It's OK to have some non-productive time

Lately, I have been in a funk. Part of it is the isolation of the Covid era, and the enforced working from home. But a big part of it is the expectation I have that I am productive every second I am at my computer. However, I shouldn’t beat myself up over it.

Product management is a role unlike any other. Not just because of the wide variance between companies and even organizations within a company of what they expect from their “product manager” (and, honestly, there is a lot of fuzziness in the definition of the role) but regardless of what is written as the description, whatever the split between tactical and strategic expectations, and wherever on the spectrum between engineering and marketing/business focus you land, you will always be thinking.

Walking the dog in the morning? Yep, running work scenarios through your head. Washing dishes? Showering? pretty much any mundane task will lead to thinking about the business, the product and the market. We can’t help it.

So, in reality, there isn’t really a “downtime” component to being a product manager. You are not always on, but at some level you are always thinking about the product. That grows on you, and begins to weigh you down, both mentally and physically.

Why the preamble? Because yesterday, I just couldn’t force myself to be productive. I would start something and then I would tune out. I started berating myself, and getting angry.

Now, I recognize that it is OK to just have a non productive day. Really, you are on more than you are off, and that an afternoon without any meetings, is OK to goof off.

So I charged batteries, and drove my RC car around my front yard. I cleaned up some email. I unloaded the dishwasher. I answered a few emails. But my monster pile of to-do’s waited until a new day.

It is OK to have a day like that once in a while, and not feel guilty about it.


Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

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Product Manager, physics educated, avid cyclist, dog rescuer, guitar noodler.
San Jose, Callifornia Website
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