How to divide your time

  • 17 December 2021
  • 2 replies

Userlevel 4
Badge +2

Hello all! 

I am having a bit of a time management struggle (as does everyone now and then), but in this struggle, I was wondering something. 

How do/would you fellow Product peeps divide time between different tasks? Do you plan fixed blocks of time in a week to work on specific tasks? Such as: discovery, data analysis, functional analysis, … 

Of course, depending on how big the team is and what roles exist, some tasks might not be your job, but anyway.

My plan is to “schedule” the entire week with specific blocks of work, and only leave half of every day for internal or external meetings. Everyone needs to stay away from those planned parts of the day where I have work to do. 

That way, I know I have all the different topics covered where I need to put in some work, and at least half a day is free to get into some focus. 

How do you do it? How would you do it? 

Thanks for all the shared insights! 

2 replies

Userlevel 7
Badge +12

Time management in product is a tricky thing for sure, it’s great to see you reaching out about this topic and being open about the challenges you’re facing. Some thoughts on this:

The big five time management strategies are:

  1. Having a to-do list for your tasks
  2. Prioritizing your tasks
  3. Managing distractions
  4. Time blocking your work
  5. Monitoring where your time goes

My suggestions:

First, Look for ways to delegate to others (if you can), shorten existing meetings, and also limit the number of tasks you tackle at once (your WIP limit in Personal Kanban)

Second, make a list. I’m going to guess you have a list already 😀 but if you don’t, start here.

Third, once you have a list, then you need to do some prioritization. Many PMs will carve up their time into a set of larger focus areas -- X% on working on your main objectives and the work associated with those, X% on exploring new opportunities, and X% on things like personal development or more forward strategic thinking. Make sure you leave time for all of these.

Fourth, time boxing your calendar so you have focussed blocks. And having focussed blocks will help you minimize distractions. It’s significantly easier to avoid those being booked over when everyone has the same blocks. For example, here at Productboard we have No Meeting Wednesdays where we are encouraged to not meet one another. Other places I’ve worked at calendar hacked collectively to create blocks of time over the week.

Fifth, talk to others in your org, share your challenge, and see if they can offer solutions as well.

Hope that helps.

Userlevel 5
Badge +2

This request reminded me of a classic article by Paul Graham: Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule

I keep struggling with balancing tasks as a PM and I believe a core reason to be PMs have a hybrid maker+manager schedule. We’re individual contributors (at least, before we start managing product management) but stakeholder comms are both our in- and outputs.

A product leader once told me “a PM should be 70% outward-facing, 30% inwards”. I can relate to that if the 70% includes alignment on ‘outward comms’ like helping out on sales & marketing collaterals or supporting CS to learn about an upcoming development. 

Furthermore, the balance between tasks will vary greatly depending on whether you’re mid-quarter (research/execution) or approaching end-of-quarter (OKRs, planning).

Things I’m finding useful to help keep certain tasks under control (time-wise):

  • Microsoft’s Focus plan feature in O365
  • Using different event types & availability schedules in Calendly to ‘budget’ time between tasks (e.g. max 5h/week on discovery for Project X, max 3h/week CS office hours etc.)