Tag Archives: achievement

Productivity hack for the busy product manager

I like getting things done. Who doesn’t? And as product managers, we’re wired to get things done.

But it’s hard, isn’t it? So many things seem to get in the way.

Meetings.

Requests from team members, other departments, your boss, and higher ups.

“Voluntold” responsibilities.

Emergencies and “fires to put out”.

Administrative distractions.

All conspire to keep us from doing the things we really wanted to get done.

And don’t even get me started on email. Or messaging apps.

We often find ourselves racing from meeting to meeting, request to request, crisis to crisis, spending too little time on doing activities that support our higher goals.

And as a result, too many of our days can end in frustration. On Friday evening you look back, and though you’ve certainly done a lot of things, you’ve been busy, you feel like you’ve accomplished little to few of the things you had originally wanted to at the start of the week.

Several years ago, I discovered a productivity hack that’s been working well for me. And I want to share it with you.

At the start of every week, I write down: “What are the 5 things I want to accomplish this week?”

I usually do this Sunday evening as it enables me to begin the transition from weekend mode to work mode come Monday morning.

Then, either at the start of every day or the evening before, I write down “What are the 3 things I want to accomplish today?”

I call these my priority lists. I then have a third list I simply title “To Do’s”. This is my generic, catch-all to do list. Any new item gets added here first. Generally, I try to keep this prioritized, but I don’t sweat it too much. These items have the opportunity to get to my priority lists during my daily and weekly reviews.

I then have a third list I simply title “To Do’s”. This is my generic, catch-all to do list. Any new item gets added here first. Generally, I try to keep this prioritized, but I don’t sweat it too much. These items have the opportunity to get to my priority lists during my daily and weekly reviews.

I place all three lists in a place that I frequently access and is highly visible, such as a note in Evernote or some other place. All three lists are in the same Evernote note, and I always update that same note, never create new ones. I first list my 5 goals for the week, then my 3 goals for the day, and then the generic to-do list. Every item is listed with a checkbox (a very cool feature in Evernote). This gives me the immense gratification of checking off completed tasks.

I first list my 5 goals for the week, then my 3 goals for the day, and then the generic to-do list. Every item is listed with a checkbox (a very cool feature in Evernote). This gives me the immense gratification of checking off completed tasks.

Every item is listed with a checkbox (a very cool feature in Evernote). This gives me the immense gratification of checking off completed tasks.

I’ve titled the note “TO DO LIST”, in all caps, and have added the tags “FAVORITE” and “IMPORTANT”. Because it’s the note I most frequently access, Evernote automatically keeps it at the top of my notes. These little things together enable my to-do’s to always be front and center for me.

You could just as easily use Google Docs, Word, a to do list mobile or web app, a project management system, or even a plain old notepad. I use Evernote because it’s something I use every day, and my notes are accessible to me on every one of my devices.

Finally, I stick to One Rule: only truly urgent things supersede any item already on the priority lists.

What I like about this system is its simplicity and ease. The act of listing to-do’s in the first two lists means I’ve prioritized them. So as I get them done, I enjoy the affirmation that I’m doing things I’ve deemed most important.

Also, if I see any item sitting in the general to-do list for some length of time, it starts to bug me. That forces me to either prioritize it for a particular day, call an audible and get it done immediately (subject to the One Rule), or take it off the list permanently. If it’s been there that long, it probably wasn’t terribly important to begin with, so off it goes!

After an initial period of establishing the routine, I’ve found my productivity level improve dramatically. It’s also enabled me to plan my calendar better. Most importantly, it’s given me a sense of accomplishment and purpose.

Try it for yourself. And share in the comments below what hacks and tricks you’ve used that have worked for you.