The Product Corner: Introduction to the series
Welcome to my first blog/medium story (out of many I hope) on reviewing products or specific features of a product that I use on a day-to-day basis! It may not always go in-depth like reviewing the specs of a phone let’s say, but I’m leaning more towards sharing my experiences with products and its features on how it affects me. Through that, I’m looking to create an empathetic environment with myself and the readers. I’m hoping out of this exercise that not only am I improving my communication/writing skills and getting exposed to more products but also give you some insights as to why I use them and how it has helped me which you can take away and think about applying towards your own life.
As I’m maturing in the product management space (definitely lots to learn and still at an early stage in my career), I think it’s important to have exercises like these to become closer to products and get you in the product mindset. Like everyone around the world, the pandemic has changed our lives in some shape or form. I definitely consider myself lucky as none of my close friends and family had significant or any health impacts due to COVID-19. As a result, there is no better time to capitalize on this moment and start something new as small as writing medium stories.
I haven’t really thought about much structure to the blog whether I’ll be going into detail about all the features of a product and how it works and whatnot, but it’ll be a learning process along the way. Making this public, I’m hoping it gives accountability to myself to continue writing these. If you’ve stumbled upon this, thanks for making it this far and if you have any suggestions, I’m more than happy to take any and all feedback!
The first product I’d like to chat about and kickstart this series is Google Calendar, specifically the iPhone app in my case. Sounds boring, right? But I have to say, not only has it saved me a couple of times from double booking important events but once you get into the habit and rhythm of setting reminders and entering in whatever and all you have going on, it really helps organize your life.
I think it’s easy to assume that because it’s a calendar, it has an association with only being used for important events like your Mom’s birthday or maybe special dates you don’t want to forget. If you imagine the traditional paper calendar, most people use it as such, marking the blank box of a day in a month with a sharpie. However, when it comes to Google Calendar, I find it is a powerful tool to keep track of and remind you of a lot of other things too. Whether it is something as big as a job interview to something as small as reminding you to text a friend to ask if they still have the charger they borrowed, to everything in between. At times I find setting reminders, reoccurring or not, through Google Calendar is less invasive than setting up an alarm with that infamous iPhone ‘Signal’ ringtone blaring in your ear. Depending on how your notification is set up for the app, it’ll simply popup without any sound on your iPhone’s lock screen instead.
The product is cloud-based having features such as color-coding the ‘events’ you create and within that, set the day and timeframe, invite others via email, set reminders, attach files linked with Google Drive, add notes and descriptions, and select which calendar you want to save it in if you have more than one (e.g. you may have one for school and another for work). All of that is bundled into the various view options to see the calendar either by day, 3 days, week, or month. As part of many Google’s offerings, this is all synced within your Google account to access wherever and whenever you’d like. I personally haven’t used any other calendars on my phone as religiously as this one, but over the years they’ve made subtle improvements to the user experience making the overall usage very simple and easy.
For me, it helps with clearing my head and not having to inevitably worry and feel anxious about forgetting something. Knowing that if I took the time to put a reminder in the calendar taking 1–2 minutes out of my day to action a task I want to accomplish, it’s well worth the benefit to remove the quick but subtle disappointment you feel if you forget to do it. Yes, it will take some time to get into the habit of it but once you catch on, your life productivity level will increase. A great book and resource to chime in here is Habit by Charles Duhigg as it helped me in many ways both personally and professionally. I highly recommend this book to anyone. Charles mentions to form a habit you need to understand three things that make the ‘habit loop’: 1) the cue, which is what triggers you to enter into the second step of 2) the routine, which in the context of this blog would be entering a reminder into Google Calendar, and tying that to 3) the reward. For me, the reward isn’t always tangible and the book mentions it doesn’t have to be. In my case, it’s more of what plays in my head of tying the positive outcome that pays dividends down the road.
How Habits Work - Charles Duhigg
From the appendix to The Power of Habit: The difficult thing about studying the science of habits is that most people…
A recent use case would be my task of recycling old electronics and wires I’ve accumulated in my condo to drop them off at BestBuy through their recycling program. I initially had it in my closet inside a large reusable bag just sitting there, telling myself I won’t forget and whenever I head near BestBuy’s area, will for sure do it. You probably have the ‘spidey senses’ already and can figure out that never happened. After realizing I haven’t done it for almost a month, I would put the bag in my car so that this time, whenever I’m heading home, would drop off it on the way. Mind you, this BestBuy is a 10-minute drive from my place if I got every single green light. Sure enough, that also didn’t happen and I kept getting lazy and put it off for another week or two. During all of this, I’ve been pretty good at setting reminders on my Google Calendar in other aspects of my life and had the flow of the habit but for some strange reason, I had it in my mind knowing I’m not the type of person to put things off there’s no way I can’t do this simple task. Now close to two months of wanting to recycle this, I checked my calendar, saw what was coming up in the week, and put a reminder to do it during the weekend. My usual process is to set two reminders; one for the day before to be aware of what I need to do the next day and another for when I want to do it (Google labels it as ‘At time of event’). Surely enough, when the weekend rolled around, I actioned it. By putting it in my calendar, it kept me accountable and brought the third aspect of Charles’ ‘habit loop’ in my mind, the reward, which was “once I do this, it opens up space in my car, I’m done with it, and know that I’ve responsibly got rid of my electronic junk”. Also, I hate doing things late minute; bringing back that feeling of rushing and tying that as part of the reward of not having to go through that experience is another way for me to think about it. This is just one example, but other ways I use it on a smaller scale is reminding myself to look online to think of a birthday gift, or another is to check my investments every Monday and Friday before work, and so on and so forth.
If you really think about it, I’m essentially documenting my life on Google Calendar to a certain extent. But by doing so, I can quickly and easily be confident that I have the time to action the reminded task I’ve entered. I think one of the reasons people may put things off is due to the fact they didn’t realize or forget they had ABC thing to do on XYZ day and eventually keeps getting pushed and pushed. By taking my approach, it limits that uncertainty. Of course, things come up that you can’t control. But knowing that I took control of everything that I can on my part gives me the satisfaction of not having to worry I didn’t complete the task I wanted to and can simply reschedule it on another day and time. We make countless decisions every day, and I remember reading somewhere the more you can put trivial thoughts, decisions, and reminders out of your head to make space for your brain on larger and important decisions, it’ll do wonders for your mental state and reserve your brain’s capacity to make the important calls elsewhere in the day. I took that as a challenge but also resonated with me and so far, I think it has helped. Even with my electronics recycling example, you can tell I still haven’t perfected my habit but getting a heck of a lot better at it.
Some might say this is OCD, and I don’t fully deny that, to be honest. I know myself as being a detail-oriented person and I feel this is a way for me to have more fluidity in my life. Hope you found some insight from reading this and as mentioned, please comment away! Look forward to my next blog soon.