How to apply Product Management principles to your life

Apply PM skills to transform your life.

Joyce Bao
8 min readApr 14, 2020

Hi! I am Joyce and I love building product experiences that help people live a healthier and happier life. I became a bioengineer turned Product Manager 6 years ago, when I didn’t know this title existed nor knew what the role entailed. Over the years, as I learned about the breadth and depths of being a Product Manager, I realized that the process of becoming a Product Manager has also personally transformed me as a person and how I manage my life.

As Product Managers, we can get easily caught up in the day-to-day tasks of “managing” our products. Similarly, we can easily lose sight of the larger picture in our daily lives when we are caught in our endless to-do lists.

Whether you are a Product Manager or not, you can learn to apply the following Product Management skills to help you create the life that you want!

1. Start with a vision

Creating a successful product starts with having a compelling and crisp vision that can motivate and align your stakeholders. Similarly, creating a life that you want also starts by defining your personal life vision that can keep you motivated daily, especially in times of challenges and adversity. A vision tied to a greater purpose will propel you to achieve your goals. To start defining what your life vision is, ask yourself:

  • What is it that you really want?
  • What matters most to you?
  • And where do you want to go?

Before I became a Product Manager, I knew that I wanted to leverage the power of technology to transform people’s health and well-being. Throughout my life, this vision guided me through the key career decisions I have made and opportunities I have taken on.

2. Define your value prop

A successful product not only has a compelling vision, but also a clear value proposition that articulates the benefit it is delivering. Once you have crafted your life vision, it is important to identify what your unique value proposition and the impact you intend to deliver.

Take the time to not only investigate and research the areas you are passionate about, but also interview yourself to understand what your strengths are.

Conducting research helps you gather useful information to navigate your path.

  • What are the different players or sub-domains in the field that you are passionate about?
  • What are the unmet needs or problems that you are excited to solve?

Then, you will want to interview yourself to understand your strengths and how you can add value to the domain you are passionate about.

  • What do you love to do? What makes you tick?
  • What are your strengths and super powers?
  • What makes you stand out?

In college, I knew loved the intersection of technology and medicine but didn’t know how I was actually going to use technology to improve people’s health. After grad school, I joined one of the largest medical device conglomerates, Siemens Healthcare, so I can learn about the inner workings of the healthcare industry. At the same time, I was great at breaking down complex problems into digestible format and loved leading and collaborating with a diverse group of people to achieve a common goal. This self-awareness led me find my path into, product management, a career that I love.

3. Create a roadmap

A lot of people have aspirations but not concrete goals that can help them realize these aspirations. Now that you have your vision (where you want to go) and what your value proposition is, it is the time to put your idea into action and create your roadmap.

A product roadmap is a strategic plan that conveys your overarching product vision, the value the product is delivering to users and the business. The goal of a product roadmap is to gain support and alignment.

  • Start with an overarching goal of where you want to be in the next 12 months.
  • Pick a central theme for each quarter (3 months) that you would like to focus on and make progress towards achieving your goal.
  • Create a quarterly SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound) goal that articulates the impact you expect to see. Start by asking yourself what is your definition of success?

It’s important to keep in mind that the goal is not to prescriptive and create a set of to-do list for the next 12 months, but rather to keep you focused on your most important priorities that are tied to the outcomes you want to see.

Also, be realistic here. In product, we often use the “crawl-walk-run” approach to break down big, ambitious goals into digestible phases that the team can execute against. This approach can be applied to your life roadmap — start with the realistic goals that you have 70% confidence in attaining so you stay motivated on your journey.

Your roadmap is also a great tool that you can share with you personal stakeholders (mentors, life champions, and accountability buddies) to provide feedback and keep you accountable.

4. Set OKRs

OKRs stand for Objectives Key Results.

“Key results benchmark and monitor HOW we get to the objective. Effective key results are specific and time-bound, aggressive yet realistic. Most of all, they are measurable and verifiable.” — Measure What Matters, John Doerr

OKRs are used in Product Management to effectively maintain alignment and focus massive efforts towards achieving a clear goal. OKRs are planned on a quarterly basis and this is where you start to provide more specificity to the specific actions that you will take.

Now that you have your goals or objectives for each quarter, define a set of 3–5 key results that you will hold yourself accountable to.

We are creatures of habits and our lives can easily be overtaken by the autopilot habits we might or might not be consciously aware of. Having a set of key results will help you measure and track whether or not your daily actions are actually helping you progress towards your goals.

Edit: For more tips on how to set your personal OKRs, Christina Wodtke wrote this great Medium post that deep dives into some of her best practices on how to write your personal OKRs.

5. Start prototyping & infuse design thinking

This is the fun part! When you start to treat your life like a product, the first mindset shift you have to adopt is to recognize that you might not get it perfect at the start. Don’t be afraid of failures — embrace your mistakes so you can learn and continuously iterate!

  • Start by defining your minimum viable product or MVP. What are your minimum set of “must haves” requirements that will help you test your idea?
  • Build a few lightweight prototypes that you can put to test rapidly.
  • Be flexible and focus on gaining insights from your experiences to help you learn and iterate.

Before I found my niche in Product Management, I prototyped various other career paths that met my requirements. I loved solving complex problems and learning about inner workings of medical technologies so I took on an internship as a R&D engineer. I loved working with people and launching products so I volunteered at a start-up as a marketing manager in college and later on took on a role as a marketing manager at Siemens. I knew I wanted to bring technological innovations to the field of medicine so I found a rotation at Siemens that allowed me to collaborate with physicians to research the capabilities of various innovation prototypes. Every experience gave me more insights and allowed me to iterate on what I truly want to do.

6. Use SCRUM

Lastly, I find SCRUM to be a constructive and efficient process for prioritizing my actions, tracking progress and regularly reflect on my learnings. SCRUM is what will help turbo-charge your to-do list, by aligning your action items with clear goals while maximizing your productivity towards your desired outcomes. Often times, people focus on crossing of their list of tasks or activities itself rather than the results they yield and how their efforts are tracking towards the life goals.

Pro tip: Product management tools, such as Trello, can be very helpful for keeping track of your backlog of personal action items! Your lists should be revisited on a weekly basis.

I also schedule a daily “standup” in the morning to meditate and check-in with myself.

  • What is my focus for the day?
  • What is an accomplishment I am most proud of from yesterday?
  • What is one thing I would like to improve on today?
  • What are 3 things I’m most grateful for?

On Sundays, I typically have a “retro” to review my past week’s progress so I can plan and adjust my actions for the following week.

Taking a daily moment to journal and reflect on your life can help you sift through the chaos and lead your life with conscious awareness.

Your life is your most important product. What kind of product do you want to spend your life building?

Thank you for reading! I would love to hear ways you have incorporated PM skills to your life! Please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn if you have any feedback or questions. If you are looking for ways to apply PM skills specifically to your career, please check out She | Aspired!



Joyce Bao

Passionate about hacking human well-being and empowering women to achieve their personal definition of success.