The concept of the conflicting needs of the maker and the manager originates from an essay called Maker’s schedule, manager’s schedule, published in 2009 by Paul Graham, one of the founders of the famous Silicon Valley startup incubator Y Combinator. In it, Graham observes that there are two different sets of timetables in use in the business world.
Managers work in bite-sized chunks
People whose work predominantly revolves around attending meetings and managing others tend to chunk their days down into 30 to 60 minute slots. They measure progress by ticking off lots of small tasks and discussions and making sure that other people involved are keeping things moving.
Makers need big blocks of time
On the other hand, those whose work involves producing something often need a much longer timeframe to find their flow. Achieving meaningful progress may require a few hours, a full day, or even several days at a time of uninterrupted focus.
Trying to blend both doesn’t work
As a writer, I’ve long recognised the need to reserve big chunks of my calendar for the purposes of actually writing. My least productive days are those that have meetings in the middle of them, so for the past few years I’ve tried to cluster my meetings in the early morning or late afternoon.
For the most part that works well, but understanding the conflict between these two different approaches to time clarified an issue I previously hadn’t been able to put my finger on. It explains why trying to stick to a manager’s schedule at times when I’m also trying to be a maker turns me into something entirely different: a procrastinator.
It prevents me from starting projects (or smaller tasks within bigger projects) because, as Graham puts it, ‘If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I’m slightly less likely to start something ambitious in the morning… And ambitious projects are by definition close to the limits of your capacity. A small decrease in morale is enough to kill them off.’
Reading that made me realise I need to become much more disciplined about protecting the business writing time in my calendar, because all those seemingly little interruptions that creep into my schedule actually put huge pressure on the timelines of my big writing projects. Equally importantly, they deter me from moving forward on ambitious projects I have in mind for my own business.
I actually love meeting with my clients, networking with others in my industry and many other aspects of managing my business, so I have no plans to abandon my manager’s hat altogether.
Instead, I’m test-driving taking the same approach to managing that I do to making, and setting aside a big weekly block of time in which to get things done, rather than trying to tick off a few little tasks each day.
Are you a manager or a maker? And what method of slicing and dicing your schedule works best for you?