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  • Writer's pictureJenne Pierce

The Strategy of Scheduling: Making Time for Product Work

Updated: Jan 31, 2023

As the new year gets under way, I’ve been talking to many product managers who want to do more “real” product work in 2023: deep user discovery, data analysis, competitive analysis, etc. – the product manager contribution as described by Marty Cagan.


For many product managers in the trenches, the “tyranny of the urgent” is real. They’re constantly bombarded by status requests, bugs and issues, and their calendars are packed with countless meetings. They know that if they don’t make time for the deeper product work, it will never happen – but they often feel powerless to do anything about it.


The best technique I have for this is the strategy of scheduling: identify the product work you want to do, then block time on your calendar dedicated to that task. Protect that time vigilantly, even if it’s just 1-2 hours per week at first. While the idea isn’t new, I’m borrowing the label from Gretchen Rubin, who featured it in her list of 21 strategies for habit change in the book Better than Before.


Some tips for making this strategy stick:

  • If your calendar is too packed this week and next, that’s fine. Start booking time slots for product works 3+ weeks out. Book at least one month’s worth.

  • For time slots that are within the next week or two, identify the task you want to tackle and name it in the appointment. This dramatically reduces time wasted on figuring out how you’ll use the time when it arrives. It’s OK to change the task before you begin, and it’s OK if the task ends up not getting entirely finished in the time you have.

  • For time blocks that are 3+ weeks out, it’s fine to label them more vaguely (e.g., “product work”) and then decide how to use each block when they’re just a week or so away.

  • Forgive yourself if the occasional time block proves fruitless, or you struggle at first to keep it protected from other people’s meetings. Borrowing from the meditation folks: Begin again. Don’t give up. It gets easier with practice, and eventually it does stick.


The thrash will pay out in the form of satisfaction when you’ve had your first month where you did some first-hand user research or observation, generated at least one meaningful “aha” moment thanks to your data analysis, and wrote up at least one competitor or industry development.

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