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Multi-tasking is the Heart of Product Management

Part of my job at Granify involves product management and ensuring we ship an awesome product that customers love. I've been building products for a while, but the whole management aspect is still quite new to me. I've learned a ton by working alongside our CEO Jeff Lawrence, a seasoned product manager, but there are still many aspects of the job I find challenging — in particular, multitasking.

Serial vs. Parallel Work

My background is in production work: writing code and designing interfaces. In these roles you generally have a steady stream of serial tasks for which you're responsible. You're subject to interruptions (like any job) but it's often possible to put your headphones on for a couple hours to focus on a single problem until it's solved. And following that you move onto the next task on your list.

As a product manager, however, it's virtually impossible to single-task. I'm bombarded with incoming information, and every bit is important & time-sensitive. Some examples:

  • Listening to feedback from the sales team
  • Hearing feature requests from the team or customers
  • Reports from Q/A and customers about bugs
  • Dealing with technical fires
  • Reviewing &  accepting new work submitted by developers/designers
  • Assigning new work to team members who finish tasks sooner than expected (always a nice problem to have!)
  • Answering questions new employees might have about process, PM software, etc.

At any given moment I'm likely dealing with at least two of the above scenarios simultaneously. The nature of this role requires multiple tasks to be tackled in parallel — to do otherwise would slow down the rest of the team.

Product managers are the hub of the company

In essence, the Product Manager's function is to synthesize the endless stream of information coming from different sources (customers, engineers, analytics, marketing, sales, executives) and turn it into something tangible that can be shipped to customers. Accepting & organizing these disparate data points as they arrive is critical. If you ignore (or defer for too long) any one aspect it begins to lag behind and slows down the whole company.

You can try to structure how you triage incoming information — for example, we've started having short Friday meetings to review customer feedback from that week — but often you need to listen when a co-worker is in the zone, excitedly telling you about their new idea. Those important nuances get lost when you ask them to distill their idea into a Google Doc to be read later when more convenient.

There may be downsides to multitasking, but with Product Management it's an unavoidable part of the job. And it's a skill I'm constantly working to improve.

I'd love to hear about your experiences - what advice do you have for someone trying to get better at multitasking?