As a product manager working in tech, I constantly face the challenge of operating at a high-capacity, managing multiple projects, clearing roadblocks, running back-to-back meetings, and building long-term strategies while living a healthy and joyful life. Staying productive is critical to career and life success.
Many people in my network ask me, “How do you stay productive? How do you have it all?” While there’s no one-size-fits-all some answers can be found below :
“Everything begins inside your mind. With the right mindset, you will succeed.” — Tony Horton
I start with defining what personal productivity is and things to be mindful of when it comes to being and staying productive.
1️⃣ Productivity is quality of life. It is NOT about doing more and staying busy. It’s about achieving more with less.
2️⃣ Productivity is to manage time. Timebox your tasks and don’t let work expand to fill your time.
3️⃣ Productivity is a constant rebalancing exercise. Being productive might look different each day.
4️⃣ Productivity is about making intentional choices. Commit to what works for YOU and make peace with letting go of the rest.
“I think it’s important to reason from first principles rather than by analogy.” — Elon Musk
What are the fundamental truths of personal productivity? How may you apply first principle thinking to staying productive?
1️⃣ Be intentional. It’s not about ‘what can I accomplish?’ but ‘what do I want to accomplish?’
2️⃣ Focus. Focus. Focus. Good things happen when you narrow your focus.
3️⃣ Action > Perfection. Making progress is more “productive” than being perfect.
4️⃣ Iterate. Finding your productivity system is an iterative process. Try different things and see what works best for you.
5️⃣ Create leverage. Find high-leverage activities that will produce outsized results. Make 1 decision to save 1,000 decisions.
“Productivity is never an accident. It is always the result of a commitment to excellence, intelligent planning, and focused effort.” — Paul J. Meyer
You don’t have to wake up at 4:30am everyday to be productive. Productivity is a lifelong commitment to finding what works for you. There is no universally perfect productivity system; you must be willing to experiment and get ready to mix and match different systems!
1️⃣ Have a system to capture and organize information as it comes in. Capture everything and then organize it – task backlogs, project trackers, intentions list, daily to-dos. Do what works for you.
2️⃣ Use the 2×2 Eisenhower Matrix to decide if you should do, delete, delegate, or defer a task.
3️⃣ Learn to manage your day based on your energy chart and your bio clock, not just the clock on the wall.
4️⃣ Make rest and recharge part of your productivity system. The best way to stay productive involves stopping along the way.
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.” — Walt Disney
Below we shared a set of productivity tactics that have worked well for us. There are hundreds more out there, and you will need to find out what works for you through trial and error.
1️⃣ Block time on your calendar for your to-dos. This not only brings clarity to WHAT to do, but also to WHEN to do it.
2️⃣ Audit your time to be more aware of whether how you spend your time aligns with what you value in life. Bundle this with a weekly reflection to set intention for the following week.
3️⃣ Learn to set boundaries and say a clear no without feeling guilty.
4️⃣ Apply the Yes! No. Yes? Model to articulate what we want, protect what we value, and stand up for everything and everyone that matters to us.
5️⃣ Maintain a Not-To-Do list to stay focused and avoid falling into the “completion urge” trap.
6️⃣ Batch process your emails and Slack messages to reduce “switching costs” and take control of your schedule.
7️⃣ Invest time in delegating and shift your thinking from “how and what” to “why, when, and who” to empower others to learn and grow.
8️⃣ Decide if a synchronous meeting is needed and how to run productive meetings with a clear sense of purpose and closure.
To conclude, being productive may look different each day. Be intentional about how you spend your time and continuously improve your systems and tactics to find what works for you!
If you want to learn more about how to apply these concepts, here is a link to my latest course https://www.linkedin.com/learning/personal-productivity-for-product-managers
I look forward to hearing from you and wishing you luck in mastering your personal productivity!