Declare Bankruptcy

Sometimes you have to just declare bankruptcy.

No! Not financially, but productivity-wise. People have a tendency to hoard things. Emails are the worst, but there are other things people hoard – especially in professional settings. Files. Old presentations. Spreadsheets. Ideas.

Admit it. You probably have some crazy folder structure that is maybe half relevant to what you do, but was based on some idea you had a couple years ago. Now you don’t even remember what’s eight layers deep in that hierarchy. So you just use omni search on your Mac to find what you’re looking for (if you don’t do that already, you should start).

I see this a lot with tickets, user stories, bugs, and a bunch of other things. People place irrational value in having all of those sorts of things ‘tracked.’ The reality is that they probably have not looked at any of those items in months, if not years. But, there’s a huge list of things. It’s intimidating to look at that list because it seems like you are just totally swamped and will never get out from under it. It clutters your thoughts when you need clarity.

But you can. And when you do, you will feel liberated.

The only thing you can do is declare bankruptcy and delete it all.

Yes, that’s right.


You may black-out when you hit the button from the anxiety, but a funny thing happens once you make the leap and black back in — nothing.

Nothing happens.

The sky is still blue. The world is still there. There is still important work to do. If you’re too scared to delete, you can always just archive. Storage is cheap nowadays and search is pretty good with most stuff.

Now, the only difference from before is that you have now de-cluttered. You have freed yourself from the tyranny of all those things you were never going to do anyways. Now focus on the important stuff that matters.

As a product manager, you should NOT be in the business of tracking what everyone in the company thinks we should maybe do one day. You should be laser-focused on what is in front of your business in the next 90 days max. That’s six two-week sprints. That is so much time.

In fact, by keeping it somewhere a stakeholder can see it, you are setting an implicit message that it will get done at some point, regardless if it ever will. It validates the idea. You’ve now set yourself up for conflict down the road. That is bad and will waste your time.

It’s just not logical (a nice way of saying crazy) to think that if something isn’t important today that it will miraculously become a priority if it stays on some random list for long enough. Or maybe the thought is that you’ll do all that other important work first and then have some time to do unimportant stuff – again crazy. What’s more, if those things you deleted are important, it will come up again. I promise. You won’t be able to ignore it.

It feels great. It does.

I discovered this when we moved from an old ticket system to Trello (highly recommended). We just moved systems and started fresh. No import, not translation. Nothing. Just a fresh Trello board and the path forward. It felt amazing. I now do it with email, my to-do list, and a few other things I do to manage my productivity.

Fight the clutter, declare bankruptcy, make the leap, and delete it!

Then the hard work of keeping things de-cluttered so you don’t need to declare bankruptcy again any time soon.


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