Learn how to Prioritize Your Product Work

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The vary of labor we do as product managers is so broad that we inevitably find yourself discovering inspiration from all kinds of sources, whether or not it’s books on enterprise technique or essays on design.

Nonetheless, the guide that has given me probably the most perception into the character of my work is considerably unlikely – psychologist Daniel Kahneman’s non-fiction bestseller Considering, Quick and Gradual.

“Our mind has two very distinct modes of thought: System 1 (quick, computerized, and impulsive) and System 2 (sluggish, acutely aware, and deliberative)”

The Nobel Prize winner’s examine of how the mind operates was successful when it was revealed in 2011, considerably surprisingly given its dense descriptions of Kahneman and his colleague Amos Tversky’s psychological experiments on cognitive biases.

However the motive it resonated a lot with readers was its highly effective core discovering – our mind has two very distinct modes, or methods, of thought: System 1 (quick, computerized, and impulsive) and System 2 (sluggish, acutely aware, and deliberative).

In detailing his voluminous analysis, Kahneman reveals the fixed stress between these two modes, competing and complementing each other relying on the circumstances.

Considering, quick and sluggish, in product administration

What, you would possibly marvel, does this need to do with product administration?

Nicely, I couldn’t assist however see in Kahneman’s perception a metaphor for the totally different, competing duties confronted by product managers and the way we deal with the stress between these duties.

We have now numerous repetitive System 1 duties that we have to do each week, equivalent to triaging electronic mail, updating experiences, and facilitating workforce conferences. However we’re additionally anticipated to carry out a sequence of System 2 duties, equivalent to rigorously contemplating a product roadmap, framing person issues, enterprise strategic evaluation, and evaluating totally different potential options.

“Being conscious of the 2 modes of thought helps you establish the danger of quick System 1 reactions that may lead you astray with defective assumptions”

Crucially, being conscious of the 2 distinct modes of thought helps you establish the danger of quick System 1 reactions that may lead you astray attributable to defective assumptions, whereas additionally providing you with extra confidence round when it’s okay to depend on these System 1 instincts.

Bearing the 2 methods in thoughts permits you to distinguish between product administration duties:

  • Those your mind is ready to take actions shortly on (quick).
  • Those the place it is advisable sit down, take a breath, and ‘assume’ deeply (sluggish).

Why does it matter?

Having sense of how and while you depend on your totally different methods helps you make the suitable selections, enhance your productiveness, and in the end save vitality. 

Listed here are two pointers to get there.

Rule 1: Know when to lean in your quick System 1 reactions

For those who encounter repetitive duties, be assured in your quick System 1 responses to deal with them. Study to belief your instincts in relation to sure duties.

In different phrases make System 1 your default system to method these duties. It ensures you don’t waste vitality on belongings you’re doing over and over. It permits you to unlock time for the remaining  –  the laborious issues  –  that you simply need to grow to be higher at and reduces the possibility you grow to be a blocker.

By with the ability to set off your System 1 effectively, you cut back the cognitive overhead you place into your days. It additionally helps you clear your calendar and head for extra demanding System 2 duties.

⭐️ Suggestions for utilizing your quick System 1 ⭐️

  1. If a process takes lower than 2 minutes, don’t postpone; do it now! This now well-known idea from David Allen’s bestselling guide Getting Issues Executed will pressure you to lean on System 1.
  2. If the choice is reversible, then making the decision is all the time making progress. If you delay selections, they pile up. Don’t await the right answer. Resolve and transfer ahead. Once more, this requires you to depend on System 1.
  3. Days with Swiss cheese calendars occur. Use these slots to make loads of small selections.

Rule 2: Shield and management your sluggish System 2

Your System 2 is a robust asset for problem-solving and intense evaluation, but it surely takes focus and time to course of completely.

You could shield that skill to lean in your System 2 considering. To take action, give your acutely aware self area to make selections, construct with motive, and replicate on the ideas and actions that System 1 promotes.

Ensure that to actively design your days and decrease context switching – consolidate recurring conferences, decide your response schedule, put aside workplace hours, block out time for deep focus, and at last, prioritize ruthlessly.

Shield your System 2 considering from bias and overconfidence.

You additionally want to regulate it. Why? Techniques are a dynamic that may put your work in danger. The 2 methods in your mind are continuously combating over management of your behaviors and actions, resulting in errors in reminiscence, judgment, and selections.

Put merely, we regularly assume we’re being rational and rigorous, however usually we are literally leaning on System 1 reactive considering.

When was the final time you made a name for a undertaking that was in step with the very first instinct that sparkled in your thoughts on this undertaking? If this ever occurred to you, it’s potential that your System 1 took over System 2.

Kahneman known as this cognitive bias “What you see is all there’s”, or WYSIATI, which captures how our mind can understand issues as less complicated than they really are. A model of this bias is obvious after we take a look at the picture beneath. At a fast look, which arrow is longer?

The traces are the identical size, however our mind isn’t all the time rigorous when making fast approximations with restricted proof. As a product supervisor, it’s essential to pay attention to the danger of considering with our intestine after we really want to assume with our brains.

⭐️ Suggestions for safeguarding your sluggish System ️2 ⭐️

  1. Keep away from pointless conferences. They’re the worst interruptions of all. In case you are working on a maker’s schedule, conferences are a catastrophe (see Paul Graham’s well-known essay about it). Allocate blocks of time for System 2 considering that match your peak home windows of vitality.
  2. Design your setting to battle the busy bandwagon of labor and the infinity swimming pools of leisure. You could find nice recommendation about this in Jake Knapp‘s guide Make Time: Learn how to Give attention to What Issues Each Day.
  3. Construction your work with frameworks that embrace constraints to assist System 2 to naturally take over. Decreasing the scope of an issue or process truly frees us to assume deeply about it. When we have to make scoping selections at Intercom, we begin with a cupcake.

Itemizing work by your quick and sluggish methods

Impressed by Kahneman, I started to itemize my numerous duties by which mode of thought I utilized. This proved a really helpful train – I used to be capable of lean on the “correct” system of considering for duties equivalent to analyzing person suggestions and compiling efficiency experiences. This consciousness of how I used to be counting on the totally different methods allowed me to allocate the mandatory time to duties that required System 2.

I’d encourage you to map out your duties and ask your self whether or not you’re utilizing your methods in probably the most environment friendly manner potential. When you take into account the complete vary of duties you must full each week and take into consideration what system you’re participating with every of them, you’ll most likely uncover that there are efficiencies to be gained.

System considering in our on a regular basis life

Finally, we lean on our two modes of thought not simply within the work we do, however in the way in which we dwell our life. This consciousness has helped me see that my System 2 considering doesn’t simply assist once I’m participating with thorny product issues – it’s far more profound than that.

“Once we take into consideration our personal progress and improvement, it’s too straightforward to fall again on System 1 considering”

Once we take into consideration our personal progress and improvement, it’s too straightforward to fall again on System 1 considering somewhat than giving ourselves the time to prioritize a thought of, reflective System 2 method to evaluating what’s essential in our lives and the right way to obtain it.

Give your self the time to query assumptions you will have about your individual trajectory. In the long run, life is about attaining that stability between the quick and the sluggish.


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Enzo Avigo

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