Sticking to new habits is always hard.

I often find myself experimenting with new tactics to increase my learning, be more productive, or save myself time (so I can focus on more ‘valuable’ things). Notice, I don’t call them habits. They are deliberately experiments. Only if they prove effective would I continue to focus on them, ultimately with the goal to make them habits. Continue reading “”


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.

Kill your email

Communication is the lifeblood of a business. Without it, there is confusion, misalignment, wasted effort, missed opportunities, poor performance, and failure. Email revolutionized communications. Email reduced the time to communicate AND increased information density at the same time. The ROI on those simultaneous improvements to communication was incomparable. Rapid adoption ensued and everyone became glued to their email.

As with most technologies, and the innovations that disrupt them, email reached (a long time ago) a mature state. We are now entering a post-email age. New forms of communication are emerging that push the boundaries to an even more efficient frontier.

Email suffers from some significant shortcomings that are no longer justified in the face of new solutions. There are now solutions, from Trello to Slack to Basecamp, that better optimize both variables of the ROI.

What does this mean for you?

Try to move all your communications off of email. That might sound crazy, but just try it. Especially if you are a PM.

Encourage face to face interactions when there is a need for synchronous information exchanges. Face to face will always will be the best form of communication. Use new tools when there is a need for asynchronous information exchanges.

We are currently experimenting with some new processes where email is not allowed. The early results are positive. Stakeholders are more active participants. They are providing better information, faster. They have more clarity of thought.

But, why is that?

My hypothesis is that email has become a crutch. Response time often comes at the expense of a thoughtful response. By changing the medium, it forces people to take a bit more time and organize their thoughts. The end result is that the communication is more information rich and actionable. The information is more dense, but the amount of time it took to communicate (using the new tools) is equal to that of email. Thus, the ROI is better on that new form of communication, when compared to email.

Plus, no longer being a slave to your inbox is amazing. At first, you are anxious because you don’t have a ton of email – but then you realize – that’s the point. You and your team will be more productive. Stakeholders are better equipped with the info they need. And you can finally start doing all that work that has piled up because you had been spending so much time responding to emails!

What do you think? Give it a shot and let me know how it goes.

Productivity Hack

I came across a very interesting article yesterday about a cool productivity hack, from none other than Jerry Seinfeld. The basic principle is to visualize your progress. No tech, no complex system. All you have to do is take a big calendar that contains all of the days of the year. When you complete your stated goal (i.e. study a language, complete a coding excercise, stop smoking, etc), you make a big red “X” on that day.

As with all attempts to reinforce good behavior or get away from bad ones, the first week is critical. In that first week, your goal is to have a big red “X” in each day. After that, all you have to do is keep the chain going. See how long you can do it and before you know it, you’ll be on your way to the behavior you want.

Seinfeld used it for writing. He believed that the only way to be a good comic was to keep developing better jokes. Writing was his way to do that and he wanted to write every day.

Continue reading “Productivity Hack”