Finding the Time to be a Product Owner

Finding the Time to be a Product Owner

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Product owners are usually very busy people. They have many people and tasks needing their attention. And not being available for the team can have consequences including delayed delivery and higher development costs.

So how can you manage your time effectively as a product owner, and give attention to the right things?

Consider how your Scrum team works. They have a backlog of work, which you regularly groom to understand the requirement, get an idea of size and prioritize. They then commit to the most important things each sprint based on what they know about their capacity as a team.

This pattern can be applied to your own role as a product owner.

Consider everything you need to do as an item on your backlog. This might be meetings you need to attend, research you need to do or tasks. Each of these items has a cost (amount of time it will take) and a value (amount it helps your business and product). You have a fixed capacity of eight hours a day, because you should also be working at a sustainable pace.

We recommend breaking your day into 30 minute time slots, and taking the first 30 minutes each morning to look at your backlog of work for the day and picking the top items that will fill your remaining 15 slots. If you already have six hours of meetings scheduled that day that you have to attend, you only four slots left for the things on your backlog.

Do this for a week and you’ll start noticing if some of the things you do or meetings you attend are not your highest priority items. You’ll also have a good idea of what you would be doing instead if you didn’t attend the meetings, which is a great place to start a conversation about where you can add the most value.

Once you have some data (one or two weeks) then you can try some of the following approaches to reduce your backlog:

Delete It

Was there anything on your backlog that never got to the top of the list in two weeks? If so, is it really that important? What would happen if you were just honest and said it was never going to get done? Would anything bad happen? Is this like those low-priority bugs your team keeps hoping they will fix one day, but never do? Be brave. Delete it from your backlog. You’ll be amazed how freeing it is to let go of things you would never get around to doing anyway.

Delegate It

Is there anything that you believe is important and should happen, but you just don’t have the time to do it? If so, is there someone you could delegate this to? Your first question should always be: Could my team do this instead of me? Do you need to meet with the user group and get their input? Is this something your team could do instead?

If you can delegate it, consider what you need to do to ensure it gets picked up appropriately. Should you do this together a few times before you leave it to them? Do you want them to debrief you afterwards? Do you want them to ensure certain outcomes happen? Set up delegation to be successful, by making sure you and the people you are delegating to have the same understanding of what your expectations are.

Simplify It

Is there anything you do that takes a lot of time? Maybe compiling a PowerPoint presentation of the release plan and roadmap? If so, think about how you might do it more simply. Brainstorm 10 different ways you could do it. Let some of the ideas be crazy (maybe you could sing a release song instead!). Now that you have 10 ideas, think about which idea will achieve the needed result with the least amount of effort. Maybe a hand drawn whiteboard sketch or 10-minute video recording will be better than a fancy slideshow, and possibly easier to create?

Remember: the best product owners manage their time as effectively as they manage their product--good luck!


My personal motto is ‘be brave’, and I embody this by taking on challenges one small step at a time. Most of my career has been in the IT industry, specifically Software Development. I co-founded Growing Agile and spend most of my time guiding and mentoring others with a passion for agile. I love that online training allows me to spread this passion world wide.

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