Product managers can say “no” with grace so they focus on making progress.
This interview is about making better use of our time as product managers and it is with John Cutler, Product Evangelist at Amplitude. For the sake of time, let’s get right to the interview.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[4:30] Why is time management important as a product manager?
Often, I say that the role is all about communication. A large part of that is time management. If you’re running around in a reactive mode all the time, you won’t be very effective at communicating. Even the best communicators will fall apart if they don’t manage their time well. Everyone needs time for deeper work to create better communications.
[6:45] How can product managers be better at managing their time?
Be more open about opportunities to meet with people. A lot of people get stuck on the agenda for a meeting and then the work fills all the available space. Another way to think about it is to get a group of people together and a variable agenda based on who’s there. Feel free to repurpose an agenda based on what’s going on with a project. You don’t need to abandon it entirely, just shift it from covering the same topics every time.
[11:15] What’s the relationship between promises and progress?
Product managers tend to think about the work in progress and what the team is working on, but they’re always making promises to people across the organization. We say things like “I’ll look into that for you” and those ideas sit in your head. You’ve made a promise to yourself or someone else that you’ll look into it. You need to be ruthless about limiting your promises. If you can limit your promises, but commit to doing them, then you’ll build trust and get more done. It’s also important to understand what promises you can keep vs. what you can’t.
[16:51] How can product managers avoid making promises they shouldn’t?
I developed a list of things that should raise red flags when people hear them. When you hear things like “it might be a great idea if” or “while we’re at it,” recognize that you’re falling into a black hole that’s going to detract from your productivity and the task at hand. The best product managers I know have a level of discipline where they do deep work on a regular basis. It feels inefficient in the short term, but it’s much more efficient in the long run.
[23:55] How do you reorient yourself when things go astray?
One thing I’ve seen teams do is have a learning backlog. They review it and determine what’s most important to be addressed at any given time. Realizing that some questions are more important than others prevents you from feeling like you need to do everything at once.
[30:10] How does vision fit into all this?
Vision to me is a story that we tell each other and that maybe we find data to support over time. Eventually, a story becomes so common that we don’t need to tell it over again and it becomes part of the culture. Having a common story among the people involved in a project will help the team to function in a more networked way and make better decisions. Having that shared story also helps keep the team focused when potential distractions arise.
- John’s article with tips for time management for product managers
- Connect with John on Twitter
- John’s special bonus for us: When You Hear ______, Pay Attention
“Just write” – Anonymous
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