Four Habits for High-Performing Product Managers

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As a product manager, your role requires you to constantly stay on top of things, be a problem solver, and deliver results. However, achieving high performance in this role requires more than just technical knowledge or industry expertise. It also involves developing product management habits that help you streamline your work, stay focused, and deliver better results. In this article, I share four key habits that every high-performing product manager should cultivate to excel in their role.

These habits will help you manage your time, prioritize your tasks, and build effective relationships with your team and stakeholders, ultimately leading to better outcomes for your product and your organization.

1. Identify the day’s non-negotiables

Whether you do this the night before or the morning of, spend a few minutes each day prioritizing and selecting a small number of ‘must dos’ and organize your day to ensure you get those items checked off your to-do list.

This is key to making time for things that often get shoved to the back burner, such as talking to customers or reaching out to that one stakeholder you’ve been meaning to have a better relationship with.

I personally am a big fan of the Full Focus Planner, which helps me identify my Daily Big 3 most important tasks every day.

2. Schedule regular check-ins

As a product manager, you are the glue that connects the people inside your company. Make it a priority to check in on a regular basis to build and strengthen relationships with your stakeholders, teammates, and peers. And don’t forget your remote colleagues.

With so many of us working remotely, it’s often even more critical to make a concerted effort to stay connected with the people you don’t see in the office. One product manager suggested doing virtual coffee or happy hours as a way to socialize informally.

3. Time-box your most critical activities and commit to them

Here are some of the ways product managers use this technique:

  • Add buffer time before and after workshops or other heavy meetings to prep and debrief with ease
  • Block out a day every other week for research
  • Write reflections weekly. This helps track what you’re doing well, where you need help, and the accomplishments you’ve achieved (big and small) and definitely comes in handy during performance reviews and job interviews.
  • Reading relevant articles online. Staying on top of industry trends is a must for product managers so block out a little time to do this every day, if possible.
  • Goal Setting. Something I realized about myself last year is if I set my goals, in writing and especially attached to a challenge attached to it, I am more determined to get it done.

4. Tame the email and Slack two-headed beast

Product managers are flooded with communications 24/7. With the rise in Slack usage, email communication seems to be less of a problem for some of us. However, it’s still a problem that can distract even the most focused product manager from doing more focused product work.

To tame the two-headed beast, try these pro tips:

  • Keep your email and Slack apps closed and only check them during pre-scheduled batch sessions. During these batch sessions, respond to messages that require immediate action first. Then use whatever remaining time you have to get organized.
  • Turn on automatic responses when you’re doing focused work. You can do this for both email and Slack.

    Here’s the message I use for my email account:

    “Hi, there. Thanks for contacting me. I check my email twice each day so that I can focus on my clients and give them my full attention. As a result, you may experience a delayed response of a few hours. Thanks for understanding, and have a wonderful day!”

    In Slack, you can do this by setting a custom status. Many people use this feature when they’re out of the office or on vacation, but you, my masterful product manager wizard, can leverage this for those times when you need to concentrate and focus on deep product work.
  • Get to inbox zero every day. If you can’t get to inbox zero, at least organize your inbox, moving messages into folders so that your inbox contains no more than 25 messages that require your attention. If you need help with getting to inbox zero, read Building a Second Brain or Getting Things Done. These books changed my life!
  • Reduce the noise of Slack by switching to the compact theme and use notification settings to mute all but the most important channels and DMs.

Want more tips like this? Check out my free guide, How to be a Better Product Manager!

This free, 24-page PDF guide is filled with my top ten tips to help you advance your career and build better products.

Do you have any habits not listed here that make YOU a great product manager? If so, drop them in the comments below!

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