Lead on Purpose

Promoting Leadership Principles in Product Management

Schedule accomplishments

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Most people have more work to do than they have time to finish. In many cases there’s an endless array of work (or busywork) that gets in the way and takes up time that could be used more productively. Quite often the more trivial things get in the way of the more important things, which drains energy and decreases productivity.

I found a simple, yet powerful statement on Mark Sanborn’s post Ten Things to Improve Your Life Today: “schedule accomplishments, not activity.” How often as leaders do we schedule the activity that needs to happen, but leave out what we need to accomplish? I’ve seen this tendency among product managers (including myself) to write down what will happen, not the results. A few examples might include:

  • Write the new PRD for (product name)
  • Visit three customers in August
  • Discuss market trends with management team.

While it’s better to schedule something than nothing at all (that surely leads to failure), would it not be more effective to schedule time to accomplish the desired result than simply to schedule time do the activity that leads to the result? If you schedule accomplishments, the needed activities are automatically implied. You will focus your efforts on the final results, rather than spend time “working” on things that may or may not lead to that end. Here’s and example of how you might change the statements above to focus on accomplishments:

  • Review PRD with team and obtain their approval
  • Get enough customer feedback in August to determine best solution for (product problem)
  • Obtain approval from management team for new product proposal.

Accomplishing work of any significance will always require doing activities. However, scheduling the results will lead much more directly to the desired outcome.

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