As a product manager, it's vital you’re as productive and effective as possible. But productivity is not just about working harder or longer hours; it's about working smarter and more efficiently.
Here I've put together 7 tips I’ve found helpful throughout my career.
By implementing these strategies, you can improve your focus, motivation, and effectiveness, and achieve greater success in your role.
1) Understand what motivates you
It's important to truly take the time to understand what motivates you and use that to your advantage.
Many PMs focus on the ‘Why?’ when breaking down a new feature but fail to realize the same process can be applied to their own career or how they work.
This can help you stay focused and driven, even when faced with challenging tasks or difficult deadlines.
One way to understand what motivates you is to take some time to reflect on your values and goals.
What are the things that matter most to you in your work and in your life? What are your long-term aspirations, and how do they align with your current role as a product manager?
Once you have a better sense of what drives you, you can use this knowledge to create a work environment that supports your motivation.
There is no right or wrong form of motivation. Some people are motivated by working with a great team, others are excited by building great products, others main motivation might just be their family or their life outside of work and see product management as a good paycheck.
These are valid motivations. Most people are a mix but it’s important to take the time to outline your ‘Why’ and use that to guide yourself through your career.
Another key component of motivation is a sense of control and autonomy.
As a product manager, you likely have a lot of responsibility and decision-making power.
Use this to your advantage by setting clear priorities and delegating tasks to your team members where appropriate.
This will allow you to focus on the most important tasks and make the most of your time and energy.
Ultimately, understanding what motivates you can help you stay engaged and motivated in your work, which can lead to increased productivity and success as a product manager.
2) Actively develop your empathy for your users and colleagues
Empathy is a crucial skill that can help you better understand the needs and wants of your users and your colleagues.
By actively developing your empathy, you can build stronger connections with the people around you and improve your ability to lead and manage your team effectively.
One way to develop your empathy is to make an effort to listen actively and attentively to others.
This means giving people your full attention when they're speaking, and trying to understand their perspective, even if you don't agree with it.
This can be particularly helpful when working with users to gather feedback and ideas for new products or features.
Another way to develop your empathy is to practice empathy in your everyday interactions.
This might involve making a conscious effort to understand how someone else is feeling, and responding in a way that shows you care about their experiences and emotions.
This can help to foster a more positive and collaborative work environment, and can lead to better communication and collaboration within your team.
Finally, it's important to remember that empathy is not just about understanding other people's perspectives, but also about taking action to address their needs and concerns.
This might involve making changes to your product based on user feedback, or supporting your team members in achieving their goals and objectives.
By showing empathy in your actions as well as your words, you can build stronger, more productive relationships with the people around you.
3) Prioritize your sleep and mental health
It's important to prioritize your sleep and mental health in order to maintain your productivity and performance.
When you take care of yourself, you're better able to handle the challenges and demands of your job, and you're more likely to be creative and focused in your work.
One way to prioritize your sleep is to establish a consistent bedtime routine, and make sure that you get enough sleep each night.
Aim for 7-9 hours of sleep per night, and avoid caffeine, alcohol, and other substances that can interfere with your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Don’t be afraid to experiment to figure out what works for you.
For example, I now use a sunlight alarm clock which simulates a sunrise in my room to help me wake naturally. It’s surprising how well simple adjustments like this can help.
Finally, it's important to prioritize your mental health by taking time to relax and recharge.
This might involve practicing mindfulness or meditation, exercising regularly, or engaging in hobbies and activities that you enjoy.
Don’t be afraid to block off time in your calendar for going to the gym or meditating etc.
By taking care of your mental health, you can reduce stress and improve your overall well-being, which can help you to be more productive and successful in your work as a product manager.
4) Find a prioritization process that works to your strengths
It's important to find a prioritization process that works to your strengths and helps you to effectively manage your time and resources.
There are many different approaches to prioritization, and the right one for you will depend on your unique skills, preferences, and goals.
There are a plethora of techniques out there such as the Eisenhower method, using a Pomodoro timer, the pareto principle.
It doesn’t matter what you use so long as it makes sense for you.
For example, back in 2019 I was working freelance for myself and living in Vietnam. I found I wasn’t as productive as I would like.
So one day, strolling through a grocery store I found a little whiteboard for kids. About the size of an A4 page.
I bought it and have used it everyday since then. For me, I found using a physical white board to write-out my daily to-do list made me much more productive than using a digital version.
For others it might be the exact opposite but play around with different approaches and see what works for you.
Ultimately, the key is to find a prioritization process that works for you and helps you to stay focused and productive.
This might involve experimenting with different approaches and tools and adapting them to suit your unique needs and goals.
There are many great tools out there which you can incorporate into your workflow to make it more efficient.
One great example of this is, of course, Jam.Dev. This is a free chrome extension that enables you to easily take screenshots, record videos and capture rewinds of bugs as they happen.
You can then easily share this with your team without the need for tediously documenting every step.
By finding a prioritization process that fits your strengths, you can ensure that you're always working on the most important tasks and making the most of your time and resources.
5) Learn to communicate effectively
Effective communication is key to the success of any product team.
As a product manager, it's important to keep everyone informed about your progress, plans, and challenges. This includes your team, stakeholders, and customers.
It’s important to take the time to understand how you best communicate and how others prefer to communicate too.
Not everyone has the same style.
Some people might prefer to familiarize themselves with a topic alone before jumping into an active discussion. Others get energy from jumping into the unknown and discussing a problem in real-time.
To communicate effectively as a product manager you’ll need to understand which approach is best for the situation at hand.
In its most basic form effective communication requires clear, concise, and timely messaging. Make sure to convey important information in a way that is easy to understand and that gets to the point quickly.
Avoid using jargon or technical language that may be confusing to others.
Effective communication also requires active listening.
Make sure to listen carefully to what others have to say, and ask questions to clarify any points that may be unclear.
This will help you build trust and rapport with your team, stakeholders, and customers, and ensure that you're meeting their needs and addressing their concerns.
6) Reduce unnecessary noise
It's important to reduce unnecessary noise in order to maintain your focus and productivity.
Noise can come in many forms, including interruptions, distractions, and irrelevant information, and it can be a major drain on your time and energy.
By reducing unnecessary noise, you can create a more peaceful and focused work environment, and improve your ability to concentrate and think deeply.
Context switching can very quickly become the norm for a lot of PMs as we bounce from meeting to meeting.
Implementing strategies to combat this is vital. Carve out blocks of time for deep work when required.
This might involve turning off your phone or email notifications, closing unnecessary tabs in your web browser, and finding a quiet, distraction-free workspace.
You can also try using noise-canceling headphones or white noise to create a more peaceful environment.
Another way to reduce unnecessary noise is to be selective about the information you consume.
This means avoiding news feeds, social media, and other sources of information that are not directly relevant to your work. Instead, focus on consuming high-quality, relevant information that will help you to be more productive and effective in your work.
Finally, it's important to remember that reducing unnecessary noise is not just about creating a peaceful environment, but also about creating space for deep thinking and problem-solving.
By reducing noise and distractions, you can create the mental space and focus you need to think deeply and creatively, and to make better decisions as a product manager.
7) Take time to reflect
It's important to take time to reflect on your work and your progress.
I have a recurring meeting in my calendar with just myself every Friday evening. In this I go back over my calendar for the week and take notes on what worked, what didn’t, what could be improved or any meetings I don’t get any value from I should remove.
Taking this time to reflect can help you to stay focused and motivated, and to continually improve and learn from your experiences.
Another common way to take time to reflect is to keep a journal or a log of your thoughts and experiences.
This can be a helpful way to track your progress, and to capture ideas and insights that you might otherwise forget. You can also use your journal to set goals and track your progress, and to celebrate your successes and accomplishments.
Ultimately, taking time to reflect is an important part of being a successful and productive product manager.
By regularly reflecting on your work, you can gain valuable insights and perspective, and continually improve and grow in your role.
In conclusion, being a productive and effective product manager requires a combination of focus, motivation, and the right strategies and tools.
By taking the time and implementing some of the tips outlined here, you can improve your productivity and achieve greater success in your role.
By adopting these strategies, you can boost your productivity and drive success for your team and your organization.