I admit it…
I’m a workaholic.
You don’t even have to dive too deep into my background to see it…
Here is a non-exhaustive list of things I’ve done in the past year:
- Wrote a Book: Disrupting Yourself
- Wrote the 2nd Edition of my first book: Building Digital Products
- Co-Founded a startup: Bullseye Education
- Launched New Educational Product Brand: The Modern Product Manager
- Launched YouTube Channel: The Modern Product Manager
- Launched Newsletter: The Modern Product Manager
- Launched Podcast: The Modern Product Manager
- Launched Product Course #1: How to Become a PM
- Launched Product Course #2: How to Succeed as a PM
- Helped wife launch her business: Agents of Change Social Work Test Prep
- + Hired an intern! 🙂
I fully recognize that this list is pretty insane. But busy is how I like it…
However, I’ve recently recognized that I’ve gone far, far too wide with testing new channels, new distribution, new content creation ideas, and it’s now time to focus.
I’m writing this post to share some of what I’ve learned and how I am focusing better on the things that matter most.
How to Focus on the Things That Matter
- Set the Right Goals/OKRs
As you begin something new (or even before you do) think about what’s important to you. You don’t have to set formal OKRs by any means, but take a breath, or two, and think about why you’re about to do what you’re about to do.
What are your goals for this project?
How does this project support your development, your interests, or your learning?
How will you rapidly learn if this project is worth continuing or stopping?
What are your goals for this year? Does it support them?
The main thing here is don’t rush into every single idea you have. I’m certainly guilty of this, I have a major bias for action. When I see what I think is an opportunity or something exciting, I run for it.
If you want a more organized way to set your personal OKRs, check out this recent post I wrote about how OKRs are a much better way to set your personal goals than “New Year’s Resolutions”:
Don’t Set Resolutions. Set Personal OKRs.
2. Set Timelines to Prove/Disprove Hypotheses
This is a big one. When you begin a project, you often have certain expectations of risk vs. reward, effort investment vs. payoff, and more.
But as you get into the project, it’s very easy to lose track of those initial expectations and fall victim to the sunk cost fallacy.
The best way to avoid this trap and to maintain focus is to set timelines for proving or disproving your hypotheses. Give yourself a week or two to determine if it’s worth investing another week or two.
Repeat this process, again and again, and keep checking in with yourself and make sure that what you’re doing still has value!
3. Keep “Tests” Lightweight
Note: I definitely violated this guidance with several of the items I mentioned at the beginning of this post, but I still believe in it!
It’s important you keep your “tests” lightweight. How can you prove or disprove this hypothesis in a week or two?
You may be skeptical: How can I prove if a book is worth writing or a course is worth producing in only a week or two? Those things can take months or years to create, Alex!
For a book: Write the introduction, create a simple landing page with LaunchRock, mock up a cover design, and start promoting it with social posts and some cheap ads. Does anyone click to buy? You can definitely pull this off in a couple of weekends!
For a course: Find people who you think would be a good fit for the course and get them to purchase 1:1 sessions with you. Learn about what specifically they are looking for help with, what they find very valuable and what they don’t. Conduct 5 of these sessions over 2 weeks (even for free if you have to!) to help inform your initial course curriculum.
There is a lightweight way to test just about anything.
You just have to think a little bit and be a little bit creative to find it. But that extra time is more than worth it vs. creating something that very few people want (or want to pay for).
4. Say “No” To Yourself 🙂
I’m giving you permission to say no to yourself.
For non-workaholics, this may sound crazy, but when I create a Trello ticket or a task on my to-do list, it’s sometimes difficult to not complete that task or to throw it away.
But as priorities change, new opportunities emerge, and the world keeps spinning, you’ll need to say “No” to yourself often to maintain focus on the things that matter.
5. Say “No” to Others!
If you’re a collaborative person, you’re going to get a lot of ideas from others, all. the. time. They’ll want your input on their projects, help with their startups, advice on their creative endeavors, and more.
I’m also giving you permission to say “No” to others as well.
Of course, think deeply about the opportunity before you say no, but again, in order to accomplish your most valuable work and in order to focus, you need to say “No” to others.
As you become more successful, you’ll find yourself saying “No” more and more often.
Thanks for reading so far! If you’re enjoying this post, I know you would enjoy my course on Product Management: How to Succeed as a Product Manager
Whether you’re an aspiring Product Manager or looking to level up, I know you’ll learn a LOT from the >50 hours of course content I’ve assembled.
I’m also offering a very limited time discount to my readers: use promo code: 25PCTOFFMPM
If you prefer books, I think you’d also enjoy Disrupting Yourself (How to Succeed in the New Economy) or Building Digital Products.
- Disrupting Yourself Special Offer
- Building Digital Products (New 2nd Edition!)
What I’ve Done Lately to Focus
- Get Help From an Intern
If you can’t do it all yourself, get others to join you!
But in all seriousness, having another person on my “team” has been incredibly helpful. Whether it’s an intern, a partner, or a co-founder, get help from someone.
In addition to being a force multiplier, they’ll offer an honest perspective on if your ideas are great or if you’re just drinking your own kool-aid.
For a more specific example, my intern Mahadeep recognized the importance of a cohesive brand (The Modern Product Manager) instantly, where I had become so in the weeds that I missed this obvious idea!
2. Kill Projects I No Longer Enjoy
You have permission to kill your projects that no longer bring you joy or no longer bring you positive value.
I’ve done this with several of my projects recently and it’s incredibly healthy.
It feels great to close those long-lived browser tabs and even better to free up that brain space for doubling down on things that matter more.
3. Evaluate What’s Worth My Time, What Isn’t
Lately, I’ve been tracking the amount of money and other value I bring in across my various properties on a monthly basis.
Writing and teaching certainly is about more than the $$$ for me (trust me, it takes a lot of reads/views/book purchases to make a living!), but it provides another regular quantitative perspective on what is working, what is not.
4. Get an Outside Perspective
In addition to hiring someone onto your team (ex. Intern, Co-Founder), make sure to get a regular outsider perspective on what you’re doing / building.
One of my hacks here is to find a small marketing agency that helps with book launches, brand building, and PR for executives and ask them to review your personal brand, etc.
At the very least, you’ll get some free advice and ideas and you’ll potentially also find another resource that can be helpful in the future if you choose to outsource some of your tasks.
5. Slow Down to Speed Up
Moving fast in the wrong direction isn’t a win.
As I mentioned in the first part of this post, don’t rush into every single idea you have. You’re likely a workaholic because you enjoy much of the work that you do, but I’m imploring you to slow down in order to speed up.
By taking more time upfront to evaluate, prioritize, and understand each idea that comes your way, you’ll end up with significantly better outcomes and ultimately will move much, much faster!
Are You a Workaholic? If so, how do you focus?
I’d love to hear from you in the comments or on Twitter at: @amitch5903
More from Alex Mitchell
The 5 P’s of Product Management
A guide highlighting the most critical components of the Product Management role.blog.usejournal.com
Product Manager as Designer
Design and Product Mgmt have always had a special relationship. Today’s PMs need to embrace their inner designer…blog.usejournal.com
4 Years Later… “10 Bold Technology Predictions for the Next 10 Years”
4 years ago, I made 10 bold technology predictions for the next 10 years. Let’s see how things stand today! Author…medium.com
The Future of Product Management
The world of Product Management is changing and it’s not just because of COVID-19. What changes/what stays the same…blog.usejournal.com
The Top 10 FREE + Paid Courses for Aspiring, New, and Leveling Up Product Managers
There is no better time to break into Product Management or to level up as a PM. Here are the resources you need…medium.com
You Are Now a “Wartime” Product Manager
Welcome to your biggest challenge and your biggest opportunity as a Product Manager. Author: Alex Mitchell.blog.usejournal.com
The Top 10 Videos to Watch for Product Managers of All Levels
The videos you need to watch, whether you’re a new PM or one who is looking to level up. Author: Alex Mitchellblog.usejournal.com
The One Thing I Look For In Every Product Manager Candidate
The One Thing I Look For In Every Product Manager Candidate: Healthy Side Hustles. Author: Alex Mitchellblog.usejournal.com
So You Just Became a Product Manager…
Things to do (and not do) in your first 90 days as a Product Manager. Author: Alex Mitchellblog.usejournal.com
How to Be a Great *Remote* Product Manager
It’s easier than ever today to go remote in tech. But it takes serious effort to be a Great Remote Product Manager…blog.usejournal.com
Disclosure: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, meaning that at no additional cost to you, I earn a commission if you click them and purchase a product.