As a product manager, I find myself juggling between so many things — writing specs, setting up meetings, empowering my team, making decisions and advising everyone who needs my support. Unfortunately, time is very expensive — if not handled right, things can sink very fast.
I wanted to share a few tips that are helping me to stay focused and make the most out of my time. Most of them are about meetings, as I found that these are the biggest time wasters.
- When it comes to meetings, trust your gut instinct — if it feels like a waste of time, it’s a waste of time. (Politely) avoid meetings that you strongly feel are not worth your time.
- Avoid going to or setting up meetings with more than 3 people (other than you). People will talk a lot and no action items will come up.
- If you really have to attend a big meeting (which is not for brainstorming or announcement): go, wait for 5 minutes into the meeting, and then pull out your laptop/phone and try to work on your more important stuff.
- Following up the last bullet — don’t ever start an email or a group chat with more than 2 people (other than you). It will go nowhere.
- Track the time it takes you to end regular pre-scheduled meetings and shorten them accordingly.
- Try to squeeze all your meetings at the beginning / end of the week. But don’t go too crazy as it can wear you out, which can make the last meetings unproductive.
- Unless truly necessary, don’t make meetings longer than an hour.
- Use filters to control your inbox. Daily/weekly reports tend to wear out over time so when you see yourself ignoring them, filter them out of the way.
- The quickest way to sync a decision with someone else is to simply approach them and talk for 5 minutes.
- Someone just set up a meeting with you? Go to them and ask what it’s about — you’ll be surprised at how many meetings get cancelled after this small talk.
- Schedule mysterious “busy blocks” on your calendar for times where you don’t want to be interrupted. This includes home time.
- Make informed decisions and only then communicate it forward. If you’ve done your research, most people won’t argue. Those who will, will either ask for small clarifications or help you shape up your decision for the better.
Bonus tip: When someone is asking you for something, say no (and explain why). Then say no again (and smile) and then move on with an extra no. The important stuff will always float back again and again and the time wasters will sink. Pay close attention only to those who float back.
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