As a product manager, life can be quite chaotic, especially when dealing with multiple stakeholders and handling various channels of communication. Plus, with the ever-growing need for speed and innovation from organizations, it’s an understatement to say that a product manager’s schedule is only jam-packed most of the time. In such an environment where every little thing begs your attention and every stakeholder is counting on you to keep them updated, how do you keep yourself sane? As it happens, there is a way. Rather than providing you with another framework, here are three product manager tips you should follow to better focus on the right work, effectively delegate tasks, and ensure you tackle the product manager role like a champion.
1. Work in themes
When you are working with multiple streams of work which differ in nature, (e.g. creating backlogs, customer communications, creating product roadmaps, sales briefs, etc.) it’s easy to get overwhelmed and lose focus. Instinctively, you pay attention to everything and end up accomplishing much less than you would have if you had focused on a select few tasks.
A simple way to overcome this problem is to categorize your responsibilities in larger themes, where you can group all work that is similar or interrelated. Once you have created themes of work you need to focus on, you can assign priorities to them. From these prioritized themes, you can derive your backlog for the day/week/month. With the list of prioritized topics/tasks, you can concentrate on them one at a time and check off all the important work you need to do within every theme.
2. Schedule your day beforehand
Walking into a battle without a battle plan is a sure-shot failure. The same is true for your work day—without a laid-out plan for things that you need to work on, it’s easy to quickly become consumed. Instead, take time at the beginning or end of each day to list all the crucial tasks that require your attention, then assign a calendar time slot to each of those tasks, ensuring you don’t spend too long on one thing. This is where the prioritized backlog we discussed in the previous step comes in handy. Using a combination of a to-do list integrated with your calendar is the simplest way of scheduling your day. Once you are done, let your calendar take over, and you can focus on checking off items from the list, one after another.
3. Communication Planning
Acting as a bridge between multiple stakeholders, communication is the cornerstone of a product manager’s responsibilities. Making sure the right information is available to the right person at the right time is what can make or break a project. Chances are good that for any work you are doing, someone is waiting for an update on that or the outcome. Identifying the involved stakeholders with every theme of work and making sure that they are updated once you are done ensures two things:
- a) The information reaches the appropriate stakeholders without any lag; and
- b) The concerned parties remain updated on the progress of work, outside of a chain of emails.
To achieve the above, a good starting point is to create an email group or a Slack channel, based on your preferred method of communication, and assign it to the themes of work you created earlier. Try to templatize all the recurring communications such as sprint updates, release notes, etc., so that you don’t have to always write them from scratch. You may want to explore all the available tools—that might help you automate and schedule these communications. This process is crucial to freeing up a lot of your precious time.
Before we wrap up this blog, here’s a bonus. Making decisions on the fly is integral to the product manager’s role. With the ever-growing need for delivering value to customers as fast as possible, it can be daunting to make decisions knowing that they could make or break a project. As it happens, you can break down these decisions into two categories: reversible and irreversible. Irreversible choices are the ones that can’t be taken back or might have a high cost associated with it, and reversible choices are the ones that could be rolled back without any significant cost.
Once you have segmented the decisions into the above categories, you have a clear understanding of the choices you need to spend more time considering and the ones you can delegate or decide quickly.
While the tips above provide a nice starting point for organizing and prioritizing work, you may find yourself wishing you had a single tool to accomplish everything in one place. Projectplace is just that tool, with features like collaborative work streams, Kanban boards, Gantt charts, etc., that allow you to apply these tips and other project management practices. Register for a free demo today and get on your way to becoming a better equipped and experienced project manager.