How do you handle your downtime as a PM?

Maybe I just suck or something idk. Does anyone else feel like being a PM is either immense downtime just checking in on things or a gigantic cluster heck with immense stress?

I feel like there’s no in between. It’s either 0 or 100.

Does anyone else feel this way?


I like having some downtime, allows me to think about the long term, plan strategy and CiP initiatives, work on myself.

In contrast, I can’t think of more than 2 times where I had downtime in my years as an engineer. Constant never ending list of projects with delivery dates.


You switched to being a PM from engineering? I’m trying to do that right now. Do you mind going over how you went about it?


@Christie, I transitioned to an internal role for platform style PM after almost a decade of experience in that industry as an engineer in product development, with specific experience on several projects implementing those platform solutions on external facing products.

So while I did not have previous PM experience… the main selling point was the depth of my knowledge of our products, the customers, the development and release processes, my technical background, relationships with the other development teams, and knowledge of our internal systems and product structure.

Because I had previously been an internal customer, my experience dealing with fallout / escalations resulting from several internal platform product releases gave me a desirable and hard to come by perspective. This was a huge leg up, as I could discuss in-depth the existing gaps, the impact of those gaps on business objectives / customers, and initial strategies to address each.

Executives on the product team had experience working with me, and had seen my work ethic / due diligence / bigger picture outlook first hand. That reduced the obstacle of convincing someone to take a chance on me as an new employee, not just as new to PM.

I’m not sure that’s very useful, unless you also find yourself in a position as a technical SME where there are PM opportunities directly or tangentially related to your technical experience.


@AnaRodriguez, I work for a large consulting company and they are willing to have me transfer. I have about 6/7 yrs of experience in engineering.

I wanted to make the jump to PM but they want me to be a BA first for 6-12 months. I am not down for it right now because I think it’s an unnecessary side step.

I’m wondering if I can go to the market with a tailored resume and get some traction for a PM role.


@Christie, Not sure. Experience at a consulting firm is so varied in the actual work… it would be preferential to have industry experience, bonus for work that involved / had exposure to product development or sustaining processes, customer interactions, etc.

In the industrial hardware space, my experience with consulting firms has been… mediocre at best. Would not personally be inclined to hire someone who hasn’t had skin in the game, felt the long term pain of poor product decisions, or seen first hand the impact on customers (internal or external).

But not all consulting firms are the same, and not all PM roles are the same. I’m sure there are consulting or internal service products where your experience would be directly beneficial.


Use the 0 time more effectively to manage product debt or gaps proactively so when it goes 100 it’s more like 95, and the better you get at treating your product like a member of the team it’ll get better and better. It’s that constant forward momentum and vision ideally that can help you plan better for future changes and improvements- also your devs will love you, they know where the crusty parts are and they love to solve problems


+100 to treating your product like a member of your team. Could you elaborate on this, I’m not quite grokking it…


@Cathryn, Products need to be more organic and need to be nurtured and cared for, just like a member of the team. The culture of your team really determines how successful your product will be because of the environment it’s maintained in. Constant improvements and not ignoring core debt etc. over new features will allow everyone on the team to feel confident everyone is aligned to the right things


I align with this so deeply. Any advice on how I can better articulate this philosophy in a PM job interview that won’t automatically kick me out of the running for being too soft and non-technical?


Don’t think this has anything to do with being technical, more or less being empathetic to the team and the product itself. Knowing how to draw lines between what it needs vs what the business wants is very important which I find in most orgs they can’t ever differentiate between.

If your company is designing a new car, you don’t start the conversation with what radio you think would be best suited for the customer…


When I was CEO of my own business, I had to regularly monitor the objectives and demands of my business, my people, and our customers.

The PM, as “CEO of the Product,” needs to recognize early warning signs that the needs of the business, team, or product begin to veer into conflict. This is where the PM needs to step in proactively and use influence and data to realign expectations.

If you take the health of any one of those three for granted, something will invariably blow up, and you’ll be sucked into crisis management.

It vexes me that PM interviews are almost singularly focused on data and methodology, and seem to disregard the art of proactive product and people leadership.


I love this. Awesome advice! Thank you @KaranTrivedi and @AnaRodriguez


Just here to say to all PMs who use their downtime to think long-term/plan ahead, I have massive respect for you. My downtime is so infrequent, I just wanna lay low and not be bothered by anything/anyone. What is your secret?


When zero time happens I try to get as busy as possible planning ahead, qork on technical debt, documentation, plan the next customer shadows ot data analysis, etc. Everything that usually can easily drop to the side when shit hits the fan.

Also, great time to work on updating technical, business or PM skills. People complain constantly that things are changing too fast - downtime is a GREAT way to work on that.


@MarioRomero, I’d argue that tech debt work should be a constant just like customer value. Partnership with the team on a percentage of every sprint dedicated to tech debt vs. business value is crucial.


Use the zero time to recharge and experiment. It is important to reserve slack in our systems so that we can actually have the capacity to handle peak demand.


The 0 time is the perfect time to think and plan ahead or just selfishly improve yourself. Get cranking on that strategy doc your team needs later this year. Run some experiments with UX folks to learn some more. Write product docs that everyone is always asking for. Learn a new skill that will help with something later down the road. Prune your internal documentation hub that everyone complains is filled with garbage. Load up some data in your BI tool or a jupyter notebook and see if there’s any new insights to bring to your teams. And so on.


This is likely to be a controversial post, but there is no such thing as downtime as a product manager.

This is highly dependent on your organization. But I’ve never worked in a company where a product manager would ever have “downtime”.

There is always something that you need to do more of. More customer research, more documentation, more communication to stakeholders, more communication to your engineering teams, and so on.

The times where you do not have strict requirements on things you need to deliver, are definitely opportunities for you to choose the thing that you work on. However, I would never call that downtime.


@Naomi, I schedule in downtime… I can’t go 100% all day. I also protect my lunch and don’t answer after 5 PM. Will it effect my career? Maybe. But I’m not a sled dog.