14: There is always more work to do. Don’t burn yourself out

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I’m writing about 100 things I’ve learned as a product manager.

One of the easiest ways to spot a product manager in the wild is to look for the slightly frazzled person with the longest to-do list and a determined look in their eye.

While I think we generally enjoy keeping ourselves busy, I’ve often noticed over a beer with colleagues that we (myself included) also quite enjoy having a bit of a moan over how much there is to do and that the work is never-ending.  You remember?  It’s usually second on the conversational agenda just after the obligatory “aren’t Sales exasperating” whinge.

On my to-do list there are always three categories of things on it at any given time:

  1. Things I have to do right now, and ideally yesterday
  2. Things I need to do as part of ‘business as usual’
  3. All the other things I would do if time permitted

there’s always a heap of things we’d like to do if we had the time

The thing about the to-do list is that third category.  Because we product managers are generally motivated, diligent types, there’s always a heap of things we’d like to do if we had the time.  In effect, we’re to blame for our to-do lists being so long.  If that’s what’s been stressing you out, think about how many of those tasks you actually need to do.

As a way of tackling this, with the blessing of your manager, stop doing a selection of the ever-present ‘business as usual’ tasks for a month and see if anybody notices.  Chances are that nobody will, which usually means those tasks are no longer necessary, so you can probably ditch four out of five of them straightaway.  This will free you up to tackle a few more items on your wish list.

Read more from Jock

The Practitioner's Guide to Product Management by Jock Busuttil

“This book has been a genuine game changer for me”
– pb (Amazon)

“I wish this book was published when I started out in product management”
– KejiA (Amazon)

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