Guide to a remote product manager’s daily routines: tools, processes and tips

What is it like to work as a remote product manager? A product manager’s day is rarely uniform, especially if they’re working in a different location from their team.

If you’re transitioning from a co-located product manager role to a remote or distributed environment (or you just want to learn how other product managers handle working with a distributed team), you’re in the right place.

Our goal is to help you learn what the best product managers do daily, familiarize yourself with the tools they use, and understand the specifics of working as a remote product manager and how to succeed in this role. We’ve gathered insights from a number of thought leaders and experts in remote product management to share what they do on a daily basis and what works best for them when managing a distributed team.


1. Is it even possible to be a remote product manager?

2. Daily Schedule

3. Weekly Schedule

4. How to improve communication in a product team: best practices from Miro

5. Which tools are most useful for remote product managers?

Melissa Suzuno

Author

Is it even possible to be a remote product manager?

The short answer, of course, is yes. It is absolutely possible to be a remote product manager! Keep reading this post for tons of practical tips and tricks from people who work as remote PMs and have mastered the art of dealing with distributed teams. But it’s worth taking a moment to consider why some people are resistant to the idea of a remote PM.

Product manager and designer Rian van der Merwe acknowledges that there can be pushback against the idea of remote product managers. Some people have a firmly held belief that you need to be present in order to influence others and collaborate effectively. But in his experience, “there are certain things that remote work is naturally better suited for than on-premise work… remote work makes it much easier to develop and instill a rhythm of collaboration and focused time for a team.” Rian also finds that working as a remote product manager makes it easier to make sure “the right people know about things, and the wrong people don’t get distracted by things they don’t need to be involved in.” Melissa Perri, founder and CEO of Produx Labs also found that as a product manager, one of the best teams she ever worked on was a remote team. Read more about her experience here.

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Daily Schedule

So what exactly does a product manager do on a daily basis? Generally, this role involves a fine balance of dealing with urgent “fires that need to be put out” and more strategic, long-term thinking and planning. As a product manager, it’s important for you to understand this and allow yourself time for both types of activities. With a distributed team, it’s also important to look for ways to encourage communication and build relationships since connection with your team might not come as naturally as if you all worked in the same office.

You may also find that, as a remote product manager, your hours don’t fit a typical 9–5 schedule (so the times we provide in the schedule below are merely rough guidelines). You might start early and end late while taking breaks throughout the day for yourself. This flexibility allows you to connect with team members who are based in other time zones. For example, a San Francisco-based Product Manager might start their workday at 6am to have time to check in with team members on the East Coast or in Europe before they wrap up for the day.

That’s my favorite part of my job — no two days are the same!

Samantha Stevens

 Director of Location Products, Tinder

Here are some of the most common daily tasks for product managers.

9:00–9:30

Check & respond to urgent tasks

As a remote product manager, you’ll likely begin your day by checking your email, Slack, and customer relationship management tool like Zendesk or Intercom. If you have any requests from your customer support team, you will spend time investigating issues, clarifying expected flows, researching user requests, and scoring bugs. Once you’ve taken care of all the urgent matters, you can save any non-urgent emails or issues for a work block later in the day.

9:30–10:00

Read up on industry news/competition

A big part of being a product manager is staying on top of what’s going on in your industry, with your competition, in the market, and in the tech world in general. This is why you’ll dedicate at least a part of your day to checking out tech blogs, news aggregators, company newsletters, and other information sources like Product Hunt or LinkedIn.

10:00–10:15

Attend a daily stand-up

The daily stand-up is an essential element of the agile development process. Even when your team is distributed, you can easily participate in this ritual of discussing what everyone did the previous day, what they’ll do today, and whether they currently have any blocks or challenges preventing them from moving forward. And yes, you really should turn your camera on and stand up! Ben Holland-Arlen, Senior User Experience Designer at Salesforce, says, “Wherever you are, it’s important to have your camera on and actually stand up. The actual act of standing up makes for a more concise stand-up. It sounds silly, but it’s really powerful.” Want to learn more about managing remote stand-up meetings? Check out this blog post for step-by-step instructions and customizable templates.

10:15–11:15

Analyze data

As a product manager, you need to keep an eye on site/app analytics and KPI dashboards to make sure everything is running smoothly. This might just be a routine check-in with a tool like Amplitude or Looker, but if you notice anything unexpected going on with the metrics, you may do a deeper dive to see if you can identify the cause. “For hardcore cases, we work together with Product Analysts who download raw data from our warehouse and then we slice and dice it together in Tableau or in Jupyter using Python programming language,” says Alex Rodnyy, Engagement Product Manager at Miro (formerly RealtimeBoard). If you’re preparing to present results to your team or executives, you may also spend additional time doing further data analysis to include in the presentation.

11:15–12:30

Write specs

You’ll dedicate part of your day to writing specs to outline new features and creating wireframes to include in the specs. The Product team at Miro (formerly RealtimeBoard) uses our tool for this. This might also involve getting input from the engineering or design team, so you might jump on a quick call to share your work and get feedback.

12:30–1:00

Lunch time

Working apart from the rest of your team doesn’t mean that you need to sit in front of your computer without a break! Most remote product managers give themselves time to grab something to eat, take their dog for a walk, or meet a friend to catch up. If you have a new team member, you can meet them for a virtual coffee or lunch so to chat informally and get to know each other a bit better. Check out our ultimate guide to remote team-building activities here.

Water coolers are chats or activity streams that are specifically created for non-work-related conversations. These spaces give a way for people to comment asynchronously between chunks of work, just like at a physical water cooler.

Davide Casali

Product Design Director, Automattic

1:00–2:30

Email block

One way you can stay focused and accomplish everything you need to do in any given day is by creating dedicated blocks of time to go through email and developing a system for responding to and classifying them. For example, anything that you can respond to or take care of within two minutes, you tackle right away. If you’re not the right person to address a particular topic or concern, you loop in the person who is. And if something doesn’t fit into either of those categories, you can assign it to a particular work block like “product backlog” or “customer feedback.”

2:30–4:30

Manage the product feature backlog

One of the ongoing tasks for product managers is making sure the product feature backlog is frequently updated. You’ll document ideas that come from customers, executives, and other sources and periodically dedicate time to prioritizing these ideas as features to include in upcoming sprints. You might use a tool like Asana to gather and organize your ideas for the backlog.

4:30–5:15

Respond to tickets

You might spend at least part of your day in a product management tool like Clubhouse or Jira responding to tickets that contain feedback from your users and testing any tickets that are relevant to your product family. Sometimes you might follow up with customers on some issues and feature requests.

5:15–5:30

Check in with team members

You’ll likely take a few minutes during the day to check in with your team via Slack or maybe a quick Google Hangout or Zoom meeting. This might not always be at the end of the day (and it might vary since with distributed teams the “end of the day” could be vastly different for each person), but dedicating time to communication (even if it’s just a quick check-in) every day is essential.


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Working with a remote team is all about prioritizing communication.

Melissa Perri

Founder and CEO, Produx Labs

5:30–6:00

Participate in some type of course/professional development

Just as it’s important to stay on top of the latest trends in technology and the market, it’s also important to develop your skill set and cultivate curiosity. Spending time taking an online course or reading about a topic of interest can help you expand your perspective and bring new ideas to your role.

Weekly Schedule

There are some activities that you probably won’t do every day, but that will still be a part of your regular routine as a product manager. Here’s a quick overview of some of the things you’re likely to do on a weekly cadence.

One way of breaking down your schedule is into core product activities (that are necessary for you to do your job and meet your KPIs) and activities that involve other stakeholders like customers, engineering, design, and executives.

Plan for the short and long-term

According to McKinsey, “Product managers now function on two speeds: they plan the daily or weekly feature releases, as well as the product road map for the next six to 24 months.” So in any given week, you’ll likely be spending some time looking at the sprints for the near future as well as planning mid- and long-term product feature ideas. This is an ongoing process since you’re always gathering new information from customers, the market, and your own data analyses.

The State of Product Leadership Report 2019 found that many product managers are now prioritizing alignment with design and UX, marketing, and customer success: “How products are designed; how they’re marketed and distributed; and how they’re made “sticky” for end users together comprise the holy trinity of modern software.” So as you’re planning for the future, you’ll likely be working with and across several teams.

Talk to customers

You make product decisions every day that will affect your customers, so it’s important to have a regular and steady stream of interaction with your customers. This can involve phone calls, video calls, in-person meetings (either in your office or theirs), and reviewing customer support tickets and gathering feedback from your customer support team. This regular interaction helps you understand your customers’ needs and plan upcoming features accordingly. After these interactions, you will also want to take time to visually synthesize what you’ve learned so it’s easy to remember and share with others. See this post by Teresa Torres for ideas on how to map out what you learn from customers.

Participate in cross-functional working/brainstorming sessions

As a product manager, you can’t work in a silo—you have to constantly communicate and share feedback with other teams like engineering and design. In addition to regularly scheduled stand-ups or processes that help you stay in touch with other teams, you will likely find it helpful to have working or idea-generating sessions with cross-functional team members from product marketing, sales, customer success, and other stakeholders. We’ve got some practical tips for making the most of your brainstorming sessions here.

One-on-one meetings (with your direct reports and manager)

When you’re working remotely, it’s extra important to make sure that your direct reports feel supported and that your manager has a clear idea of what’s going on with you and your team. Regular one-on-one meetings allow you time to check in with your direct reports and manager, both on a personal and professional level. These meetings also give you time to discuss high-level topics like professional development.

My advice would be to pay attention to timing and scheduling while you work from different time zones and documenting decisions so you can be autonomous while working asynchronously.

Anna Boyarkina

Head of Product, Miro (formerly RealtimeBoard)

Run a team sprint retrospective

If your team follows the agile workflow (or some variation that involves working within a set timeframe), you’ll be running retrospective meetings on a regular basis. These give you the opportunity to review what went well and what could be improved in the next sprint. While co-located teams may get together in a large conference room and use a pile of Post-it notes, with a remote team, you can recreate a similar experience in Miro (formerly RealtimeBoard). Get a step-by-step guide to running retros remotely as well as several plug and play templates from Miro here.

Historically, the whole team has met in a conference room for the [retro] exercise, but today’s prevalence of distributed teams requires new solutions.

Lieuwe Van Brug

Founder of Lern.io

Team-wide product review session

During a product review session, everyone on your team has the chance to pitch or explain their product decisions and get feedback from their peers. At some companies, this also involves sharing any available metrics, top user needs, and upcoming launches to provide a broader understanding of the roadmap.

Whatever amount of process or documentation you might have if you collocated at a 100-person company, you also need at a 20-person distributed company… The reason is, as more people come on, they can’t go talk to people, walk up to their desk, and go find things on their own without spending a lot of energy.

Hiten Shah

Founder of FYI, KISSmetrics, and CrazyEgg and author of 5 Habits to Building Better Products Faster

How to improve communication in a product team: best practices from Miro

Alex Rodnyy

Engagement Product Manager at Miro (formerly RealtimeBoard)

The key for successful distributed collaboration is communication. Open, transparent, comprehensive communication. Here are my recommendations.

1. For open communication

We use Miro boards, Google Docs, Confluence pages, Jira Issues available to everyone from the team. For example, a board with feature specifications, Google Doc with meeting memos and key documented decisions, Google Spreadsheet with hypotheses scoring based on conducted user interviews, Confluence page with key information about the initiative, and Jira Epic with more technical focus. All cross-referenced for better discoverability. Teams share their quarterly OKRs with the whole company. Teams update their Confluence Spaces with current statuses and lessons learned. The Product Development Team tracks a company roadmap on a weekly basis.

2. For transparent communication

Every initiative has clear responsible and accountable persons and a wide list of teams to be informed and consulted with. The rationale is based on strategy alignment (vision, strategic bets, product peaks and valleys), year and quarter OKRs traction, relevant problem-hypotheses-predictions structures, success criteria, and target metrics with appropriate monitoring plan.

3. For comprehensive communication

We do regular syncs on various levels: initiatives (weekly syncs and data checkpoints), teams (daily stand-ups and weekly Growth syncs), guilds (weekly product roadmap traction, bi-weekly product review and product insights, Product talks every 3 weeks), monthly cross-team syncs (between Growth and Marketing teams), company wide (monthly all-hands meetings, quarterly results, and plans).

Daily communication in Slack on various levels: single initiative channels, scrum teams and project teams, guilds, company wide. Also we have private team retrospective channels for issue collection, actions to be taken summary, and status of taken actions.

Each initiative at Miro includes:

Summary, Feature name, Availability, PM, Designer, Dev Team, Board link, Jira epic, Goal (high-level objective and short description), References, User stories, Launch plan, Success criteria/metrics, Data, Supported tools, Which teams need to be informed, and Open questions.


Which tools are most useful for remote product managers?

  • MESSENGERS. Whether you prefer using Slack, Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams or anything else, messengers are a good place to connect with your team daily, ask questions, and respond to small requests.
  • VIDEO CONFERENCING. Face-to-face team meetings are an important part of building trust in your team. Make sure you actually turn a camera on to read each other’s emotions better. Try Zoom, Google Hangouts, Appear.in, or something else.
  • REAL-TIME COLLABORATION. Use Miro (formerly RealtimeBoard), Google Docs, or other tools for brainstorming ideas, sharing visual references, or collaborating on a Kanban/Scrum board.
  • TASK TRACKERS. Whether you use Asana, JIRA, Trello, or something else, it’s an integral part of the workflow that will keep your team motivated and help everyone to track progress. And simple tasks in Notion or Google Keep.
  • CALENDARS. Encourage everyone to keep their calendar updated (Google calendar, Any.do, Microsoft Outlook Calendar, or your calendar of choice), so it’s easier to sync up. Calendly is the best tool to set up calls not only with the team but with customer interviews too.
  • DESIGNER TOOLS: Zeplin, Marvel, Principle, Figma, and InVision help communicate desired UX and UI between Engineering and Design teams.
  • FILE SHARING: If you’re regularly sharing files with your team, you’ll want to use a system like Google Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, or Box.
  • DOCUMENTATION: Confluence and Notion help to keep all important decisions documented and transparent for the whole team.
  • ENGINEER & QA TOOLS: HipTest keeps track of test cases.

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