spending your day turning out fires, checking the mailbox every 5 minutes is a signal that something is not going as per plan and things need to change. Working with OKRs, or any other goal setting framework will help you determine your dot on the horizon.

Your goals is to make sure that you are spending as much time as possible in trying to accomplish these objectives, they should drive your behavior. Every minute spent on day-to-day operations will probably not help you to meet your goals. Setting goals as a product manager typically means that you need to ship new products or achieve revenue goals.  You need to be a creator for achieving this, and being a creator requires dedicated brain power. It starts with making choices. When you choose to work on the next big thing and set your mind to it, you will see that the operational items will become less relevant, were actually not so urgent, nor important.

Forwards! Make time available for being a creator

It’s super challenging to start with something new and unknown. It’s much easier to focus on the here and now. Face it, responding to emails of customers is much easier than building a launch campaign. When you are facing challenges in getting started with the ‘new thing’, start by creating blocks in your calendar to start working on them. Block a few hours every day with focus time to work on your pro-active agenda. At the same time, create a few blocks as well to deal with the fires and issues. They will never really go away, but by creating some dedicated time for them they will quickly be under control.

Create a plan for the week

I don’t know about you, but i’ve never seen a big excel sheet plan work for me. A Kanban board with a clear backlog and rules for the flow of activities works much better for me. Whatever method you choose, make sure that when you are blocking time in your calendar for the new thing, that you also know what you are going to work on. The priority list of activities that will help you meet your goal needs to be crystal clear. 

What works for me is that I typically create a plan for the week on a Sunday evening. I list down all the activities and tasks that I want to complete during the week and prioritize the items. For me this means prio 1 is the stuff that needs to get done, prio 2 is nice when it gets done and prio 3 is everything else. Every morning I check in on my plan to determine if i’m making progress, and at the end of the week I feel happy most of the time.

It’s OK to say NO

Its’ also OK to say no to something. Saying no is difficult, especially when the request comes from a manager or senior person. Your role as a product manager is also very relationship drive, which means you may need the persons help who you are now going to say no to in the future. So the No is not always straightforward, sometimes it’s better to say yes to support the relationship. 

At the same time, always consider if the request that is made to you will help you achieve your goals. if there is absolutely no way that the request will help you meet your goal, its fine to say no. Even if it’s for the endboss.

When the endboss still wants the request to be fulfilled, perhaps you can together look at your big long term goals, perhaps there is an alignment issue between your goals and the company goals. In that case… Ok… mmm go back to square one.



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