Applying Product Management to Your Life
After having done product management for a time, I was asked whether the principles of product management could be applied to ones own life. It’s an interesting question and one I’m finally making some time to explore.
First, we have to define what a product manager does. In a company, they’re often wearing many hats as they work with various teams to get something shipped.
In the context of a company, a product manager could then be described as a shepherd. In the context of oneself, it’s, well—I guess it’s the same thing. You’re your own personal shepherd trying to keep yourself on a path to your goals.
It’s really easy to say yes to everything but it’s really hard to actually do everything. In a company, a product manager works with the team to decide on priorities and ensures the team has what they need to stay the course.
For myself, I know I’d love to work on the dozens of project ideas that I’ve thought of but ain’t nobody got time for that. Instead, I had to decide what my number one priority is and say no to everything else. (That’s exercise and writing.)
As much as I’d love to work on other projects, I want to reach my exercise and writing goals first and then I can work on setting new priorities.
Sometimes priorities shift and when they do, it’s important to reset expectations. For example, I have some travel coming up and I know that I am unlikely to maintain either of my goals during that time and that’s okay. I know what to expect and I can get back to those tasks when I get back.
A product manager needs to evaluate new opportunities for growth. This doesn’t need to happen every day but it’s a great exercise to go through on a somewhat regular basis.
One of the ways I do this for myself is to create a mind map of my life. I have two main branches: Work and Personal. I’ve then identified areas from that. For work, I have things like personal brand, teaching, and revenue. For personal, I have things like my kids, fitness, and creativity.
Once I’ve identified core areas, I list off a number of things that can help me grow in those areas. In going through this exercise, I can sometimes see new opportunities or recognize where I haven’t been putting enough effort.
When an opportunity addresses multiple areas of my life, those become great opportunities to work towards. For example, writing a book can allow me to grow in areas of creativity, finance, and personal brand. (Hence why I’ve tried to refocus my writing this year.)
In a company, a product manager champions the product—internally within the team and company, and externally with existing and potential customers.
As a product manager for yourself, you have to be a personal champion. Sometimes I get in a rut and I start to get down on myself. With a bit of work, I become my own personal champion. Basically, I create confidence in myself and try to display that outwardly. (My modest Canadian sensibilities sometimes makes that difficult. I’m awesome! I’m sorry, that was a bit much.)
Product Managers should be obsessed with optimizing a product to achieve the business goals while maximizing return on investment.
— Mind the Product
We human beings have a limited amount of time in this world and there are many ways to invest that time. I want to figure out how to reach my goals while maximizing my returns.
On the other hand, maybe we don’t have to be obsessed with milking every free moment in the pursuit of betterment.