From discussions that I’ve had with fellow product managers, it seems that everyone feels lost every now and again. You know the feeling — you get to the office and you are not sure if the door is push or pull even though you’ve been working there for years. Being a product manager can be overwhelming — there is so much resting on your shoulders that it’s easy to feel discombobulated.
Here are 5 guiding principles that I remind myself of on a daily basis as a way to remain focused. I often share these tips with my product management friends, so here they are in written-form for all of you.
Keep your Eye on the Prize
Constantly remind yourself what your end goals are. With every-increasing technological developments, it is very easy to chase down every new idea for building value into your product — better compatibilities, processing power etc. However, you need to pick and choose very carefully which roads you want to go down – which roads will contribute the most to your key productive indicators (KPIs). Now, I am not saying to be completely rigid in your thought process and in the tasks your take on, but you should always ask yourself “how does this task get me closer to where I want to be?”
Make Daily Check-Lists
Check lists can help tremendously, no matter how trivial they may seem. Checklists help to ensure that no task is forgotten, especially the less desirable work that we subconsciously push to the back of our brains. People typically gravitate towards the interesting, hot-topic, high-profile work and tend to forget the more trivial, administrative work that can be critical. Make sure that you and your team don’t skip over the boring, repetitive tasks by making checklists.
Multi-tasking is a myth. It’s often said that if you become a jack of all trades, you are a master of none. Multi-tasking, or moving between different tasks, rather than focusing on one, takes a toll on productivity because a great deal of your energy is expended on re-focusing for the new task. You never actually get fully “in the zone” for any task. I find it to be much easier when I knock tasks out one-at-a-time, rather than trying to work on everything simultaneously. It makes the quality of my work better too.
Set Realistic Goals
When people accomplish what they set out to do, they feel good about themselves. Sometimes I like to set goals for my team that are relatively easy to reach so that, when they reach them, they get a confidence boost. I have realized that when my team is confident they work faster, and more importantly, the quality of their work is better.
Stay Calm, Cool & Collected
Stay optimistic, creative and focused. Whether you realize it or not, your mood and your behavior affects the rest of the team. If you’re groggy because you haven’t yet had your morning cup of coffee, then your team will probably feel as if they have a pass to work a little less hard. Also, try to remain calm when you hit obstacles at work. You may miss a deadline, the computers may crash and employees may get sick. That’s life. As Bruce Lee once said: “You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup.” Learn how to adapt to every life situation so that stress doesn’t affect the quality of your product and the dynamics of your team.
Stay focused, stay calm and as the Most Interesting Man in the World states “Stay Thirsty My Friend.”