A career in product management can be fulfilling and enriching in multiple ways. You have opportunities to utilize your practical and creative skills to address market needs.
You get to collaborate closely with a variety of talented professionals on a daily basis. However, this doesn’t mean that it will always be smooth sailing.
Product management can also be a high-pressure experience. You may find yourself experiencing significant stress on a regular basis. Unless you take effective steps to navigate the symptoms of this, there are likely to be negative consequences for you, your team, and your company. The good news is that you are not powerless to address this issue.
We’re going to explore a handful of the ways you can handle the stress that comes with a product management career.
Understand Your Sources of Stress
The first step you need to take is identifying your sources of stress. Product management is a varied role that contains multiple points of pressure. Not to mention that the experience of stress can be personal to each individual. By narrowing down your root causes, you can more effectively take action.
Take a formal approach to this. Sit down and map out the components of each day. Identify consistent tasks you need to undertake and the types of interactions you engage in. Review the elements that may be unique to specific product projects, too. Consider how each aspect makes you feel and why you might feel this way.
Sometimes it’s helpful to add a numerical value to how stressed each element makes you feel. After all, it’s not always a single type of action that makes you feel pressured and burned out. Often, it’s an accumulation of various types of stressors.
You may find that simply identifying these can make you feel a little more capable of managing them, rather than facing the nebulous idea of “workplace stress.”
Set Clear Boundaries
Product management can be a pretty intense experience. You’re responsible for ushering at least one product at a time through its lifecycle, collaborating with multiple departments at any given moment. There is also a range of competing priorities and demands throughout the process.
Unless there are aspects of control in place, this can eventually become overwhelming. The result is often risking burnout or serious stress that derails projects and — more importantly — your quality of life.
Part of the solution to this is setting strict boundaries. The most vital of these is often between your work and home life. Set limits in place so that when you leave the office, your work stays there. Don’t answer emails or phone calls at home unless it is a genuine emergency.
As things get more hectic in the lead-up to a product launch, make sure you schedule these so everyone understands that these boundaries are in place.
It’s also important to set emotional boundaries. Yes, it’s vital to care about your work and how well you manage product development through its lifecycle. Nevertheless, your level of attachment shouldn’t be to your personal detriment.
This mindset too often leads to taking each perceived failure personally or cultivating toxic forms of commitment to the project. Learn to recognize what reasonable personal and professional priorities are and maintain these.
Collaborate with a Therapist
One of the most important ways to handle stress as a product manager is recognizing that you’re not alone. Sharing how you feel has long been recognized as a key form of stress relief.
In the best circumstances, this would involve an open dialogue about mental health among your team. However, not everybody is comfortable sharing in this way. As such, collaborating with a therapist can be invaluable.
Ensuring you get the most appropriate mental health care involves finding the right therapist for you. There is a range of different types of mental health clinicians and each has its own area of specialization. While a psychiatrist can diagnose disorders and prescribe medication, this may not be appropriate for your needs.
Rather, a psychotherapist or counselor focusing on occupational health or stress may be your best first point of contact. Though, it’s important to be guided by your individual needs.
Take the time to look for a therapist you feel comfortable talking with. Services are more accessible than ever before. Indeed, you may find it useful to work with a telehealth therapist.
This means that you can conveniently fit sessions into your working schedule without having to travel to appointments. This can be particularly helpful as product launches approach and you start to find work more hectic and stressful.
Adopt Solid Financial Practices
Sometimes the key sources of stress aren’t directly related to the tasks of your career. For many people, the finances attached to their roles can be a source of anxiety.
Though product managers earn an average of around $102,000 per year, it’s not unusual to still be concerned. After all, the current economy has a lot of uncertainty. Thoughts of how you or your family may be impacted if you no longer operate in this wage bracket can be distressing.
It is, therefore, important to adopt practices to alleviate some of the fear of this possibility. Adopting a positive financial mindset can help you adopt stronger habits related to your spending and saving. Don’t berate yourself for mistakes or poor financial behavior you’ve adopted in the past.
Rather, make a plan for how you’ll make improvements moving forward. Replicating the long-term goal-oriented thinking of wealthy people can also focus your concentration on building savings and retirement buffers.
In some ways, it can be helpful to think of your finances as another product you’re ushering into existence. You need to identify areas of need and assets that can improve your stability. You then plan activities to bring you closer to your goals and implement periods of assessment to make any changes. This additional control over your finances can reduce the stress that the possibility of economic uncertainty may bring.
Stress is often a feature of a career in product management, but you can take steps to mitigate its impact.
Take the time to better understand your specific sources of stress so you can more effectively address them. Set boundaries between your work and home life and maintain these strictly. Collaborating with a therapist can give you an invaluable outlet for your concerns and introduce you to coping mechanisms.
It’s also wise to secure your finances to navigate the stress of economic uncertainty. While avoiding stress entirely is unlikely in product management, the tools you implement to manage it can ensure you continue on your fulfilling and enriching career path.