How to manage your life like a product manager

I’ve been thinking a lot lately on how to be more productive than I currently am. At the beginning of each year I always write down a list of things I think I should get done this year, but never get around to actually doing all of them. I don’t even know at the end of the year which part was complete and which was not! So naturally I gravitated towards, maybe if I write everything down into a task list and just start checking it off, I might actually get more done. Off I went in search of a perfect TODO list tool. Many many tools later, still not getting stuff done 🙁

Then it hit me, I do this day in and day out with my day job as a product manager. Why can’t I apply the principles of product management to make my personal life better? Maybe the tool isn’t the issue, its the process?

So here is my 6 step process that I am going to follow going forward.

1: Define your target segments

Marketing 101, before you build anything you need to define who are you trying to sell this product to. what value does it bring to the customer? I inverted the definition slightly when applied to a person, what are the areas in life that I need to account for and be successful in? The answer to that question are your “segments”. My top three segments are Personal growth, Family growth and Financial growth.

2: Develop your goals for each segments

While developing any product for your target segments, you need to understand what your goals are. What do you want to get done this year, next year and beyond? Same for life, for each of your target segments add short (<1 Yr) and long term goals. For example my short term goal for the personal growth segment is to learn R and the long term goal for financial growth is to build a value stock portfolio. Keep the goals manageable, you cannot focus on more than 5-6 goals at a time. So keep it short, pick at most two highest value goals for yourself in each segment

3: Define measures for success for each goals

Its a truism, if you can’t measure it, you have no idea if you are succeeding or failing. Setup metrics for your goals. Keeping the same theme, my metrics are that I should be able to run all my investment portfolio calculations in R, no more excel, just R. For the investment goal, I should have by the end of this year three value stocks identified and purchased. Defining your success metrics upfront is key, you know what you need to hit to be successful.

4: Build A Plan

How are you going to work towards achieving the desired results for your goals? Break the goals down into executable tasks. We have a tendency to jump headlong first into this step! This is step 4, not the first thing out of the gate! As you build out the task list also start estimating how much time you think you need to finish each task. Use a tool to track the task list. I highly recommend Asana. I’ve been using it for a while and it totally rocks.

5: Prioritize the task list and track interim results at regular intervals

Once you have a list of tasks, start prioritizing them on a weekly basis. This is analogous to working the backlog in agile environments. You can use the same principles of prioritization that you use in Agile. Your capacity to do tasks equates to certain points in a week. You already have the time estimates for each task. Prioritize your task list weekly according to how you are meeting your goals and how much capacity you have in the week to devote to your personal backlog.

6: Iterate, Iterate

Continuously iterate on the task list. If things were not correctly sub tasked the first time around, no worries, change it. If the estimated time was over optimistic, no problem, update the task with the new estimate. Over time you will get into a good rhythm of getting the right stuff done. You will also be accountable to ensuring that you spend some time in your day to “personal stuff”. Its easy, trackable and flexible.

I’ll let y’all know how successful I am at this, topic for a future blog post 🙂

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