Product managers, guard your mental health
Product managers often feel unappreciated as they go about their daily grind. Yes the job is not as glamorous as it seems. Often people see the final glory of a product launch but they don't see the crap and hell the product manager went through to get them to that point.
There is a lot of hardship, stress, anxiety and loneliness which happens in product management. The PM gets questioned repeatedly on the decisions that are made, on the lack of sales and profitability which puts them in a lonely corner. Managers don't realise the amount of pressure they put on these individuals.
Every product launch is like walking through fire right from the the point at which funding was asked, approvals obtained, product designed and launched. To cap it off product managers often do everything alone and its pretty much them against everyone. They have to keep influencing, prioritising and communicating at every step of the way.
Product managers are not super heros! they are people who have families to back to and the pain from the workplace can have a deeper impact on their personal lives which does not end in the office. While the whole mental health movement has now come to the forefront of discussion and some improvements have been made my message to all product managers is to TAKE CONTROL OF YOUR OWN MENTAL HEALTH and not rely on your bosses / company to create that balance which you need to stay fresh and focused.
Here are some tips for Product Managers to manage their mental health. These have worked for me and I must say that incorporating these into your daily grind will keep you happier and you might actually end up smiling more often.
Block time on your calendar for deep thinking
Product managers need time to think. When you compress your thinking time there will be a compounding effect on your stress levels as you will feel that your falling behind and not being able to think ahead and be ahead of the game.
Get out for a walk during lunch
When you get the chance change up your environment to decompress by taking a walk around the block. A good 20 minutes of fresh air is perfect for you to get your energy levels back up to get through the rest of the day.
Have a coffee/tea break with a colleague
Mix up your week by connecting with other people outside of your immediate working group. Use that coffee break to socialise with people who you rarely have a chance to interact. It will also allow you to share whats on your mind and get an external perspective.
End the workday at a normal time
Its very tempting to plough through your list of to-do and get that sense of accomplishment at 9pm! Extended hours of working are not sustainable. There is a downside to working late and that is you will begin to have mood swings, less rest and compounded effects of stress seeping into your life as you end up giving up your personal rest time.
Set meetings during the work day
No matter what time zone you work on there are enough hours in the day to schedule a meeting with anyone on the planet within a sociable hours. Try to keep meetings within your working day. Late night meetings are less productive and they impact your sleep pattern and your brain is still digesting the information from the meeting late into the night. Don't go to bed feeling anxious about what to do next after the call.
Keep one day on your calendar for your stuff
Smart product managers know that they have plenty of their own things to do. Block out your calendar so that you can do what you need to do. Dont cave in and give up that time slot. Try it for a month and you will feel better as your would be on top of your to-do list.
Don't fret on the small stuff
At times you need to walk away from the small nagging items and let others make the decisions and even live with the outcome of those decisions. If the impact is not going to be material then let it slide. There are only so many calories which your can divert your attention on. Its okay if somethings dont go as per your plan. Let it be, just let it be.
Let some escalations happen
Escalations are awesome. It rattles the cage and gets those who need to do some work to get moving. Don't try and block an escalation because you may think of it as a failure. Escalations are like a pressure cooker, let the steam out so that it gives everyone a chance to settle down.
Disconnect from work when you need to
You do not need your bosses permission to disconnect from work. You are the master of your own clock and so feel free just to switch off when you have had enough. Work takes enough out of your personal time and its fair for you to also just walk away from your grind when your feel overwhelmed.
Be ready to say NO!
Many product managers want to be nice to everyone. You have to learn to say NO! NO! NO! if the request is unreasonable, impractical or just a total waste of time. Yes its tough to say it and sometime will put you in bad light. The fact remains that the more comfortable you get to saying NO the better off you will be.
There are plenty of resources around to get into deeper discussions on Mental Health. Your number one priority should always be you. If you need help speak to someone in your organisation who can provide you guidance on how you can get the help. Human Resources is a great place to start or even your GP. They will help you determine the next steps. If you see a colleague or a friend who needs help then do help them as well, you can start by listening to them and putting them in touch with the right people.