Time management for Product Managers (70-20-10 rule)

If you’d like to ask me questions, @ me on Twitter.

The following question comes from David from the PMHQ community on Slack:

How do you manage your time as a Product Manager? When should I focus on short term products and features vs long term experiments that are risky but that may have a great impact on the company?

Short answer

First of all, I meticulously manage my priorities and schedule to reach a zero inbox every day.

Secondly, as a Product Manager, I like to apply the 70-20-10 rule from Google to my work:

  • 70% of my time is spent working on my defined objectives for the quarter
    • This includes the current sprint, future sprints, and retrospectives of past sprints
  • 20% of my time is spent working to identify and validate new opportunities to improve my KPIs
    • This includes customer interviews, surveys, or data analysis to find better ways to achieve my objectives
  • 10% of my time is spent on identifying completely new, crazy projects that will help the company grow
    • These are projects that may or may not be related to my current KPIs

Long answer

If you take the following 3 actions right now, then I promise that you will have a dramatic increase in your daily and weekly productivity.

1. Time box your weekly calendar

Currently at Gliffy, I reserve Mondays and Fridays as my no meetings days. I literally block out my calendar and make myself unavailable for meetings (except for my daily SCRUM meetings of course).

Take the time to block out sections of your weekly calendar for focused work, meetings, experiments, customer interviews, working out, or anything else you need to accomplish.

2. Get to a zero inbox every day

Here is an article I wrote about how I get to zero inbox every day.

3. Prioritize using ICE

Here is an article I wrote about how I use ICE to set priorities.

Here is ICE in practice at Chou Force:

As a Product Manager, I am responsible for leading a team to build a product towards a defined objective.

I manage my time using the 70-20-10 rule from Google.

70% of my time

I spend the vast majority of my time working on the following:

  1. Writing requirements
  2. Managing the current sprint
  3. Planning a future sprint
  4. Measuring past initiatives
  5. Unblocking my team members
  6. Managing and aligning my team

A Product Manager usually doesn’t have many direct reports. Instead, a Product Manager has to lead a very diverse team composed of engineers (who report to the Head of Engineering), designers (who report to the Head of Design), product marketers (who report to the Head of Marketing), and data scientists (I think you get the picture).

For this reason, a big part of my responsibilities is to make sure the team is aligned and we know why, how, and what we’re building.

I try to avoid meetings as much as possible, but usually hold several alignment meetings each week to track progress and make sure we’re on track to reach our objectives.

20% of my time

I spend 20% of my time identifying and validating opportunities with customers.

Every two weeks, I present our latest products to customers over a video conference. I also ask specific questions to identify any jobs-to-be-done that the customer has.

I usually invite my UX and Product Marketing team members to join me on these customer interviews.

10% of my time

10% of my time is spent on crazy ideas. It’s difficult to find the time to do this, so I use several tricks to get it done:

  1. I recruit at least 1 person from my team to join me on this crazy experiment. Using CD5 helps to push me to work on crazy projects and it’s always fun working with someone else.
  2. I make sure the person I recruit has a complimentary skill-set. Usually, I work with my UX team member so that we can build and test prototypes using Sketch and Invision.
  3. We present our crazy prototypes during customer interviews.
  4. We present our findings during weekly team demos.

I hope this helps you stay focused and effective as you progress in your PM career.

Published by

Jun Loayza

Jun Loayza is the Chief Growth Officer at Bunny Inc. In his startup experience, he has sold 2 technology companies and raised $1M in angel funding. Jun lives in San Francisco, CA with his wife Kim.