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Simple steps product managers can take to become Time Rich
Would you like to get more done? Product managers are pulled in many directions, and if you are like others, you struggle to get the most important things done, let along everything you are asked to do.
Our guest knows a lot about this. He was an intrapreneur in large organizations. He got tired of being “busy” all day and having little to show for it. When he started his own company, he needed to learn how to actually work, and what he learned was how to get twice as much done in half the time. That is something I want, and I bet you do, too.
He is still involved in innovation, as he co-founded Collective Campus, a corporate innovation accelerator. His name is Steve Glaveski and we discuss his system for getting more accomplished in less time. He also has written about the system in his recent book, Time Rich.
Summary of some concepts discussed for product managers
[2:17] How did you create your system to get twice as much done in half the time?
When I worked for large corporations, I and my coworkers had little incentive for greater efficiency, but when I started my own company, I became intentional about creating an organization where people walk away from their work fulfilled. I found that I was fulfilled on days when I got high-value work done. We ran an experiment to try to double our output or at least keep it consistent while having only a six-hour work day. The time it takes to complete a task expands or contracts in proportion to the time we are given to do it. Having a six-hour work day forces us to focus on high-value tasks and figuring out how to outsource or automate low-value tasks.
[6:10] How does your Time Rich system contrast with The 4-Hour Work Week?
The 4-Hour Work Week had a significant impact on my life, but Time Rich is different. The 4-Hour Work Week focuses on making the leap from employee to entrepreneur, but my system is for individuals working either for themselves or as part of a team, and for leaders of organizations looking to build Time Rich cultures. A lot has changed since The 4-Hour Work Week was published in 2007. We have more distractions; today the average person spends four hours a day, or eight weeks a year, looking at their smartphone. Picking up the phone every few minutes gets us out of the flow state, where we’re up to five times more productive than when we’re doing shallow work.
[9:59] In order to become Time Rich, what behaviors should we avoid?
Saying yes to too much: Some people say they’re time-poor, but they’re really decision-poor—they are saying “yes” to things they should be saying “no” to. Saying “yes” to every opportunity means saying “no” to your goals.
Distractions: Even a distraction of one tenth of a second can lead to a 40% productivity loss over the course of the day. Glancing at a notification on your phone takes you out of flow, and your intense focus fades away. The average person spends three hours per day checking email; we are efficient at responding to other people’s demands on our time but not at prioritizing our time.
Residual work: We might spend a day putting together a proposal but then spend two days tweaking the wording and formatting. We’ve created 95% of the value the first day, but it’s much easier to spend two more days tweaking than to move on to the next difficult thing that requires thinking and focus. The best way to get started on difficult work is to take the smallest possible step. Commit to reading one page; then it’s easier to read the whole chapter.
[17:40] What behaviors should we start doing?
Follow my acronym P-COATS.
Prioritize: Focus on the highest value tasks. The 80/20 Principle says that the top 20% of your tasks create 80% of the value. If you have ten tasks to complete, chances are the top two or three are way more valuable than the other seven. If you only get those top tasks done, you have won the day. Prioritize tasks by determining the value on a scale of one to ten and dividing by the cost in time. If you find a task that is not aligned with your strengths, you might want to outsource it to free yourself to do tasks that you enjoy and are good at.
Cut: Eliminate tasks that aren’t worth doing. Every quarter, my team and I draw four quadrants labelled “start,” “stop,” “more,” and “less.” We reflect on tasks, customer segments, product features, etc., and write down what’s working and what’s not. Writing this down on a quarterly basis will help you avoid getting stuck in the habit of doing the same old things.
Outsource: Use external contractors to do work. Nowadays, organizations can achieve more with fewer full-time permanent employees because the cost of finding, onboarding, and working with quality resources for complex work has gone way down. You can outsource not only rudimentary tasks but also more complex tasks.
Automation: Use tools to do low-value work for you. Not only does low-value, process-oriented work take a long time; it’s also demoralizing to spend time doing work that a tool could be doing it for you.
Test: Evaluate assumptions on an ongoing basis. The two biggest ways people waste time are internal analysis paralysis, which means doing the same processes again and again and making no decisions, and jumping to conclusions, which leads to spending time, money, and energy on things that don’t really serve us. Instead, test to know whether you should continue doing what you’re doing.
Start your engine: Keep your energy levels high. This is different for different people but could include exercise, nutrition, taking a short walk in the sun before work, or taking a lunch break rather than eating at your desk.
[28:05] What do people struggle with when trying to implement P-COATS and become Time Rich?
People often struggle with pushback. If they’re working in an organization, they get invited to a lot meetings and feel obligated to attend these meetings. Start with a conversation; explain to the person who invited you that you have a lot of work to do and ask them to explain why you need to be at the meeting. Dominic Price has a method called sticks and boomerangs. He started rejecting every meeting invite. Two-thirds were sticks and would not come back and one-third were boomerangs and would come back. By only responding to the boomerangs, he freed up 15 hours per week.
If you’re uncomfortable making the choice to not attend every meeting because you’re afraid you’ll lose your job, you may need to consider whether your job is right for you anyway. As people, we want to be doing meaningful work. If you’re in an organization that has a toxic culture built around 100% availability, maybe that’s not the kind of organization you want to work for.
The most important thing is to take action. If you want to be Time Rich, you will need some personal accountability to start implementing this guidance today.
Action Guide: Put the information Steve shared into action now. Click here to download the Action Guide.
- Check out Steve’s book Time Rich and download the first chapter for free.
“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; education will not; genius will not. The world is full of talented, unsuccessful men and women.” - attributed to Calvin Coolidge
Thank you for being an Everyday Innovator and learning with me from the successes and failures of product innovators, managers, and developers. If you enjoyed the discussion, help out a fellow product manager by sharing it using the social media buttons you see below.