10 Productivity Hacks for Product Managers

Product Management
September 14, 2022
10 mins read
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Product managers are highly motivated individuals. Getting more things done in less time is the name of the game. And why not. You’ve to spend countless hours talking to users, documenting requirements, planning roadmaps, collaborating with development teams, and communicating with key stakeholders throughout the process.

It would help if you outworked everybody else. As a PM, you need to bring greater productivity to the entire product management team. If it sounds too much, then it is – a PM has too many responsibilities to carry around. But there’s good news.

Most PMs who are excellent at their work make it look easy. They are productive in the sense that they get essential things done. However, there are productivity hacks that could make them hyper-productive. We’ll be sharing various productivity hacks that will make you a better product manager and a team player.

1. Follow the 4 D’s rule

4 D stands for Do it, Delegate it, Defer it, or Delete it. As a PM, you’re bombarded with many tasks, but not all of them are worth your attention. These rules will help you figure out.

Do it – Based on the following situations, you can decide whether a task needs your instant attention:

  • How long will it take you to finish? If it takes less than 2 minutes, go ahead and do it.
  • Is it possible for someone else to do it well? If so, delegate the task.
  • Is it a high priority? If not, defer it. Is it purely for work? If yes, delete it.

Sidenote: You can take care of the Quick or urgent tasks based on priority. Because if you delay them, the tasks will pile up, and things will get cluttered.

Delegate it – Delegating is a great way to deal with the task. The only risk involved is whether someone is capable of doing it equally well. However, If you offer the responsibility and trust your team, your juniors will add extra value and maybe a different perspective. You can outsource the task to your peers who would report to you or automate the task. Sometimes you might now have the resources to offer the job internally. In that case, you can hire people from freelancing websites like UpWork and Fiverr.

Defer it – It’s generally not a good idea to put things off, but there are a few valid reasons to do so. Delaying lower priority tasks in favor of higher priority ones is possible. And we all know that even high-priority items require input from other teams or approval from executives before they can be moved forward in a positive direction. As long as you keep track of what you’ve put on hold and when you’ve put it off, it makes sense.

Delete it – One of the most helpful productivity hacks is avoiding every task, which kills time. Therefore, you can delete these tasks from your system. Unfortunately, sometimes you’ll have to delete things that seem important at first glance but don’t make sense after further examination. These tasks can be meetings, feature ideas, or something that doesn’t help you progress. So make sure that every job you do has significance and they allow you to move forward.

2. Keep your ‘to-do’ moving.

You might record your ideas everywhere all the time – the to-do list, note-taking apps, notebooks, etc. because inspiration can come at any time, so you need to record it somewhere.

However, make sure that they don’t end being ideas and inspirations only. You also need to use them and execute them. What’s the purpose of recording a picture if you never use it?

So all these takeaways from a meeting, an idea from a blog, an strategy from a podcast, or a customer input you got. They are no good if they are sitting on your list. Therefore, use them or delete them.

These ideas are just taking more space. And soon enough, things get more cluttered. Therefore, separate your wheat from the chaff. Keep your thoughts flowing. Once you record something, make sure you act upon it.

3. Follow the 2-minute rule.

It’s as simple: complete a task if it takes around 2 minutes. The 2 minutes is a perfect time frame for many functions that you might keep on putting—for example, sending an email, making a phone call, setting up a quick meeting, and so on.

You might as well put these tasks on your to-do, but then you’d have more things to worry about. These tasks are simple and would hardly take any time, but you create more burdens for the future when you skip them.

Therefore, it’s one of the most straightforward productivity hacks. These few minutes don’t seem so bad right now, but they add up if you ignore them. They not only take up physical space on your task list, but they also make your brain foggier as you worry about having more things to do. So make sure you cross these items off your list as soon as they arrive. Then, you’d be more focused on the most critical tasks.

4. Avoid multitasking

According to neuropsychologist Cynthia Kubu, Ph.D., we’re wired to be mono taskers, which means our brains can only focus on one task at a time. “When we think we’re multitasking, most often we aren’t really doing two things at once, but instead, we’re doing individual actions in rapid succession or task-switching,” she says.

As a result, most people can’t multitask in most situations (just 2.5%). Multitasking is less productive than working on a single task, according to Stanford University research. It was also discovered that people who practiced multitasking had a 15-point drop in IQ.

So, if you think you shouldn’t devote all of your time to one task because you’re abandoning everything else, you’re probably wrong. It is not a good idea to switch between tasks. You’ll lose focus, require more brainpower, and make more mistakes.

Prioritize your tasks instead. To choose the most important one, apply the 4 D’s rule. Then devote all of your attention to that specific task. You’ll notice that you’re completing more jobs at a faster pace. So increasing productivity while decreasing error is a pretty great idea.

5. Don’t isolate yourself.

We believe that isolating ourselves will make us more productive, especially in jobs like product management. Sure, working in a quiet place with less distraction helps you focus, but you also must communicate. So not only does it promote a healthy work environment, but it also aids in developing your product.

When you communicate or chit-chat more frequently, you help others better understand the product. In addition, you’ll get a fresh perspective, better iterating ideas, and other feedback that you sometimes don’t see.

Also, we desire human interaction. There are numerous advantages. You exchange ideas, see different sides of the story, avoid mistakes, and so on. Talk to people who aren’t directly involved in a project to see how they react. You’ll feel rejuvenated, and you might come up with new solutions to problems. It’s a simple hack, but it will undoubtedly increase your productivity.

6. Don’t store ideas

“Your mind is for having ideas, not holding them,” says David Allen, author of Getting Things Done. So every thought which can be stored in a physical space is kept. So please don’t squander your brain’s real estate on a to-do list; it’s too valuable for that.

Dump everything on a piece of paper. Then categorize everything and create a clean to-do list. Ideas, inspirations, progress, and plans are all welcome. Use a whiteboard for ongoing tasks and an app to instantly store any view so you don’t forget it. Whatever suits you. (Pro tip: Use Zeda.io to simplify the entire product management process.)

The point is, if you don’t write down your thoughts, they’ll pop into your head and drain your brainpower. But you don’t need to waste your brainpower. It would help if yInstead, you used it to find creative problems, listen to customers and stakeholders, and do your job better. Plus, we are not good at remembering things in the first place. So making notes is the most efficient way to get things done.

7. It’s ok to say no

You can’t say yes to everyone all of the time. To build a successful product, you must carefully decide what’s not going to be included. And that will mean saying ‘no’ sometimes. On the other hand, you’ll receive a lot of exciting demands from both your customers and stakeholders, and you can make them happy if you acquire them but for a short period.

It’s your responsibility as a product manager to define the product roadmap based on the company’s ultimate long-term goals. And when these interesting demands don’t align with the company’s vision, you should step up and choose not to work on these new features.

Accepting new features and demands also consumes many resources, and when you choose everything, you desire nothing. Meaning, you won’t be able to work on the essential features.

So it’s your job to say no – it’s crucial. If you’re going to solve a customer’s problem, you’ll need constant filtering, aggregation, and distillation of ideas to get to the core of the problem. As a PM, you must ruthlessly slash everything else to return on the product roadmap and save your time.

8. Take regular breaks

Taking breaks can be as productive as working. According to researchers at the University of Illinois, the human brain’s attentional resources deplete after a long period of concentrating on a single task, making it difficult for us to focus and be productive. The solution is simple, create your schedule that includes well-timed breaks.

Although the length of your breaks is debatable, for example, if you enjoy the Pomodoro technique, you can take a 5-minute break after every 25-minute session. A study conducted by the Draugiem Group discovered that people who took a break every hour were the most productive. Thus, author Travis Bradberry writes, the ideal work rhythm was 52 minutes of work time followed by a 17-minute break.

Therefore, it doesn’t matter what time you choose; all that matters is that you relax and do nothing for a while. Allow your brain to rest. Then, when you return to work, you’ll be energized and ready with new ideas – or at the very least, more focused.

9. Follow the MAT (Milestones, Assumptions, Tasks) framework

Big goals are challenging to work with; break them down into milestones, assumptions, and tasks. For example, if you get 10,000 downloads, start with 1k, 3k, and gradually increase it. When you divide a significant milestone into smaller parts – 2-10 – it becomes easier to achieve.

Now, To meet your milestones on time, you’ll need to make assumptions about how quickly you’ll need to grow, how many people you’ll need to hire, and how much money you’ll need. Then, determine and delegate the specific tasks you need to complete to fulfill your expectations.

The MAT framework is beneficial for collaborating on large projects by breaking them down into smaller components. Since it’s much easier to start with smaller tasks and goals, ensuring everyone is on the same page gets easier.

10. Timebox method

It’s one of the most straightforward productivity hacks, which may be why it’s so effective. Timeboxing is a technique in which you set a specific time for completing a task. Then, when the timer goes off, you proceed to the next job. The main idea behind timeboxing is to allow your team to concentrate on a critical task at a time. This reduces the possibility of wasting time on something that isn’t as important or not a priority.

Timeboxing is a valuable tool, especially if you manage quality assurance and the developer team. For example, assume you’ve discovered a bug and want it fixed. You can ask your developer to work on it a few hours to fix it. And if things don’t work out within that time frame, you can ask him to move on, as it is not worthwhile to devote a few days to this issue.

Mahima Arora
Associate Product Marketer at Zeda.io.
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