“It feels like swatting flies all day.”
“There’s a lot of decision fatigue.”
“Honestly, this job has sort of made me hate technology.”
“As a PM I’m always chasing down 10 different things, am constantly interrupted, and don’t have many opportunities to really focus deeply on any one task.”
There’s an endless list of things that need to be sorted out, filtered to the right place and people and decisions to be made. It can feel like you’ve made little to no progress when the majority of your time and attention is given to the needs of coworkers.
Of course, the endless queue of new and interesting problems is what attracted you to the position. It’s dynamic by nature and you hold the keys to all the fun and interesting pieces of the product–and business to some extent. You’re the conduit through which people connect.
Discovering what’s important
What hard and exhausting is knowing what to say “no” to, as well as how to say “no.” Just like you discover what direction to take the product you need to discover what’s worth your time–where you offer the greatest impact.
If a problem arises and by default, people come to you it may be tempting to dive in and start solving the problem. But is that the best use of your time? How do you know whether it’s important or not?
One great way to do this is to ask yourself a simple question,
“if I work on this problem, does it help me and/or the team and/or the business achieve it’s one goal?”
It if doesn’t, then the answer to those coming to you should be the question,
“What do you think?”
“How would you handle it?”
Of course, people don’t only come to you for your guidance or opinion. They also are looking for an answer to an objective question. It may take some research on your part. That is okay. Your job is then to help them understand where it falls in your hierarchy of priorities.
If it doesn’t belong on the list, tell them.
What you don’t want happening is all your meaningful work happening at off-hours. I.e. nights and weekends. These are when you are not at peak mental state. If you are not doing important work when you’re at your best then the work suffers.
“No” is a tool. When you learn to use it wisely it will work wonders.
Saying “no” to the things that should NOT be done creates time to focus on more important things but more importantly brings mental clarity to the job. This is the heart of exhaustion; not having a mental fast so clarity kicks in.