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How to avoid becoming a burnt out product manager

First of all, congratulations on your amazing role. Being a Product Manager sounds like a dream job for a lot of people: it is creative, far from monotonous and involves working with very smart people. Not to mention when you also get the chance to build amazing products that make the lives of people around us better. We should all be grateful for this forever, right? Then why is it that so many successful product people quickly find themselves burnt out?


You are smiling and outspoken, but deep down you are feeling overwhelmed by all the items left on your to do list and the countless interruptions you get from the development team every day.


Being a PM is always more than just a 9 to 5 job as there's always room for your product to become better. Do you feel terrified by all the items left on your to do list but at the same time need to save the appearances and appear smiling and confident in front of your team and stakeholders? If you are feeling overwhelmed by it all, take a step back and ask yourself a few questions.


1.   What is my goal? Do we need to quickly ship that mass-market product before Christmas? or is it more like building the Taj Mahal of software as a service products? Try to simplify as much as possible your goal.

 

2.   What is my strategy? Once it is clear what goal you are after, you need to clarify your strategy in a way that even your mother would understand if you'd explain it to her.

 

3.   Why am I stressed? Personally I would become extremely stressed before every product demo I was going to present, while working on the presentation, testing all the use cases and user journeys and at the same time being interrupted by the team with various questions, by my managers/ stakeholders with other issues that were not at all related with the objective I was focusing on at that moment.

4.   What can I do to reduce my stress levels?
- Learn to say no. Even if it is your manager who wants something urgently, take a few deep breaths before explaining to him that it will have to wait until after the presentation or other important milestone you are currently working on. Be prepared with arguments and be nice.
- Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize. Bear in mind that not all problems are created equal. Always ask more questions about them until you can properly sort them in their order of importance.
- Breath and meditate. I know this sounds cliche but it really helps to create a daily morning routine of some light exercising, practicing mindfulness etc. Whatever works for you and helps you unwind will help put you in a positive state of mind that can last all day.


These ideas and techniques should help out if you are mildly burnt out. If however you are among the more severe cases of extenuation by work, you should try out the following.

·         Take a longer break from work. Go away for 3 weeks at least and don't touch anything work related. Try to go within and meditate on what it is that you desire from your life. This should help you go over your initial motivations when you first started off in this field and help you assess if those motivations are still holding.

·         It is ok to want to pursue new things outside product management. Having interests outside of your work related area of expertise is a good thing and can help you unwind in your free time. You can even think about starting a side gig if you feel you could draw your necessary motivation from there. Sometimes it's not as important where we get our motivation from as it is to HAVE a motivation in life.

·         Set up some time to learn a new skill. Us human beings have a need to continue developing ourselves. If you are feeling stuck in your current position and lacking energy, try to take on a new interest outside of the office. Maybe you've always wanted to learn how to paint, sew or pilot a plane. Whatever you passion is, go for it on the side as much as you can. It will definitely bring you new and positive energy.

·         Give back. I particularly find this useful everytime I feel out of place. It doesn't matter how you are giving back. Helping anyone improve their product management skills or any other skills you may have expertise in is an amazing way to shift your focus from your misery to someone else's potential success. This will have wonderful effects on your state of mind, guaranteed.

 

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