Tag Archives: task

5 THINGS GREAT PRODUCT MANAGERS DO EVERY DAY

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My favorite product managers are quietly powerful. Every day they take small steps that move their teams and business forward in a meaningful way. But they do it without a lot of hoopla, taking a confident yet unassuming approach.

After all, product managers have a lot on their plate every day. They are responsible for the strategy, roadmap, and feature definition for their product. It is a big responsibility that requires facilitating and collaborating with many different teams — both internal and external — without the formal authority to manage those teams. It requires a unique mix of humility and strength.

However, that quiet power does not mean leading product is easy. I realized early on that the daily life of a product manager is unpredictable, hectic, and sometimes very tough.

In the late 1990s, my first product management job was helping to roll out high-speed internet nationwide when it became a viable (and highly desired) alternative to dial-up services. We went from providing 300 lines monthly to more than 3,000 — all in a window of about 60 days. I quickly learned how to balance staying on a strategic course and managing the endless minutiae that was required to get each customer up and running.

I had always been a leader, so handling the stress and responsibility was natural for me — but I had a lot to learn about focusing my efforts on what mattered most. I soon realized that with great accountability comes great autonomy. It was up to me to prioritize what needed to get done and when.

This is great news for ambitious product managers: You have more control than you might think, no matter how hectic each day feels.

Here are five things great product managers do. Used consistently, these actions can help you prioritize your work every day and thrive.

1. Align actions to goals

To succeed as a product manager it is essential to take a goal-first approach. Prioritize what must get done that day and assess and align new work against your goals. Swiftly break through the endless tasks and chatter by evaluating each request or demand through the lens of your goals. This does not mean you should shut down disruptions as “noise” to be silenced. Embrace the interruptions that align with your goals — one may be the missing idea that makes your product wildly successful in market.

2. Connect the dots

Understand how your product serves your business — the big picture of why you are building it. This may seem obvious, but without that connection, product managers are often led astray by differing opinions, demands from internal teams, and conflicting customer feedback. Identify why your product matters to your business and to customers so you can navigate with a steady mind.

3. Solve one simple problem

You may be tempted to solve every problem for your customers. But you cannot be all things to all people. You will spread yourself too thin and lose that firm direction. Instead, focus on solving one problem at a time. I like to say, “Focus on one problem, and solve the second for free.” Tackle one problem well and new opportunities will emerge.

4. Learn from others

Invest the time and effort to learn about your product team’s core work so you can set realistic deadlines. This is especially important for teams that share resources. Ask questions and get to know the full scope of their experience and tasks. It is also important to admit what you do not know. Rely on the expertise of your extended product team to help you deliver on the promise of your product.

5. Say “no” with confidence

Not every idea will be meaningful. And, in fact, most will be lousy. Great product managers understand that saying “no” is not a one-word answer. This is your chance to explain why the idea does not make sense within your strategic direction. Do not hide from these conversations or be dismissive. Take each “no” as an opportunity to recommit to your goals — and to re-evaluate whether your aim is true.

I know this advice to be effective — but hard to follow. So be kind to yourself when you feel cornered or stuck. Stick out your chest and remember that you have more control than you think and a team at your side.

You too can achieve the quiet power that separates good product managers from great ones. Never lose sight of your goals and embrace each day with humility and strength. Now go get busy.

Discover your own power as a product manager.

My Daily Read

When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.” ― Viktor E. Frankl

How to Determine What Motivates You

By Leo Babauta
I was talking to a 19-year-old recently and he has been struggling with motivation.

His problem goes like this: he gets excited about starting a project or plan, and is very motivated at the start … but after a few days, that feeling dies down, and he starts procrastinating.

He really does want to do the project or follow through on the plan, but the motivation inevitably drops away.

I told him this is something he should devote some effort to figuring out, because very few problems are as important to solve as this one.

I suggested experiments in motivation. Every person is motivated differently (and in fact, that can shift), so finding methods that motivate you personally is a matter of experimenting.

I’m writing this post for him, and anyone else who might want to try these experiments.

 

How does it work? You try each experiment for a week, and note the results. After a couple months of doing this, you know more about your personal motivation style than ever before.

Here are eight motivation methods you could try:

  1. Un-ignorable Consequences. Set a deadline for the task(s) you want to complete, and a consequence you won’t be able to ignore. It’s best to share this deadline and consequence with an accountability partner or publicly. Example: I post on Facebook I’m going to write 1,000 words in my book every day this week, or I can’t watch TV for a week. (That only works if you really care about the consequence.) Another example: if I don’t write my first chapter by Saturday at midnight, I have to donate $200 to Donald Trump (or whichever candidate you don’t like) and post about it publicly. The idea is that the consequence should be embarrassing and something you can’t just ignore.

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  2. Completion Compulsion. Many people, myself included, have a strong desire to complete a list. For example, if you’ve watched 15 out of 20 episodes of a show, you might really want to finish watching the show. This is “completion compulsion,” and I think everyone experiences it sometime — especially if finishing the list seems doable. So the method is this: make a list of 10 small actions (10 minutes or less to complete) that you want to finish this week on a certain project, or 5 small actions you want to finish each day, and make it your goal to finish the list. You could combine this with the un-ignorable consequences method (if I don’t finish my list each day, I can’t have wine).
  3. A Powerful “Why”. Understand the deeper reasons you want to complete this goal or accomplish this task. It should be a reason that really resonates with you, that you deeply want to achieve. Now write your “Why” in a phrase (like, “compassion for myself” or “to help others in pain”), and post it somewhere visible, so you won’t forget it.
  4. Get Excited Daily. It’s easy to be excited about a project or goal when you first start, but that dies out. So renew it! Each day, start by setting a goal for the day that you can accomplish and that you care about. Find inspiration, visualize your accomplishment, find some music that motivates you, find an inspirational quote or video … anything to get you excited to accomplish your goal for the day!
  5. Focus on Being True to Your Word. One of the most important things in life is to be trusted, to have people believe that when you say you’re going to do something, you’ll do it. If people don’t trust in that, you won’t have good relationships, romantically, with friends, or at work. Imagine hiring someone and not knowing if they’re going to show up, or do the work if they do show up. So you should make it one of your priorities in life to live the motto, “Be True to Your Word.” That starts with small things: tell someone you’re going to do a small task that will only take 10-30 minutes. Then do it. Repeat this several times a day, building other people’s trust in you and your own trust in yourself. Post the motto somewhere you won’t forget it.
  6. Find a Group. Humans are social animals, and you can use that to your advantage. Create an accountability group of friends or colleagues who want to achieve a goal or finish a project. Agree to set daily or weekly targets, and check in with each other daily or weekly (form a Facebook group or subreddit, perhaps). Set rewards and/or embarrassing consequences for hitting or missing the targets. Have weekly “winners” for those who did the best at their targets. Encourage each other and help each other when someone is faltering.
  7. Focus on a Sense of Achievement. With every task you complete, pause at the end of it to savor your feeling of accomplishment. This is a great feeling! Share your victory with others. Savor the feeling of building trust in yourself. As you start a task, think about how good you’ll feel when you accomplish it.
  8. Small Starts, Quick Rewards. Create a system where you have to do short tasks (just 10 minutes) and you get a small reward at the end of it. For example, I just need to write for 10 minutes, then I get to have my first coffee of the day. Or I clear my email inbox for 10 minutes, and then I get to check my favorite sites for 5 minutes. Don’t let yourself have the reward unless you do the task! The smaller the task, the better, so you won’t delay starting.

OK, these are eight experiments, but you might think of others, like the Seinfeld Method or the Pomodoro Technique. All that matters is that you try the experiments, and note the results. At the end of each weekly experiment, write a brief review of how it went. Rate your productivity on a scale of 10. Then try another experiment.

At the end of these, you’ll have tried a bunch of great methods, and figured out what helps you most. You might combine methods, or use different ones at different times. And maybe after all of this, you’ll have a trust in yourself that’s so strong, you don’t need any methods!

About the Author: Leo Babauta is the owner of ZenHabits.net, a website devoted to providing clear and concise wisdom on how to simplify your life. He’s also the author of, “The Power of Less.”