It’s here. The end of the quarter.
What else is here?
The extra shot in your morning latte. The last minute emails. The unsettling realizations that you weren’t as ahead of your OKRs as you thought you were. Guilt or anger aimed at yourself or others for not planning properly. Late nights. Less sleep. More coffee. The “hail Mary” tosses, trying to push things over the line.
This is how end of quarter tends to look for a lot of us. We think we had everything under control. And when we realize we no longer do, we think we control enough to fix it.
I’ve found the advice of the stoics (especially the works of Marcus Aurelius) especially helpful in my tech career, given the pace and volatility we face everyday.
By heeding some of their wise words and implementing some of my own tricks, you too can remain resilient amidst the end-of-quarter chaos. Want to end the quarter feeling accomplished and prepared for the next? Check out these tips.
Your life is harder than it needs to be because you think you have control over more than you actually do
There’s a lot going on, all the time. Especially for we product marketers, who are at the center of marketing, sales and product. Most of the time, we’re good at maintaining an objective viewpoint on situations and prioritizing. Though sometimes even I find myself involved in something I shouldn’t be.
Because we (think) we have a stake in how almost all matters turn out, we often over-involve ourselves in things we can’t directly affect outcomes for. In reality, the realm of things we can actually control is small. And this is exactly where our focus needs to be maintained. On the things we can control.
Don’t be tempted to run in the plays for the hail mary passes. At the end of the quarter, divide your moment-to-moment concerns into two buckets – the things you can control, and the things you can’t.
Can’t control it? Leave it be. Focus on the items over which you have direct control on the outcome.
Stop burning energy on what you can’t change
After sorting everything on your plate into your two buckets, you probably still have too many things in your “things I can control” bucket.
One of two reasons. One, you probably felt unsettled or guilty that your bucket didn’t have as many things in it as you thought it would. Or, two, you’ve mistaken things that can affect you for things you actually have control over.
It’s a natural inclination to think that things affecting you deserve your attention and ownership. But just because something affects you, doesn’t mean you can control it.
Your final budget approval? Affects you, yes, but ultimately out of your hands. Organizational shuffles? Team reallocations? Affects you, yes, but that’s the will of your department. Trying to change the behavior of salespeople or get them to deliver a demo to spec without buy-in or help from their leaders? Forget it.
These items shouldn’t be in your basket. You can hope and worry about them all day long but the only thing you’re doing is wasting time and making yourself miserable.
Return your attention to the (small) realm of what you can control
The hardest thing to do in the end-of-quarter tornado, and also the most critical, is to return your attention to the basket of things you CAN control.
This is excruciatingly painful given we product marketers operate in cross-functional environments. The dependencies are endless. So many things can go wrong. And unfortunately, we think we can step in or move mountains when things break.
And sometimes we can. But when things are really broken? Like royally broken or on fire? My friend Rebecca Kalogeris at Pragmatic Marketing said it best — “Let it burn.”
Your success as a product marketer isn’t tied to completion of:
- Last minute sales requests
- Reviewing every last marketing draft
- Getting to inbox zero
- Attending every standup
- Putting out every fire you see
At the end of the quarter, it’s important to focus on one thing, not juggling the million other things out in the ether. Focus on tending to the small garden of things you can control. Success is actualized and recognized when a few things are done incredibly well; not when a lot of things are done poorly.
Clear the decks
So how do you stay resilient in end end-of-quarter sh*tstorm?
Shrink your scope of concern. Not in your bucket? Can’t control it? Don’t think about it. The most gratifying and productive thing I did this week (after recovering from putting on our user conference last week) was making three clicks. I clicked to the second page of my inbox, ‘selected all’ and ‘archived all.’ All those chains with sales chatter, back-and-forth on documentation and backlog of newsletters? Gone. Focus? Back!
Find your center. Dust off the quarterly planning document or OKRs you authored at the beginning of the quarter. Give it a fresh look. Take stock of where you are and where you need to be in two weeks. Assess the gap and plot your best course for the next two weeks after acknowledging limitations and things you can’t change. Realize you’re coming up short to a goal? Don’t try and fix it at the expense of your other goals.
Stay in tune with your emotions and impulses. After reading the sections above, you may feel like you can bucket like a pro. But don’t forget that your mind will drift towards whatever it finds emotionally compelling. Which risks you mistaking (and burning time & energy worrying about) something outside of your bucket. Be diligent and always ask yourself, “does this actually matter, does this actually matter to me, and if so, is it something I can control?” If the answer is no, let it burn.
The bottom line
As hard as it is with everything else happening around us, we only need to remember one thing as we approach the end of the quarter– having the will to worry only about things within our control. This will and mindset is what produces outcomes, guides us across seas of ambiguity and ultimately makes we product marketers successful…not checking items off a list. With this mentality, you’ll feel unusually prepared and confident over the next two weeks. Good luck!