To be a great product manager, you need to keep learning all the time.
But the question is how to learn as a product manager, given we're always busy?
I've been a product manager for a long time now, and I strongly believe in learning. Not only that, I learn something new every day.
And the reason I can do that is simple -- I have incorporated learning into my day-to-day activities. As a result, I don't have to spend extra hours doing it, and I don't have to go out of my way either.
Before, I share my learning best practices, let us understand:
- Why is learning important
- Why is it tough to learn
- How to learn
- How to apply it in real-world
Why is learning important for a product manager:-
Even today, product management is not science. Hence, there is no "right" way to do product management.
Learning non-scientific topics is typically tough because there is no set curriculum or degree that you can complete and become a master in the subject.
Yet, it is really important to be always learning. I strongly believe in learning because it enables me to:
- Know business better: learning allows you to know the company vision, goals, roadmap, user personas, user needs, industry and competition. All of this information is critical to have to identify the right problem, create the perfect solution, and deliver impact.
- Identify product threats/opportunities: Learning empowers me to think ahead, anticipate threats, and opportunities to empower me to grow my product.
- Learn best practices: There are hundreds of PMs across the world who have worked on bigger and more complex problems than me. Where relevant, I prefer learning from them rather than trying to gain the experience myself. Learning from others is a great hack to accelerate career growth.
- Stay on top of trends: Product management is always evolving, and it is essential to know about the new trends (like AI) and how they might impact our role.
- Increase knowledge: No matter where you are in your career, there's always more to learn about your domain, role, industry, competitors, interests. The right knowledge ALWAYS makes you stand out from peers
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Why is it tough to learn?
The biggest impediment to learning as a product manager is not knowing:
- Who to learn from
- What to learn
- How to learn
- Which resources are good
- How to find more time
How to learn on daily basis:-
I follow 5 simple steps to incorporate learning in my day-to-day routine.
1. Have a system:
I have a very simple system where I
- Spend at least 30 mins everyday on learning. Never less, but often more.
- Have quick access to high quality content (more on this below)
- Spend my free time "consuming" content not "finding" what to consume
2. Focus on quality > quantity:
Given the increased number of people sharing learning and resources on topics, it is easy to get lost in the crowd. I highly recommend focusing on quality of learning, not quantity. I only read a few blogs, but I dive deep on topics that are of interest.
I strongly believe that learning one thing well > Trying to learn too many things
3. Build and join communities:
I am very active on social media and in online communities. My main goal is to find other product managers who are either like me or have the same questions as me or have discovered the answers to the questions that I have.
Once I find such forums or people, I connect with them, and learn *how* they do their job. Again, learning from others is so much quicker (and sometimes easier.) I have learned more from a 60 min chat than 100 articles combined.
4. Apply your learning:
Learning without application is waste
When I am learning, I am doing two things:
Whenever, I learn something new, I find scenarios where I can apply my learnings. And when I am stuck or blocked with scenarios where I do not know what to do, I will go out and try to learn about the specific scenario.
At the end of it, I ensure I am always learning things that are relevant to my real-life challenges, and that everything I learn I apply in the real world.
How to apply this in real-world:
All of this might still sound theoretical. So I thought it will make sense to really understand how I apply all these cheat codes in real life and learn product management.
- Find high quality content: I am always on the look out for good resources to learn from. I usually start broad (i.e. consume everything I come across.) Filter out the noise, bookmark the best. And only read the best. I repeat this process every 6 months to ensure I am not missing out the new resources.
- Have easy access to high quality content: this is extremely critical for me. I always want to have something available to read/consume within a single click. So I:
- have an extensive email filtering system, which allows me to get access to the newest and most interesting resources in a single click away.
- always carry my kindle are a few books with me. Every instance where I have free time, I will start reading whatever I can find first.
- always have 5 articles saved on my phone. I use a few bookmarking apps, and save my articles offline so I can read them even when I am out of coverage areas.
- Use free-time wisely: When waiting for a cab, traveling, or in a queue, I open my email or Kindle or the saved articles and start reading. Remember: it is important to spend time "consuming" vs "thinking or finding" what to consume.
- Make IRL meetings count: when having lunch with colleagues (or friends), share your latest learning with them. Discuss details, share and gather opinions. This will increase your learning, and that too without putting in any extra effort or hours.
- Engage with experts: there are a lot of people (like me) who share their learnings online. Find the ones who's content is relevant to you, and engage with them -- ask questions, start discussions, connect with them. Doing this is the most (and only) scalable way to learn from others.
- Share your learning: Every time I learn something new, I share with others -- write a blog, Tweet, LinkedIn post, anything. Sharing learnings, especially in writing, helps me identify gaps in my learning, which in turn informs what I should learn next.
That is it for today. If you liked these tricks, please leave a comment. If you have other tricks to learn, please share in comments.