5 tips to keeping balance as a product manager

By February 15, 2016Product Management

Balance as a product manager

Starting a job and establishing a reputation in a new company can be tiring. Keeping balance as a product manager was not a high priority when I started my new position. I have always tried to guard against burn out, but I also believe it’s vital to get a few key wins and establish yourself when starting a new role.

As a product manager, it’s important to keep balance in your life. Here are 5 things to consider:

1. Let others do what they are responsible for doing

Sometimes product managers try to do everything. They think they can do it better and at times they can. They became a product manager by doing things well, but to be effective, you can’t do everything. Maybe your background is engineering or technical support and your most comfortable doing those types of activities.

But now you’re a product manager, you need to be sure your doing activities that will make your product successful. Let the engineers figure out how to build your product and let support figure out how best to support your product. It’s your job to understand the “what” and “why” of your product and your activities should be spent doing that. Your key role is leading everyone toward a common vision.

2. Add margins to your routine

One way to keep balance as a product manager is to add margins to your routine. By argins I mean don’t try to schedule too much into a day. Be sure to block periods of time on your calendar to catch up.

Lately, I have been doing quite a bit of travel and I have learned to use that time to catch up. I avoid early and late flights so that I don’t run my body down too much. I put all key activities on my calendar such as travel to the airport or doing my weekly review so that new meetings don’t interfere with my margins.

3. Make sure your productivity system is working for you

One of the best books I’ve ever read was “Getting things done” by David Allen. This book has helped me create a system over the years. It helps me make sure I capture all my projects and actions so that my mind can be at ease knowing that nothing will fall through the cracks. I regularly reflect on my performance and look for productivity enhancements in my routine. By capturing all my tasks my mind can be clear to focus on the task at hand. It makes it especially easy to be present in meetings.

Developing your own productivity system allows you to be a more effective listener because you’re not thinking about a task that you should do or some event later in the day.

4. Go for a walk

One of my favorite ways to keep balance in my life is walking with my wife. It gives us time to talk. I get to hear about the activities of her day and talk about our plans for the future. It allows us to connect and most importantly get my mind off of work. We usually take walks after dinner. Not only is it good for my mind, it’s also good for my body.

My brain works best when I’m walking. There are times when I face an especially difficult problem and think it through while on a walk. If there are roadblocks to development or I have a big presentation, I take a walk to sort out my thoughts.

5. Take a break

It’s been about 6 months since I started in my new role and I haven’t taken any time off. We’re on our way to Maui to relax, renew and recharge. I have colleagues who never take time off and I’ve seen how it impacts their effectiveness. I know when I get a break; I’m more effective when I return to work. It gives me a renewed focus and energy.

The job of a product manager is very demanding. People pull you in different directions. It’s vital that you take a break from work to keep balance in your life.

work life balance

work life balance

Keeping balance in today’s workplace is not easy. The global competition for jobs and high unemployment rates add pressure to perform well so that you can keep your job. Many people do this by working an insane number of hours and not taking any breaks. Being a product manager is hard and being a good one requires balance in your life to meet the demands placed upon you. Be sure to reflect on your life balance and continue to strive to achieve it.

Now that I have completed my first 100 days balance is becoming a higher priority. For more information about my first 100 days, see my blog post.