I had a few wake up calls a while back.
The first came when I was looking at some photos of myself, I looked really chubby. It was somewhat unexpected. I didn’t think of myself as overweight, and didn’t see that when I looked in the mirror, but there it was — photographic evidence.
The second big wake up call came when I purchased a smart scale. It was an Amazon lightning deal, and I got it on somewhat of a whim. I like technology and like data, so it seemed like an interesting thing to do. But when I stepped on the scale and went through some of the analysis, not only did it confirm what the photos had shown, but took away all possible excuses. Not only was I overweight, but I was flabby and soft too. Well outside of the weight range for my height, way too much visceral fat, a slow metabolism, weak bones, and on and on. I could no longer use the excuse that the camera adds 10 pounds or that muscle is heavier than fat. I had to face reality.
We can certainly debate the accuracy of photographs and consumer smart scales, but that isn’t the point here. The point is that I needed to change. I needed to lose weight and get into shape. Not only for myself but for my wife and my kids. I wanted to be a fit husband and the kind of dad that my kids would not only be proud of, but would want to emulate.
So that is what kicked off my journey. This post is a bit different than my usual writing. I’m not a fitness writer and probably won’t become one. But this is about the things that worked for me. I know that they won’t work for everyone. So if you’re reading this and disagree, you’re probably right in some way. Your mileage may vary and you’ll need to find the things that work for you.
But these are the steps that worked extremely well for me. I’ve lost around 35 pounds and am much more fit and lean than ever before (including my high school and college days). And the main reason I am writing this because a person very close to me asked for some help and guidance. So this is mostly for them. But if there is something useful, hopefully others will be able to leverage it as well.
1. Measure, Track, & Monitor
The first step to making any change is to start to take measurements. As the saying goes, it is difficult to change what you don’t measure.
Get a Smart Scale
To start, get yourself a smart scale and start weighing yourself. This will help establish a baseline and allow you to track progress and trends. I use Eufy. There are lots of good ones based on Amazon reviews. I haven’t tried out many others, but mine was $25 and works perfectly for what I need. I weigh myself every day at the same time so I can keep track of my progress and my trends over time. This helped me establish a baseline and begin to actually monitor my progress as I began to make changes.
Track Your Movement
I’ve been a Fitbit user since the very first wristband came out. Way back when it was just 5 dots and no one had any idea what you were wearing on your wrist. I’m a big believer in it. Tracking your activity level and sleep will help establish a baseline that you can build from.
I’ve personally set a goal of 10,000 steps each day. That tends to be a stretch for me most days. It gets me going outside to walk around the office complex a few times a day (it’s about 1,000 steps to make a full loop). I wouldn’t otherwise do that.
I don’t think there is anything magical about 10,000 steps. But understanding where you are currently and then setting a stretch goal is the real key. Once you have measured your current activity, you can then start to set those stretch goals and actually get moving.
Track Your Eating
To truly make a change, you have to track what you’re eating. I’ve used MyFitnessPal for this, though there are other good apps as well. Enter everything into it, even if you don’t change anything to start. Simply understanding what and how much you’re eating will be critical to making changes.
This may feel onerous to start. And it is. However, you won’t have to do this forever. This is meant to help you get started. Once you’ve established the right habits (more on that below), you’ll likely be able to scale this back. But it is critical to get started. You’ll likely be surprised at how much you’re eating every day. I know I was shocked when I started tracking my food. It helped me make a few changes right off the bat, though that hadn’t been my intention.
Tie It All Together to Monitor
There are numerous apps that can bring everything together for you. As a Fitbit user, that one has worked well for me. I also use Google Fit to see some of my trends, including weight trends since I can add my smart scale to it. Whether it is a single app or multiple apps, use technology to your advantage. I’ve tended to use a variety of apps since each have their own strength. You can certainly tie them together though since many of them have integrations with each other (though not all of them, so don’t expect to get your Fitbit data into Google Fit for example).
2. Eat Right — Diet Is Key
I used to believe that exercise was the most important key to fitness. With that mindset, I used to exercise frequently with little regard to what I ate. When that didn’t work, I continued to increase my level of exercise more and more, spinning my wheels endlessly. At the same time I was spinning, my wife was taking the opposite approach. She didn’t have a massive exercise regimen like I did, but focused on eating right, both in quantity and quality. And she managed to lose weight and look great. This was especially pronounced after she gave birth to our kids. She was able to rapidly return to her pre-pregnancy weight while I struggled to do anything.
When I switched to a similar mindset, I was actually able to make massive progress.
Control the Quality
The first key to eating right is to focus on the quality of the food you consume.
When I started really focusing on my eating, I wasn’t as concerned about the amount of food as much as I was concerned about getting the food right. For me, that meant switching to a Keto-style diet. I’ve long believed that fat and meat and those types of food are significantly better for you (check out The Big Fat Surprise for a fascinating read about the history of dietary guidance). A Keto diet focuses on cutting out most of the carbs and sugars in your diet and replacing them primarily with fat and protein.
I started scrambling some eggs for breakfast every morning. I started to cut out breads and carbs in other meals wherever I could. I also switched some of my snacks from crackers (I love Ritz Bitz) to nuts like almonds.
At first, I didn’t even cut back too much on how much food I was eating. I simply started by replacing foods and eating better. That massively helped the transition and got my body ready for bigger changes.
Now I’m not a Keto purist, and I may be missing some of the benefits of that. I still have some sweets and some carbs and some things occasionally that aren’t the best. But I do believe in the principles and have found that the closer I can align to a Keto diet, the better I’ve done and the better I’ve felt.
Control the QuantityMy next focus was on reducing the quantity of food. Once I established a baseline for my daily calories and food intake, I started to scale back.
My first step was to cut out a lot of junk food. I noticed (by tracking) that I ate a lot of sugary foods. I have a sweet tooth, and anyone who knows me can attest. So starting to limit myself to a few treats a day was the first step.
Next, started to cut out other snacks. I found (again, by tracking) that I ate a lot of snacks. My meals were pretty normal sized, but I ate a few meals worth of calories each day just in snacks. So cutting that back was a key to success.
Start Intermittent Fasting
I’d heard about the benefits of fasting for some time, but hadn’t really tried it until more recently. And it was a huge boost to my weight loss.
The idea behind intermittent fasting is that going without food for an extended period of time forces your body to use its fat stores (rather than the food in your system) for energy. So you start to use up that stored fat. It also helps decrease your insulin, which also helps your body start to use its fat stores as energy. A good start may be 12 hours of fasting, while going up to 14–16 hours is often the goal of many folks. There are other combinations as well, but I haven’t tried those.
I’ve seen the benefit fasting for myself. Not only have I been able to lose weight, but I’ve also been able to lower my body fat, and I largely attribute that to fasting. I still haven’t even fully optimized my fasting routine either, so I hope that as I get better at it, I’ll see even more benefits.
Personally, I started my intermittent fasting by ending snacks in the evening. We usually finish dinner around 6:00 pm, so that is when I finish eating for the day. This was a huge change in itself because I always used to eat in the evening. And not healthy food. I know some folks skip breakfast, but I never have done that. I have my scrambled eggs around 7:30 am (sometimes 8:00 am if I’m lucky enough). That typically gives me around 14 hours of fasting, which I’ve found to be great. If you can push that further, go for it. The key for me was cutting out evening snacks (and desserts). Other people aren’t breakfast people. I have a friend who prefers to eat in the evening and skip breakfast. That has worked for him. Personally, I’m a breakfast person. But the key is narrowing the window of time you’re eating on a given day.
3. Exercise — Resistance Training First
Another misconception I had a while ago was that cardio was key to weight loss and fitness. When I didn’t see results with cardio, I doubled down, often skipping lifting days to do more cardio. It was a vicious cycle.
Lifting and Resistance Training
The reality is that strength training is more important than cardio in my experience. If you have to choose, choose to lift or do resistance training over the cardio. When I made that switch, I started (gradually) to see much better results. The great thing with strength training is that it compounds over time. By increasing your muscle mass you can increase your metabolism and actually burn more calories at rest. Which is the dream, right? Actually being able to burn more calories by not having to constantly be exercising.
Cardio and Steps
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t do cardio type exercise. Like I mentioned above, moving is really important. Doing it every day is important, especially if you sit at a desk all day like most of us.
Additionally, I’ve found that switching to high-intensity intervals is better than simply hopping on the elliptical every day. So as I’ve done cardio, I’ve been doing my normal cardio routine for about 3 minutes, and then I kick up my speed and resistance for 30 seconds, basically sprinting for a short burst. Then going back to a jog.
By chance, I also found out that having rest days was critical for me. For a time, I was exercising every day. However, as my schedule got busier I had to start taking some evenings (I exercise in the evenings) for other work. Against my expectations, that actually seemed to jumpstart my progress in losing weight. I don’t know if I wasn’t getting as much out of my workouts by doing them each day or if I just needed some extra rest, but I’d suggest making sure that you have some rest days. Keep up with the steps, but try and do it throughout the day and take a break during your normal workout time. The key takeaway for me is that I didn’t have to exercise every single day to see results. I could actually have time for other things as well, as long as I was getting the most out of my workouts and eating right.
4. Push Through
One of the most difficult things is getting started. You’ve likely created habits that you have to start to break. Your body is going to be upset with you. I know that as I started to make changes, my body rebelled against me. I had overwhelming cravings for all things sweet. I occasionally binged on ice cream or pie or cookie dough.
The exciting thing about getting started, though, is that you’ll likely see some good progress up front. As you make some changes, you probably have some room to lose weight. Which will help you get going. Use that momentum!
It does get easier. But you will also hit some plateaus along the way. I hit several plateaus as I moved toward my target weight and fitness. It was hard to break through.
First, stick with it. As you focus on eating well, exercising and doing the things you need, you will be able to make progress, even if it seems slow or stalled.
Second, it may be worth it to “juice up” your returns by going to more extreme lengths for short periods of time. I’ve done this by completely cutting out snacks (even healthy ones) and any dessert/treats for a period of time. I’ve gone extra hard during my workouts and made a big push to get through. This has usually worked for me and has allowed me to then get back to my regular, sustainable routine but at a new, lower weight.
5. Create New Habits
None of the things I’ve talked about above are easy. They’re actually really hard. To be successful, you have to literally rewire your brain.
I found that giving up an evening snack was massively difficult. My body had gotten accustomed to eating around 9:00 pm every day. Breaking that habit was hard. But I established the habit of not eating after 6:00 pm, and now it’s hardly a temptation.
The ultimate goal of all of this is to change your lifestyle. It has to be long-term to be sustainable. You can’t starve yourself indefinitely, so you need to adjust your body and your habits to make these changes sustainable.
Hide the Food
Willpower is a muscle. You can build its strength over time, but you can exhaust it on any given day.
I know that when my favorite treats are out on the counter, I’m much more likely to snack on something than when it is hidden in the pantry. Make things easy on yourself, and don’t leave your favorite snacks out. Even better, stop buying some of those things. It is much easier to avoid Oreos if you don’t have any Oreos.
Create a Workout Routine
This is something that I did a long time ago, and it is a habit that has served me well. I’ve tried workouts at all different times of the day, but have found that the evening is best for me. The kids are in bed and I’ve done everything else I need. When 9:00 pm comes around on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, that is my workout time.
Find the time and days that work best for you and then make them a habit. No excuses because you’ve already planned for this time. Once it’s not in questions, it becomes so much easier.
And do something you enjoy while you workout. One of the few times I watch TV or movies is during my workout. It’s basically the only way I can keep up with any shows or Netflix. I’ve also gotten through a ton of audiobooks while working out. Find something you enjoy and add it to your workout.
Make Switches Wherever You Can
Swapping out breakfast food for eggs was a big change for me. But a couple of scrambled eggs in the morning are now a habit for me. It’s easy now. I eat eggs for breakfast.
Make these types of switches wherever you can. Get a big thing of Costco chicken strips and take those for lunch every day. I do something similar to that now. I’ve made a few switches where I’m in control and that gives me some more flexibility where I don’t have as much control (such as family dinners).
Be Intentional & Mindful
I’ve found that being intentional and mindful is another key to success. It is easy to mindlessly snack while watching TV or staring at your phone. I alwayseat more when I’m not paying attention. So pay attention! When you’re eating, take it slower. Focus on what you’re doing. Don’t zone out to the TV with a bag of chips. Even if you only intended on having a few, you will end up eating the whole bag before you realize it.
Stick With It
The biggest key is to great some routines and stick with them, even when it is difficult and even when you’re not seeing quick results. The goal isn’t to lose tons of weight immediately — it’s to create a new you. So make the changes, however small, and keep them going. The funny thing is that you’ll look back in 3 months and see tons of actual progress, even if it felt like you didn’t make any progress day to day. That is how my experience was. By sticking with it, you’ll be able to see massive (albeit gradual) changes too.
Nothing about this is easy, though some items are easier than others. The picture above is my actual trendline for this year. It is even more dramatic if you look at last year as well. It’s been an incredible journey, but it has taken time and commitment.
At the end of the day, you can do this. It may take some time, but don’t get discouraged. You’ve done harder things than this. You’ve survived much more difficult things. You can do this!
At the end of every year I like to take a look back at some of the highlights. Things that happened personally & professionally, things I learned, books I read, products I loved, etc. So here is one of those posts.
My reading list from 2018 was fairly broad, as I love everything from science fiction to history to product management. And this year had some great reads from all of those categories. As 2018 draws to a close, I wanted to take a look back at some of my favorites and most influential reads from the past year.
1. Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst This was probably one of my favorites from 2018 as it was endlessly fascinating and actually led me to explore some other books around similar topics, such as The Willpower Instinct, You Are Not So Smart, and Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. The interaction between our genes, our environment, our ancestry and every other possible factor combines to make us who we are. It’s such a beautiful and profound complexity.
2. Inspired: How to Create Products Customers Love
For anyone familiar with some of my other posts regarding product management, this book won’t come as a surprise. It is one of my top reads for product managers and has profoundly influenced the way I work. I’ve probably read it through a couple times this year as I’ve referred back to it in various scenarios. If you’re a product manager or involved in product development, this is one you’ll want.
3. Foundation Series: Foundation, Foundation and Empire, Second Foundation
This series is incredible. I hadn’t read any of Isaac Asimov until this year, and I was blown away with how great this was. The original stories were published in 1942, which is crazy to think about. But it’s amazing how futuristic they still seem even today. If you enjoy science fiction, I’d highly recommend them. And I’ve already got more Asimov books in my backlog ready to go soon.
4. A Short History of Nearly Everything
I know I’m late in discovering this one (I’m always behind the times in my reading it seems), but what a gem. It’s a walk-through of, well, nearly everything in history. It is incredibly fun and kept me coming back for more with the clever writing and fascinating incites. It’s a great overview and refresher of everything you likely learned, and so many things you probably haven’t.
5. User Story Mapping
Going back to product management/product development, User Story Mapping is now one of my favorites. It is a great book on tools and techniques to use in building great products. I also had the opportunity to attend a session by Jeff Patton where he walked us through some of his key insights. If you ever get the chance to attend a workshop with him, don’t miss it. Worth every second. In the meantime though, you can definitely get a ton out of his book.
It was a great year of reading. I set a goal to read a book every 2 weeks, and I was able to do it! I’m planning on upping that goal for 2019, so hopefully I can keep up with an ambitious schedule and maybe even catch up with some of the current best-sellers (though that probably won’t happen).
Here is my full reading list as well (in order that I read them), including first time reads and re-reads:
Overall, it was another amazing year for our family. It's crazy to think that 2018 is over, but is fun to take a look back at how much we've accomplished and how much we've all grown. While I certainly wish a few things could have gone differently this year, I'm overjoyed with how well 2018 treated us. Here are some of the highlights:
Kelli and I were fortunate enough to take two vacations together this year. The first one was a relaxing and romantic getaway to Cabo. It was amazing to get out of the cold Utah weather for a few days and spend some time together just the two of us.
We also got to celebrate our 10 year anniversary in London! It was a dream vacation for Kelli, who has been wanting to visit their for quite some time. We had a packed itinerary, and walked a lot, but got to see almost all of our wish-list sites. It was an incredibly memorable way to celebrate the best 10 years of our lives.
Both McCoy and McKinley have grown immensely over this past year, and we're pretty much busier than ever with soccer, dance, art classes, swimming lessons, etc. I didn't realize how early this kind of craziness started, but we're in the think of it already with both of them. And it's great. It's been amazing to see how much they can learn and grow at such a young age. I was even able to start teaching McCoy to golf. We got a few rounds in during the fall and he is in love with it so far.
We were also able to finish our backyard, which was a monumental project and took way longer than I had hoped. It was hot and dusty and something that I don't want to have to do again, but the end result was worth it.
We were fortunate enough to be able to do a lot of family activities as well this year. It has certainly gotten easier with the kids a little older now and we've taken advantage of so many of the cool things close by.
I was also able to get my woodshop fully set up again this year, and despite being focused elsewhere for most of the year (that darn backyard), I still was able to get some great things done and had a great Christmas season on Etsy. My favorite thing was probably making a doll bed for Kinley and a corn hole set for McCoy. They turned out really well and Kelli did an amazing job sewing all the pieces to go with both. My hope is that doll bed gets to become something special for Kinley for the rest of her life.
This post could probably go on for quite a while still, but it truly was a great year, and it's hard to think of more we could have asked for. Here's to a 2019 that is even better!
I was recently asked what a typical day was like for me as a product manager. As anyone in the role will likely attest, there is really no "typical" day for a product manager. Every day is different and filled with its own set of challenges and opportunities. So it's hard to say what a normal day looks like. However, if you expand out the time frame a bit, you can start to get a better picture of what product managers focus on regularly. So I thought I'd post about a recent week of mine as I think it has a good representation of many things product managers do. So here we go.
Themes: As a product manager, I am responsible for the high level strategy of our products as well as the day-to-day execution of what the team is working on. A product manager wears a lot of hats, as many are aware. So that typically means that certain times are filled with more strategic items, such as creating the vision and evangelizing it. While other times are filled with some of the details, such as working with the team to refine stories in the backlog. And of course, meeting with users and stakeholders all along the way. You'll see that most of these items are represented throughout the week.
Monday had a little bit of everything, including an array of meetings with various groups including users, stakeholders, the dev team, purchasing and the legal team.
Of course we had our daily team stand-up in the morning (these happen everyday, so I'll just mention them here) along with conversations with the team throughout the day. Since most of us sit in the same area, spontaneous conversations are pretty frequent. We often brainstorm ideas or chat about issues as they come up. I also try and start each day looking over key metrics and reviewing anything that may have happened the previous day.
Our UX designer and I met with some users to review some feedback that had been submitted in order to get a better understanding of what they were trying to do and why they were having some issues. All of the meetings I have like this include myself, our UX designer, and typically an engineer depending on the topic. I also met with a member of our legal team to discuss our application and then a small group of stakeholders to address some questions that had come up the previous week.
Finally, the day finished up with a meeting with the purchasing team. We're negotiating several contracts with vendors. As the product manager, I have the best idea of what our usage projections are going to be as well as what we'll be needing from various vendors going forward. Together with our business partners, we work with the purchasing group to make sure we have that all in order.
Tuesday was more of strategic day (not necessarily by design, but it was the day of the week with the fewest meetings, so it gave me the most time to work on some longer term, strategic items). I do try and block out time each week in order to work on strategy/vision, but it doesn't always work out that way.
Anyway, I had the chance to think through some of the problems I know we'll be addressing down the road, and how best get stakeholders throughout the organization aligned with our vision. I put together a few documents outlining the framework I'm proposing.
In addition, we had two focus groups reviewing some prototypes that we had put together the previous week. Our UX designer and I had been working on some options and wanted to get them in front of students, which we were able to do. And as always, getting user feedback yielded some unexpected surprises.
Wednesday was packed with meetings, most of them with the development team. We started the day with a two hour refinement session. We use this time every other week to review upcoming priorities and share knowledge. I'm primarily responsible for getting the stories in our backlog, but my main purpose is to make sure that we have a shared understanding of the context and desired outcomes. So most of the items in the backlog aren't surprises (since we try and have members of the team involved in discovery), but refinement gives us a chance to discuss as a team and begin to think through scope and implications.
Wednesday is also the day I meet with our UX designer to discuss our prototypes and designs. We talk much more frequently than once a week, but it gives us a chance to go through the kanban board I set up to keep track of all our ongoing items.
We had monthly IT department review of the month (including wins and misses), and then met again as a development team to brainstorm ways to keep our applications running smoothly. And I finished out the day again meeting with a group of users to get feedback on a few questions we have.
Thursday was another day filled with learning and discovery, as well as working with stakeholders. I started the day meeting with one of our key VPs and sponsors as we discussed upcoming strategy and key priorities. We typically meet one-on-one at least every other week to discuss these types of things.
We had a working session with a group of users to determine the next phase of role management within our application. We've been working with very minimal functionality so far, so we're identifying key problems in order to start to prototype some solutions for the next phase of development.
We had also been sending around emails for most of the morning regarding some language changes within our application. There was some confusion, so I called a quick huddle with everyone in order to resolve. Fortunately, we were all able to get on the same page and even came up with some better phrasing to explore.
Since we had just finished a large rollout of our application to about half of the university students, I met with one of our stakeholders to review how our communication went and determine things we could do better for the next time. A mini retrospective.
I try and keep Fridays relatively unencumbered by meetings (as much as possible). We usually do have a product manager meeting on Friday. A chance to chat with the other product folks in the organization. I also send out a weekly update on Fridays to senior executives, recapping anything that's happened during the week such as releases, discoveries, meetings, etc. And letting them know what's coming up for the next week. Since I'm the product manager for our current flagship effort, it is of particular interest to everyone and I want to make sure they are well-informed.
I also do a monthly roadmap meeting with key folks within the IT department as well as across the business. That was set for the following week, so I spent Friday afternoon making sure that everything is up-to-date and ready for those discussions.
I also spent some time reviewing an array of reports that I use regularly. They show a variety of usage stats as well as feedback and satisfaction. I had a couple things I wanted added, so I worked with our data team to do that. I also needed some additional information for our roadmap discussions, so I reached out to a few folks to gather that.
So that pretty much wraps up the week. And I'd say that's probably about as typical a week as I could expect. There are also seasonal factors that come into play, such as the beginning of the fiscal year and the planning involved in that. And anytime there is a large release or rollout, things are notably different.
But hopefully that is helpful in describing a week in the life of a product manager. You can probably get the sense that there is a wide variety of things that a product manager is responsible for. And it's true. I am involved across the board in many discussions and on many initiatives. It is incredibly exciting but can be incredibly stressful. Ultimately though, it's about creating a product and experience that users love, so there is no easy path to get there.
Over the past two months, we've been relentlessly working on building our backyard. And as I got ready to post some finished photos of it, I realized that I should write a little bit about the journey as well, since it has been non-stop work for weeks.
So before we did anything else, we knew we needed to get some concrete poured. And if you're going to do, might as well do it right, you know? So we went all in for a new patio, a parking pad, and a shed pad. Basically just making the whole yard concrete, as a few people joked. And it turned out great. We still have big plans for this space, but more to come on that later.
Fortunately, I didn't have to do it alone. Grandpa was here to supervise and to help lay pipe. And the kids were out most evenings cheering us on as we moved as quickly as possible. (We gave ourselves a week to do all the sprinklers and get the grading done before the sod came, so it was quite the race).
In our old house, the sprinklers didn't reach all of yard, so we had to do a lot of watering by hand. We wanted very much to avoid that, so we put in a lot of sprinklers. Like, a lot. Enough that a few minutes per zone would be enough to keep the lawn nice and green. It is overkill without a doubt. But I'd rather have that than the alternative.
We also got a smart controller, which I can't recommend enough. Being able to test out zones from your smartphone is awesome. We'll be replacing our other controller soon so that we can control all sprinklers from our smartphones.
Part of the kids excitement was also due to the fact that they knew that once grass got put in, they were going to get a playset. We purchased a kit a few months ago and it's been sitting in the garage. And a couple times a week the kids have been asking why it hadn't been put together. "That silly daddy, he hasn't built our playset yet." That's what I've been living with for months now.
A few more evenings of work though, and we had it all done. And following a terrible tradition of doing outdoor projects on the 4th of July, we put down the rubber mulch after the parade.
And with that, the first phase of the backyard is just about done. The grass is in. The playset is built. We planted lilac bushes along the back for privacy. Next up, we'll be putting in a fence and doing some additional finishing touches along some of the side and back.
But at least we now have a usable, fun space for the kids.
I was on the golf course a few weeks ago. It was pretty warm, but it was likely the last chance we'd have to go before the weather got really hot, so we took advantage of a cool morning to hit the links.
Now I'm not a great golfer, so this isn't going to be a post describing best practices when it comes to golf. I tend to be all over the place for most of the time. But one area where I am pretty consistent is on the green. When it comes to putting, I may not be sinking 50 foot birdies, but I do tend hit generally good putts. The right distance. The right line. They don't always go in, but they tend to get me pretty close.
My key to that has always been taking my putts really slowly. I think about them. I visualize them in my head. When I get up next to the ball, I don't just hit it. I stand over it, gauging my swing and the green and all the other variables that go with putting. I go really slowly. It sometimes drives people a little crazy. But I don't care. I take my time and hit my putt.
How often are we rushing our putts?
All the time? It kind of feels like it.
As I contemplated a typical day at work, it generally consists of rushing from one meeting to the next. Rushing to get emails sent out. Rushing to gather information. Rushing to have quick conversations with folks to check in on things.
Everything is a rush.
I get it. Everyone is busy. We have lots to do. We have tons of things to cover in our meetings. We have so many responsibilities that we have to rush from one task to the next in order to make sure nothing is falling through the cracks.
But it's not just work. How often do we rush to get to work, or get home from work, or get to the store? We rush to have dinner in order to make it to evening activities, which can also be a flurry as we rush through them so we can get home in time for bed.
But how much are we missing as we rush?
I'd estimate that we're losing some of the most important details in our rush to get things done. This is happening to each of us individually as well as our teams and families and friends.
At work, I've noticed this in countless meetings I've been in lately. We have a packed agenda that we need to get through so we plow through as quickly as we can. There isn't time for a ton of conversation because we have items we need to get through. And if discussion starts to happen, it is generally shut down after a very short time as something that is better "taken offline."
And it isn't just other people. It is all of us. It is me. I don't think I could keep track of the number of days that I rush from one thing to the next, only to reach the end of a blurred day to wonder what had happened.
The cost of this kind of rushing is high. Recently another product manager and I realized that our teams had been working independently on very similar projects. Now there is certainly something to be said for process, coordination, and all of that. But I can't help but wonder if, as product managers, we had slowed down just a little and had some conversations in the various meetings we're in. Rather than sticking so tightly to agendas, what if we had just talked about things we had in the works. Would we have realized this sooner? I believe so.
And what about the cost to our families?
Are we missing the most important moments? When our son was born, I was working 70-80 hours per week. That continued for a time after that. I was constantly in motion, running as fast as I could to get ahead. It was pure chance I was home one evening around 5pm (early for me at the time), and was able to actually witness him taking his first steps. It caused me serious pause. What other moments was I missing out on in my rush?
And finally, what is the cost to ourselves?
How long can we keep moving at 100 miles per hour, rushing through life before it begins to take its toll? Another shot of caffeine to keep us moving. Not enough time for a decent meal, so we eat whatever is quick and easy. Not enough time to properly plan for our futures, so we have to take whatever comes because we don't have time to prepare.
So how can we slow things down?
I will be posting more about this soon, but I've started to block out time each day to slow down. To actually think. To work on important tasks that tend to get lost in the rush of everything else we have going on.
We can also start to take time in all of our meetings and interactions for actual discussion. Maybe even begin to plan for meetings that are just about discussion. I've been in meetings like this and found them to be the absolute most productive meetings I've participated in. No agenda, no bullet points to get through. Just discussion.
As we allow ourselves the necessary time to slow down, I think we'll find that we're able to get more done. More of the important things. We won't waste so much time being pulled in different directions. We'll be able to focus on thing things that are important.
I've started to find that as I try not to rush my putts at work, I'm actually getting much closer to the hole than I was before. I'm able to size up what I need to do and then execute better than ever before.
So take a minute, take a breath. Don't rush your putts.
I'm enjoying taking a look back at the past year, so wanted to continue doing so, this time with a product manager perspective. And somewhat of a technology enthusiast perspective. Now these are certainly not all products that were released in 2017. I'm unfortunately not a blogger for a tech publication who gets access to all the fun things before they come out. But these are the things I've started using that have been real game changers this year.
But we set it up and began to use it occasionally. It was a novelty at first, but then I began to see the potential uses. And given the fact that they are only $30 (or around that depending on timing), it seemed like a no-brainer. Dots began to appear in new places. I began using one as my alarm in the morning. The dot in the kitchen became a go-to for music for the kids whenever they wanted to hear a particular song. And it's so easy that they have begun to ask Alexa to play songs for them. McCoy can get it to work. Kinley is surprisingly close (Alexa just has a little trouble understanding toddlers still).
And as we moved into our new home and began incorporating smart home devices, Alexa became an even more integral part of our routine. A simple voice command to turn off all the main floor lights. Or turn on the Christmas lights. We now have dots in most rooms of the house, which also lends itself to the cool functionality of being able to call room to room, like an intercom system. Which wasn't something we realized would be useful until we started to use it. Now it feels like a must-have thing.
This also includes the new echo spot, which is a recent addition, but is superb in what it can do. It looks great and makes me want to have a few more.
Having just come off of the Christmas season, you can imagine how helpful that was for Christmas lights.
The other product is their light switch. It is almost just as simple. You just need to remove your old switch, wire in the new one, and viola, it's done. You can control your lights from anywhere. All of these work great with Alexa, which is a big win. And the app is incredibly easy to use to group things together or control remotely. It adds a degree of simplicity to my life that I appreciate. With a simple voice command, I can pretty much turn off an entire floor of lights from the bedroom. Or set things on a timer so I no longer even have to think about them (hello porch lights). So no more getting out of bed to check all the lights. It is another game changer for me.
Ultimately, what I'm looking for in the products I love are problems that are being solved in my life, without forcing me to change what I'm doing. They just fit in and make things easier. That is certainly the case with Alexa and some of the smart home products I've loved this year. And I'm looking forward to a great 2018!
With 2017 officially coming to a close, I wanted to take a moment to look back at this year and reflect. All in all, 2017 was an incredibly good year. So many great things happened for me personally and for our family. It was a year of big change, big moves, and big accomplishments. My wife and I discussed some of the most memorable parts of the year for us as we counted down to midnight. (Full disclosure, neither of us actually stayed up to midnight, we called it quits early. Parenthood, right?). So here they are, in no particular order. Well, it's pretty much chronological order. But whatever.
Of course I could go on for quite a bit longer with other highlights from the year. There were quite a few and we really did have an amazing year. But those were certainly the ones that stood out most to me and Kelli as we looked back. It's exciting to think of what 2018 will bring.
I hope your 2017 was as good as ours, and hope that 2018 will be an amazing year for all of us!
My journey into product management is a bit convoluted. It took some trial-and-error and a few different roles, but I eventually found my home. So my story is pretty much like everyone else's who has gotten into product management. But I'll tell it anyway.
My first taste of product management was in a role I had at the computer labs at BYU. My title was Student Manager of Personnel. So many of my responsibilities were around hiring, scheduling, promotions, etc. But another aspect revolved around managing different products for all of the computer labs and its employees.
One such product was a brand new internal employee website. This was really the heart of our organization, where everyone could find their schedules, swap shifts with other employees, manage their training, do reviews and find all other information for their work. And we set out to rebuild it completely. I had the chance to work closely with the developers building it (an extremely talented group) in order to make changes, give input, and guide the overall flow. Having been there for a long time, I knew many of the features that needed to be incorporated and added. I also had the chance to talk with other users to get feedback and ideas. It was my first chance to really do product management at some level (though I didn't know it at the time).
Unfortunately my time in that role had to come to an end as I graduated. And I had to start on another path. Goldman Sachs was building out some new teams in Salt Lake City, and (ironically) one of them was a product management team within the fixed income group. Again, I still didn't have a full understanding of product management, but was excited to help build out a group in a new office and the role seemed like it had a lot of great opportunities, so I jumped at the chance.
Now, product management at Goldman Sachs has a lot of different flavors. At its heart, it is the same as any traditional product management role. You work cross-functionally across the business. That includes working closely with sales teams, marketing teams, management, traders, operations, etc. On the technology side, it means working closely with a variety of technology groups to build out functionality, both internally and externally. And of course, it includes understanding clients and users. Anticipating their needs and developing products and features to help them. Now at a place like Goldman Sachs, that includes financial products like mutual funds and investment strategies. But it also includes many of the technology focused components as well. External websites, online tools and internal reports and tools. The things you think of when you think of traditional product management.
Many people go into product management at Goldman Sachs with the view of moving to one of the teams they work with eventually. That may mean sales or trading or portfolio management. A few will stay within product management as well. My original intention had been to go into portfolio management after working on the product team. So that is the path I started down. I took two levels of the CFA exam (pretty much a designation centered on portfolio management). But I began to realize that I didn't want to do portfolio management, I wanted to be a product manager.
With that new realization, I started to shift my focus. Since product managers tend to wear many hats at a place like Goldman, I wanted to start working with a group where I could really be a product manager (as opposed to a junior portfolio manager or something like that). And I was fortunate enough to find just the right group. As I began working on our money market products, my role became more and more product management every day.
I've had the chance to work on many different products and features. That includes the launch of multiple new mutual funds (it is Goldman Sachs after all). But I also led a team in redesigning our existing external site. And then helped lead the effort to start to sunset our existing site and create a brand new external site with lots of new functionality. Internally I led a team redesigning some of our regulatory reporting. This involved all the data and software tools we used to create these reports and working with internal and external stakeholders to create a new process and end product. I've also had the chance to work on many other features and products within this group. I'll be detailing more stories in other posts, so be sure to check back.
So that is how I got into product management. It has been an exciting journey and continues to be something that I love.
I'm really excited about a few changes for 2017.
First, I've just completed a new personal site. I coded it myself and am quite pleased with how it came out. It is still a work in progress, but it is coming along nicely.
Second, this blog is going to expand. I expect to be posting here much more regularly, as well as on Medium. I'll be working here first and then adding things to Medium as I'm ready. I'm planning on leaving most of my previous posts up on this blog, though you'll notice the focus shifting a bit from some of the previous topics. More product management and personal stories.
Finally, I'll be catching up on a lot of Product Management reading that I've had on my list and haven't had a chance to get to. This goes along with the second point, as I'll be writing more about it as well, both here and on Medium. So I'd love to get your input and thoughts. Just don't judge as I'm catching up on the product management books that you've already read.
So those are a few things in the works. Lots more to come in the near future, so I'm excited for 2017.
My personal musings on a variety of topics.