Why “Multitasking” is inefficient, but unavoidable for Product Managers?

By Kishore Elimineti

Product Managers are the CEOs of their products and ensure that they ship an awesome product that customer’s love. Product Managers have business acumen as well as engineering wherewithal.

SVPMA Multitasking Article Photo 103013Product Managers will work extensively with customers while working cross functionally with Product Marketing, Engineering, Sales, Corporate Marketing and Alliance Partners in order to successfully prioritize features and develop the products that our customers need. They drive strategy and bring their product to market. Yet, many product managers still find Multitasking to be quite challenging.

It is technically impossible to perform one task at a time since Product Managers are bombarded with loads of information. There is no way they ignore such important and time sensitive information. Accepting and organizing these disparate data points as they arrive is critical to success. If this critical information is ignored then those pending decision will slow down the productivity of whole company.

Below are some examples but not limited to:

  • Feature requests coming from Team and Customers
  • Feedback coming from Sales
  • Reports on Customer bugs and QA
  • Dealing with Technical fires
  • Recommendations from PMM’s

At any given moment PM’s will be dealing with at least two of the above scenarios simultaneously.

The nature of this role requires multiple tasks to be tackled in parallel — to do otherwise will slow down the rest of the team.

Multitasking can reduce productivity by approximately 40-percent according to some researchers; but with Product Management it’s an unavoidable part of the job. They need to balance between single tasking versus multitasking based on the priority and context. Look at the cases below to get a sense of priority or context.

Multitasking is inefficient:

Imagine trying to talk to customer and write an email at the same time. Both of these tasks involve communication. You can’t speak to customer and write a clear and focused email at the same time. The tasks are too conflicting – your mind gets overloaded as you try to switch between the two tasks.

Multitasking is efficient:

Now think about listening to Customer as you try to write an email. These two tasks are a bit easier to do together because they involve different skills.

Tips to Stop Multitasking?

  • Schedule your day into blocks of time. Set specific times for returning calls, answering emails, and doing research
  • Keeps a log showing what interrupts you the most, and how urgent the requests are.

Once you’ve compiled a week’s worth of interruptions you can design your approach to reduce the interruptions.

Key Takeaways:

  1. Products managers need to balance between multitask or single task based on the priority, context and urgency.
  2. Multitasking will increase stress levels. Dealing with multiple things at once makes us feel overwhelmed, drained and frazzled.
  3. Identify and follow Tips which will help to stop multitasking.

Kishore Elimineti is a Sr. IT Architect, Business Applications in Application Delivery Network industry. He can be reached at Kishore.elimineti@gmail.com.