Be a smarter product manager
This article has been written by human, not an AI, so smash that clap button if you like it.
Having a clean and organized mind is a must in our profession — to stay in business, to be able to react rationally, and to work on complex tasks. Yet, somehow, I don’t see it often. It is a skill we all have to train. People are using their brains for storing information, not for thinking.
I’ve written down a list of things which I’m using to keep my mind clean and organized, maybe you’ll find something useful.
Keep as little amount of information in your head as possible. Use software instead and free up some capacity of your brain to do actual thinking.
Done? So let's go!
The best and probably fastest way to force your brain to think more deeply about an item.
Every time when I need to figure out what to do next, I just start writing things I’ve already done and the list just continues. When I want to be sure that the whole idea makes sense, I start writing. When I’m working on slides and I want to be sure my message makes sense, I start writing.
There are plenty of templates you can use to frame your mind. A customer letter is a great example. SWOT analysis, list of pros and coins, GTM strategy, or simply your suggested solution... I think it was Gibson Biddle who said the best way to build a product strategy is just to start writing it down and iterate with others.
Btw, as a product leader, I’ve sometimes expected written descriptions from PMs in my teams, so both sides can focus — maybe your manager would welcome that as well.
Use drawing when talking to your team or manager. It is one language we all speak. Instead of a long description of the first idea, draw something by hand. It makes you think and accelerates understanding of others.
Draw a wireframe, UML diagram, or a roadmap. Anything that helps your brain to focus on a specific task or problem.
The ultimate tool when training for presentations or meetings. Usually faster than writing. I also use it when I’m on the go and I want to store some broader ideas.
Available for free on your phone, you can add them to your notes as a combination of all the above.
Writing, drawing, and using voice memos have one another thing in common — they help you to focus and calm in case you have a wild mind and don’t know how to focus on one thing.
I know, I know, AI again. The thing that might bury our jobs. Before it shoots us from behind with a shotgun, it makes sense as your buddy. Enemy of my enemy…
You can ask ChatGPT about competitors, challenges, USPs, or use it in role-play mode. I’m not letting it make decisions for me, but rather I use it as another source of input in the same way I would talk to a colleague. The only difference is that I can do this 24/7 without stealing someone else’s time, and I can do it much faster.
When I was working for Mews, I would ask things like this:
“I work for a company building a property management system. I want to make a better self-service experience for guests. Is building a chatbot a good idea? What competitors are offering this? And what might be adoption challenges for hotels?”
While I was writing this article, Lenny asked on Twitter how others are using ChatGPT in reality — this might be a great inspiration.
This is already well known — use calendar blocks to do deep work. Don’t let others interrupt it. Find out what time of day works best for you, block it in your calendar, and stick with it. The biggest enemy of this method is yourself — not your colleagues asking for your time. You are the gate keeper. Stick with it!
The LNO framework
Not all tasks are equal. Some require more energy, some less. You can deal with tasks under 3 minutes immediately, don’t store them in your mind or in a never-ending task list in Asana.
The LNO framework is described by Shreays on his twitter and it might help you get things more under control.
Steer your excitement — get it done or smash it
This is something I realized recently, and it is a game-changer for me. It took me many years to understand.
If you are in love with some ideas, take any step that will help you determine if they are worth it for you or not. I always had around 1000 ideas, and I talked about them more than I actually did them. This ended up in a loophole where I had a paralysis on what ideas I want to work on.
Talk to potential clients or colleagues from a customer care about it. Write it down. Draw it. Build a lander for it. Doing these small things helped me to throw stupid or idealistic ideas into the brain’s garbage can because even they don’t deserve to stay there.
Don't forget about your job
With all the frameworks on the internet, with SVPG, with Reddit groups, with all the podcasts and Twitter wisdom… don’t forget about your job and your skills. Consuming these things might become toxic as you start looking for something that is unreal. A lot of these pieces of advice are just theory — well-written, but hardly applicable in real world. It depends heavily on the environment you work in, on your manager, and on company culture and goals.
Don’t forget about your job — do it no matter what articles say. Use it as a way to improve yourself, not as a dogma. If your job is about handling delivery and writing stories, do it. Or change the company.
It is easy to say, but hard to keep in mind and apply. Learn by doing. Good luck!