As a Product Manager you will always have far more work to get done than you can possibly get to. Between thinking strategically and driving things related to your products from a high level to executing the day-to-day tactical work required for product success, you will have a full list of to-do items and plenty of requests that go unfulfilled.
The ironic things is that the more competent you are, the more people will ask for your time and help. If you become known as the person who can do the absolute best demo and answer customer questions extremely well, your sales people will constantly ask you to come along on customer visits. If you are responsive to customer problems your technical support team will come to you more often to ask for creative solutions. And if you are good at influencing cross-functional teams you’ll be asked to step up to the bar and lead efforts that go beyond just making your product successful.
So how do you deal with all of this?
I’ve used the Franklin system for prioritizing for the past ten years (even though I haven’t owned a Franklin planner since Palm Pilots and then SmartPhones came out). I took Franklin’s full day course and it was extremely helpful. The goal of their training is not only to help you be more productive, but also to DRAMATICALLY reduce your stress level.
Their system is simple. Every morning before you begin work take your to do list and capture everything you can think of. Then prioritize each task as A, B or C.
A = MUST do today
B = Would like to do today
C = Not important today
Ideally you want to have about 5 items on your A list and 8-10 on your B list maximum. From there you assign all the A’s and B’s priority numbers.
Then you just work your list straight down, beginning with A1. Having put just a few minutes of thought into it you can be assured you are working on the most important items. If you feel like priorities are shifting you can take a second 10 minute break later that day to reassess, but either way you don’t need to feel guilty or anxious about not working on what’s important.
There are several other benefits to this approach:
- At the end of the day you can look back and judge whether you accomplished the A list items. This is a great way to assess whether you are staying on track.
- If your boss insists on putting something on your to do list for that day (what Product Manager’s boss doesn’t) you can show him/her what your estimation of priorities are. If you both agree it is more important then something else can drop off the A list.
- You can capture virtually anything on the list as a C so you never have to worry about forgetting good ideas.
There are several other organization methods I use – I’ll cover these in future posts.