Something I recommend to PMs in my team: If you are feeling overwhelmed with work then do a calendar audit. See where your time is going and also how much control you have over your own calendar.
- Total meeting time -> Considering I work 8 hours a day/40 hours a week, how many of these 40 hours were meetings? I call this the meeting ratio. My last week: 3 hours (Monday; I keep my Mondays light), 4 hours (Tuesday), 5 hours (Wednesday), 5 hours (Thursday), 0 hours (Friday; 2nd Friday of the month is a no meeting day in our company). So the ratio is around 50% of the day for meetings.
- Meetings set by others vs me -> By others I mean external non-Transport team seeking alignment or updates. Regular cadences set by these external teams also count here. Last week there were just 2 of these meetings. So just 2 hours out of 40 working hours. With time we are moving towards more async updates which is great.
- Decision making vs Decision nudge vs Information exchange vs Org Scaling -> How much time was spent on decision making meetings vs nudge meetings where I nudged towards the decision but was not the decision-maker vs meeting where information was shared or gathered for alignment on a particular decision or goal vs org scaling which is training and hiring activities. There are meetings where multiple activities happen. Example. staff meetings and 1-1s are information exchange meetings but some training is part of them and decisions get taken as well. Last week: 5 hours in meetings where I was the decider and some decision happened, 9 hours in nudge meetings, 15 hours in information gathering, 2 hours in 1-1s. The count is more than 20 hours of meetings last week because some meetings serve more purpose than one. The math does not matter. What matters is how much time you are allocating for each activity.
- Produce vs Process vs Impress work -> Time spent on producing something directly tied to product development: specs, designs, a meeting which produced a decision which unblocked us on some project, etc vs time spent on process work: creating new processes like design review or a new spec writing process or attending stand ups/IPMs/ 1-1s vs time spent on impress work which might include sending an update email. Last week: Out of around 40 hours, I spent 6 hours in process work, 2 hours in impress work, and the rest 32 hours in produce work. Information gathering activities, decision meetings have been added to produce work and hence it makes the number look good! As a full-time manager who manages other PMs and does not directly work on specific projects, for me produce work is actually taking decisions to unblock my team.
- I keep a huge chunk of my Monday to plan the day. After my priorities for the week are clear I create slots in my calendar to focus on those priorities. The goal is to spend less time reacting and more being proactive about what I do during the week.
- To do this exercise better you can color-code your calendar. It is very hard to time box each meeting into the categories mentioned above. It is not important to be precise, you just need to be directionally correct.
- Just doing this exercise is not enough. Work towards creating a week where you work on the highest leverage activities for you and your team. Be ruthless about how you spend your time.
- I spend far more time on work than the 40 hours mentioned here. Sometime I am on call with my team as late as 9 PM if we are stuck with some production issue or are running late on a P0 project. The goal is not the count work hours. The goal is to be more conscious of where your time is going.
- Don’t do this exercise every week. Do it when you don’t understand where your work hours are going.
- You want to own your work day or else someone else will.