Pay Attention Product Manager!

by drjim on June 1, 2009

Our Attention Is Like Pointing A Flashlight At Something In A Dark Room

Our Attention Is Like Pointing A Flashlight At Something In A Dark Room

So what things are demanding your attention even as you read these words: emails, Web sites, your BlackBerry, text messages, Tweets, cell phone calls, … So much for having the ability to pay enough attention to get any work done.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we knew how to keep our minds on something long enough to make progress on our products? Well good news, Winifred Gallagher has written a book called Rapt: Attention and the Focused Life in which she investigates our mind’s capacity to pay attention.

Look, don’t we all feel like those attention deficit disorder (ADD) little kids – we keep getting distracted and just can’t seem to focus on anything? Well, good news – most of us probably don’t have a medical problem. Instead, we’ve probably been trying to multitask just a bit too much.

Here’s the key thing: your mental attention is like a flashlight in a dark room – we can only point it towards a thin slice of what surrounds us at any time. When something new catches our attention, we point that flashlight in a different direction.

So what can product mangers do to boost our ability for focused attention? You need to find ways to push yourself close to the very edge of your competence. This will then require you to pay close attention. Note that researchers have discovered that the difference between being overwhelmed (stressed out) and underwhelmed (bored) is a fine line. When you’re there, they say that you are in the “zone”.

If you want to be a better product manger, Gallagher says that you should:

  • Start to practice meditation – it calms you and allows you to focus on the future.
  • Pause and be aware of the here and now.
  • Cultivate your willpower – just like a muscle, it will get stronger the more you use it.
  • Eliminate those distractions that you can control.

Questions For You

Do you think that you get distracted too easily? Has this been getting worse over time? What steps have you taken to help you focus on your work? Have any of these helped? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.

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Coming Up Next Time

In the world of product mangers, there are some events that are only spoken about in hushed tones. Examples of product manager decisions that, when seen in the rear view mirror of time, just seem so very, very wrong that you wonder why the decision was ever made. Up until now the poster product for this kind of MAJOR screw-up has always been new Coke. However, someone has now taken its place – Tropicana…

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