Time...arguably the most valuable resource we all have is limited. Deadlines are all too often merciless, stakeholders are impatient, whilst the dynamic market continues to move forward whether your product delivers or not.
As product managers, or any kind of manager for that matter, we are constantly in danger of spending our time within an ever-growing loop of TODOs and the “important vs urgent” principle is often disregarded in the inertia of the day despite our high efforts and best interests to overcome the danger.
In short, even with very good self-discipline, time wasters are constantly lurking on all of us and we often end up paying it forward to our peers. To name a few of my “favourites”:
- Processes - and people serving them instead of the other way around
- Context switching/multi-tasking – Myth or not, we all do it constantly in most parts of the day and it affects the quality of the tasks that we are serving (although one can only measure the negative effect when we do the opposite and focus deeply to complete a single task.
- Estimates (to some extent... but this topic deserves a blog entry on its own)
- Attention Residue – Social Media, Emails, Estimates, and the crowd’s favourite: Meetings. The funny thing is that we are both victims and residue-triggers for others at the same time
I will focus further on a very specific time waster generator which is usually in a blind spot.
Should this have been an email instead?
The average human focus factor peaks for around 2-3 hours per day so taking advantage of these most precious intervals is one of the few ways of befriending time and spending your efforts towards generating value out of your resources.
If you’re not an “owl” (from the time perspective), you are probably most productive during the hours of the morning and then you get a 2nd best peak in the afternoon like shown in the “Camel” graph below:
How do you spend this time?
Are you deep working on your most important task of the day or are you rather feeling stuck in a meeting which should have been a mail in the first place?
You could try the following:
Whether you are a developer, consultant, analyst, or any other role performing in a team, you as a professional have the first responsibility to develop this self-awareness and do the best time management job that your role allows. Step by step, by building the habit, by clicking the X on that outlook window, by turning off the social media notifications, by saying “No” when it needs to be said, and by facing the sole-most important task of the day in your peak interval.
If you are in the shoes of a scrum master (or any other role that overlaps in responsibilities) it is your main responsibility to protect the team from distractions and interferences against achieving the most immediate goals. I encourage you to draw the productivity camel for the entire team and find out when your peers need the most protection so that they can perform undisturbed. It is also on your shoulders to coach the team members to find their peak intervals and helping them organize their daily work as such. There is an average team peak time which you need to find and stoically protect.
If you are a manager, you know that the team will make time for you at the cost of their schedules (I pledge guilty for several cases…). So before “designing” the calendar for them, ask yourself if the cost of sacrificing the team’s average peak performance time is lower than the cost of you adjusting your schedule. The answer might surprise you.