4 min read

13 secrets to work life balance (as a Product Manager)

13 secrets to work life balance (as a Product Manager)
Photo by Fabian Møller / Unsplash

Work life balance is a skill.

Of course, your employer creates conditions that make it easier or harder (or impossible) to have balance. But you also have levers you can pull that can help you achieve work life balance.

So yes, make sure your employer isn't unreasonable. And definitely talk to your manager about your workload.

But also try these levers to achieve more balance as a PM:

  1. Keep a time log & question why you spend time on what you do. For each activity, ask why you did it - 5 times. Think like a founder here. Did this drive the business forward? Or did it just pass time?
  2. Cut/refuse unneeded meetings & cut your meeting sizes when possible (larger groups take more time to align). Ask yourself if you'd spend 30 mins of your evening attending the meeting in question.
  3. Plan your week and month ahead of time. PM work can be spikey - so it's important to pull in work from the future. It's also important to confidently push work out into the future to keep the current day manageable. Personally, I like to plan my week on Mondays. And I like to maintain a Gantt chart with my team to know what's coming up.
  4. Single-task as much as possible. In other words, close Slack. I try to be religious about this during my morning focus hours.
  5. Empower and trust other people. Share work with your design and engineering partners when you can. Shreyas Doshi shows how to h/t James. You might be surprised at how much your team can help you out.
  6. See the true priority of things. I've heard tips from PMs like "You're going to drop some plates you might as well choose them" "If it isn't getting done it wasn't important anyway" "Will I get credit for this" "If it was really important they'd double message me" "If I attend this unnecessary meeting will I need to work another 30 minutes on my important work at night" Remember nothing is worse than wasting time on a task that shouldn't be done.
  7. Write things down. If people are asking you about things, perhaps it could have been solved with a document and more upfront thinking.
  8. For unplugging after work, ask yourself, what's the worst that could happen if I didn't do this task? Sometimes, there's actually work you have to do. Sometimes, it's not at all important. h/t to my manager for this one!
  9. Also, ask yourself, what's the worst that would happen if you underperformed at work? I try to remember I'd be quite OK if I ended up fired or PIPed. I also remember work problems I had 3 years ago entirely didn't matter in the long run. This helps me remember, there's not much at work that is truly a big deal. h/t to my therapist on this one LOL.
  10. Again remember it's just a job. Just try to do the next right thing. I used to get overwhelmed a lot at work. Recently it's gotten better. I don't bother with overwhelm as much anymore. I just say fuck it, it's just a job, let me just do the next right thing.
  11. Consider a shutdown ritual where you prep your tasks for the next day / say some gratitude for what you got done. I skip this often since my focus wanes by EOD but it's helpful when I do.
  12. Don't micromanage your image. Oftentimes you feel the need to do whatever arrives on your plate just because you want to show you're a person who's on top of things. Or you feel the need to be responsive on Slack. This is all important, but also, you can't always do this. PMs are human too!
  13. Avoid the control trap. Sometimes ppl will offer you more responsibility but if you want work life balance you have to turn it down. Not relevant to me right now, but I know this will be important when I get more senior.

Tbh I don't find work life balance easy. Which is why I'm talking about it here! These are good reminders for you and for me :)

Further reading:

How to know when to stop
A guide to avoiding burnout and establishing balance in your life
Do PMs really have to sacrifice a good work/life balance?
by u/MoistTrain4 in ProductManagement
Has anyone done a late career switch from PM to Engineering (42 years old)?
by u/ThailMalish in ProductManagement
Carl Jung on How to Live and the Origin of “Do the Next Right Thing”
“There is no pit you cannot climb out of provided you make the right effort at the right place… do the next thing with diligence and devotion.”