How Product Managers Can Make Time Work For Them

by drjim on October 22, 2008

Product Mangers Can Turn Time Into Their Friend

Product Mangers Can Turn Time Into Their Friend

Dang – just where does the time seem to go? I don’t know about you but as of late I seem to be running out of time or just simply running behind more often than in the past. I’d like to blame the current turmoil in the financial markets; however, that’s not the problem. There are many, many more people who are better qualified than I talk about time management (I’m sorta a fan of GTD myself), but I do have one secret that I’d like to share with you. No promises, but if you believe what I’m going to share with you and if you take the time to implement it, then there is a pretty good chance that you’ll become the best product manager in the world. Sound interesting? Then read on…

Forget having enough time to do everything that you have to get done. Instead, think for just a moment about projecting an image of being in control of your time. What do you think would happen if everyone who encountered you was left with the impression that you had it all under control? Would your boss be impressed? Would your team be more willing to do what you tell them to do? Could you run meeting more efficiently? Would you just get more respect from everyone? You may be laughing right now and saying that a thin veneer of control put over your normal out-of-control personality is not going to accomplish anything. However, that’s where I think that you would be wrong…

If you think back a bit, you might remember that there was a book called The Secret that was very popular awhile ago. In a nutshell, the secret was that if you can imagine something, then you can make it happen. This applies to making others believe that you have control over your time. However, I’m going get just a bit more specific here and give you one single change that if you implement it will have a dramatic and positive impact on your life: start showing up early.

What this means in the day-to-day life of a product manager is that you need to start to show up for meeting early (5-10 minutes will do) and even more importantly, you need to start to jump on call bridges early (5 minutes will do here). I don’t know about you, but up until just recently I was a constantly late shower-upper. I would slide into calls 5 minutes late and hope that whoever was running the meeting would not stop the call and ask who had just joined when they heard the “beep” that announced my arrival. I’d slug through the call and then slink off when it was over no better or worse for the time spent on the call.

A few weeks ago, I accidentally showed up for a call early. You can imagine how surprised I was when there was nobody on the bridge when I joined (there was that moment where I felt that I needed to check to make sure that I had the right call-in numbers). What happened next really caught my attention: other people started to join. These just happened to be people that I had been trying with no luck to get in touch with. I had very quick, very short conversations with three of them as they joined and got commitments from them to send me answers and materials that I desperately needed. As others joined I exchanged small talk with them and reconnected with people that I knew but had not seen in a long time. When the call’s leader joined he fumbled around for a bit and this gave me time to ask a very good, penetrating question about what he wanted to accomplish on this call and that got everyone involved in a discussion. Man, it was almost like I was running the show!

Based on the success of this accidental event, I started showing up early for all of my meetings that week and found that the same sequence of events repeated itself. Others looked at me as though I was in charge, I connected with other people who were in the meeting, and I was able to make face-to-face requests for support and materials that were never turned down. Wow – who knew that getting what you wanted could be so easy?

Yes, I realize that showing up early for meetings and calls won’t solve all of life’s problems. However, it sure seems to make a lot of little things run much easier. When you couple that with the fact that it’s so very easy to do, why not give it a try and see what it does for you?

When do you show up for meetings & calls – early or late? When you are the one who is running the meeting do you show up early or do you still come late? Have you always been this way or did something cause you to be an early/late person? Leave a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Scott Sehlhorst October 23, 2008 at 8:36 am

Great suggestion, Jim!

I was working on a global client project a few months ago that had weekly conference calls with stakeholders from different regions (Americas, Europe, Asia, etc). The call was at 7am in my time zone (and the meeting organizer’s). I was able to get on the call a few minutes early and do exactly what you suggest several times. And it played out just like you described. It didn’t occur to me that it was a pattern – I just figured it was because of the massive time zone differences for all involved.

Really cool insight, thanks for sharing! (And congrats on your alltop placement!)

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Dr. Jim Anderson October 23, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Scott: full agreement! Sometimes it’s the littlest things that can make our lives better. It’s the calls with folks in Australia that always kill my time schedule! Thanks for reading the blog, there’s more good stuff to come…

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