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Picking the right fight

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Working in a product-building environment I’ve to go through the following cycle very often.

Build the right thing -> Measure ->Improve

Which means I’ve to tune my mind to that cycle for 80% of my day. The “build-the-right-thing” part is the toughest. This is because you have limited time to pick the right feature, and need to ask really tough questions to make that decision.

This product management mindset, inevitably spills over to everyday life as well, especially since it actually works.

By nature, we humans justify our existence by the sheer number of things we do and how long we spend doing it. But very few of us measure it by the things we really achieve after doing something.

The “zero-wonderlist-items” is a pot of gold we all chase. It’s much easier to cross off an item off the list (and get that dopamine shot! ????). But it’s far more difficult to really quantify its impact and chose to not do something because nothing really changes by crossing it off the list. I, more than anyone, am a victim of this as well.

The one skill set I’ve realized that I , or anyone really, need to crack is Prioritization. Picking the right fights at the right time.????

And the more I work on this, the more I see the value of doing this. Being laser-focused (or trying to be) on asking what the next thing you should be doing, makes me ask the really tough questions. While it’s nice to write this in a blog, where I have the luxury of formulating my thoughts properly, executing this in life is a b****.

My goal however, is not to use this as just a framework for work or product management , but somehow make this a lifestyle choice in general. Most of the questions that we ask, say when we decide a product feature, apply to real life as well. And they really help us pick the right feature for our own lives.

So before I do any action, I’m training myself to really ask some tough questions. While it’s nice to have it neatly put down here, I fail at doing 70% of the time. But the idea is to get my brain muscles tuned to this kind of thinking.

  • Who am I doing this for? Does it matter to the person? Does the person matter in the first place?
  • Who cares about this? If someone does care, are they the ones that I’m making this for in the first place?
  • Why am I picking this option over the other? Is it because its easier to do, or will it have more impact than the other?
  • Is there something else I can do, which will be less elegant, but will take less time and give the same or better results? If not me, is there someone else I can get to do this or who I can learn a better way to do from?
  • Is my decision based on intuition, data or opinions? There is no right or wrong here, but you need to know precisely what it is. Intuition works for quite a few people. But data works better at scale and as a framework.
  • If I don’t do what I’m doing, am I pissing someone off? Who am I pissing off? Does the person matter? Does his/her point of view make sense?
  • Am I making the next choice, because I’m convinced I want to? Or because of an external factor?
  • Will this matter at all in another 24 hours? In a week? In a year? In a decade?

I suck at this right now. But I’m surrounded by people who do this way better than me. Which means I get to learn and tune myself up everyday. ????

All this doesn’t mean that we lose spontaneity in life because of overthinking. It’s more like training your brain muscle to be more precise about the direction in which it goes. However, there is no science or data to back what I’ve said so far. Maybe there is, I haven’t checked it yet.

Safe to say, my spontaneity is still intact.

Follow me on twitter: @shwaytaj . I don’t bite.


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