5 Productivity Hacks From a Product Manager

As a Product Manager, every day is a hustle. It’s a hectic yet rewarding career, that teaches you that you have to apply some productivity hacks because making the most of your time is key to succeeding. Everyone wants a piece of the Product Manager. A new feature request, wanting to get a peek into what’s coming next, sharing some feedback on the latest feature, presenting what’s new, etc.. Everyone in the organization needs or wants something from the PM. Being really smart about what you do, when you do, and how you do it, is key to succeeding in the role. And the way of doing that is by applying some productivity tools of the trade. That’s why today I wanted to let you in on the secret and share with you 5 productivity hacks from a Product Manager.

Here’s an outfit of what a PM wears to work in Berlin; the workshop edition.

With that said, here are 5 productivity hacks from a Product Manager that everyone can benefit from applying to their work, whether they’re an actual Product Manager or not:

Prioritization

Using a prioritization framework for your work is a very smart thing to do. That’s because it allows you to focus on the right work. The “Impact x Effort” matrix is a very easy framework that I use in my day-to-day to prioritize feature ideas and feedback from users, clients, and stakeholders. This way I can quickly assess what’s a low-hanging fruit versus a longer, bigger project. This is something I also used in the past, in my project management days. Today, I also use it in my daily task management. Every now and then I assess the type of work I do and if the impact of this work moves me forward or if it’s low value and high effort, and therefore holds me back from delivering results. The great thing about it is that it can also be used as a communication tool to give transparency to managers, clients, or stakeholders when needed.

Never Communicate Deadlines

Oh, it’s a tricky one and any PM can tell you a million stories about committing to deadlines and well, blowing past them. And I am sure not just one time, but many times. The reason for this is that we are often too eager to prove ourselves by delivering results. However, in the process we overestimate our/our team’s capacity of delivering the work. Whenever you can, avoid communicating deadlines and focus on communicated progress instead. If not possible make sure you always add a generous buffer. Committing to solving a problem that you have no context about, and what level of complexity is involved in solving it is very likely to make your estimate wrong. Completely not communicating a deadline will not always be possible and certainly not in all areas of work. But I strongly encourage you to add a generous buffer to any time estimates and deadlines you communicate. Remember, underpromise and overdeliver always.

Explore the Problem Space

Spending time in understanding the problem before jumping directly into solutioning is key. This can save you a lot of work and any back-and-forth re-doing previous work. Something I really like about my job is the time I spend understanding the problems to solve. I look into whether it’s the right problem to be solved at all. Or if it’s the right problem but not the right time to be working on it. And so on, to make sure that what I work on right now delivers the maximum impact possible. If you’re familiar with Design Thinking then you will know the double diamond of the problem and the solution space. You have to first go deep into the problem space before you can even go deep into the solution space. If you are not familiar, I highly encourage you to have a look at this methodology.

Seek Feedback Often and Iterate

The easiest way to make sure you’re on track is to seek feedback. Ideally, you should seek feedback from whoever is your end user. Whether that’s actual users in the case of a Product Manager, or in other lines of work that could be your manager, stakeholders, clients, etc. The key here is to seek feedback often to avoid rework and to make sure you’re on the right path. Don’t just sit on the feedback though, act on it and continuously iterate so that your work product continuously improves. This is something you can also apply to your personal development and not just to your work projects.

Say No Often

Let’s face it, a Product Manager has to say no a lot. At the end of the day, it’s all a trade-off. If I pick your thing now and work on it, what is it that I am dropping or what other opportunity am I missing? This can be a product request but it can easily be one more client request or a new project from your manager. There is an opportunity cost to anything we choose to work on. Being very honest about that helps you say no easier. That’s because saying no is not a sign of wanting to do less work. It’s a sign of choosing to work on the right thing at the right time.

These are the 5 productivity hacks from a Product Manager that everyone can apply to their work. Let me know, if you are a Product Manager, would you add something to the list?

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