Product managers and product marketers live in an intensely networked world - our jobs require us to spend a disproportionate amount of time in meetings with others in order to accomplish our goals. Take a look at any of our calendars and you'll see a patchwork of weekly/monthly/quarterly/yearly recurring meetings. During release seasons, you may see that we're completely booked.
It will be immediately clear what's "urgent". But will it be equally clear what's "important"?
I ask because one of the quality-of-life problems for practitioners of our craft is - wait for it - not having enough time to dedicate to the long-cycle problems. And one reason we don't have enough time is that we're too free with it.
Have you ever heard the following statement: "I looked at your calendar and saw you were free, so I scheduled a meeting with you"?
Conversely, have you ever heard the following statement: "I looked at your calendar and decided what I needed you to do was more urgent than what you had scheduled at the time, so I scheduled a meeting with you"?
My bet is you've heard both - the former from peers and subordinates, and the latter from the folks you work for.
In both situations you ask yourself- do you want to be the one who DECLINES the meeting and upsets the cart? Or do you just accept, secretly resentful that you've been pulled away from a task that you need to accomplish? Are the first words out of your mouth at the meeting "where is the agenda" and "I have a hard stop at. . ."?
Or: do you schedule time to advance your non-urgent (or "long-cycle") agendas, and if you do, do you label them in a manner that would make sense to a third party? Beyond the title, do you include any details in the meeting notes that could help the viewer understand what you were doing and why?
I ask for two reasons - one external to you and one internal - with a bonus outcome you may not have anticipated.
Externally, booking your own time for activities that make sense to an external viewer raises the bar for someone looking to take that time away from you. It also forces you to "reschedule" those activities to remove the conflict from your calendar (if you accept the meeting), which means they'll still get done. Marking a time for "projects" is OK, but it's not going to stand up to much external scrutiny.
The bonus outcome is you become more transparent. Your process for advancing your personal agendas is visible to everyone, especially those whose contributions are required for you to accomplish them. For the members of your team, imagine seeing an item on your calendar that reads "update team MBO progress" every month.
And this helps to make time for the activities that can get "lost" - how many of you PMs wish you had more time to spend with telesales? Get it on your calendar. Tell them that you've got time dedicated to them each month, and that they can book you for time to sit at their desks with a pair of headphones on, listening to actual prospects.
It also serves as a helpful tool for justifying an investment in additional staff - when you run out of time to advance the agendas you've been assigned you have three choices: find more time, eliminate some existing agendas from your list, get more resources. Option number one is only an option if you're not managing your time well, and option number two is only an option if you're not managing your priorities well. Once those are both as tight as you can get them, you can make a good argument to add staff.
I'm sure there are other benefits that you, my dear reader, will remind me of. But I've run out of time today to write you and must move on to my next activity.
"7:00am: make coffee for Julie"
No way am I rescheduling that.