Makers and managers

Post Comment


Jeff Abbott recently called our attention to a very interesting analysis from Paul Graham about the difference between a maker’s and a manager’s schedule:

The manager’s schedule is embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.

As a freelance writer, I’m obviously on the maker’s schedule, which is why the running project list I keep on my desk at all times is at least as important as the combination of paper planner and Outlook calendar I use to track phone calls and appointments. And I think Graham is totally right when he explains how poorly matched the two schedules are:

When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in.

Graham suggests that companies try to put managers on the maker’s schedule as much as possible, scheduling meetings at the end of the day and in “office hours”-like clusters. But Jeff raised another intriguing possibility for makers: what about a new kind of planner that broke the day down into larger chunks of time, say 2 to 3 or even 4 hours at a time? Would that be useful, or just confusing? Since that’s not the way I use my planner, I’m not really sure.

What do you think?

6 thoughts on “Makers and managers

  1. Wow, that maker vs. manager distinction makes so much sense! No wonder I don’t use appointment calendars very well. I bought my 2010 calendar today, and was just pondering whether a simple split into morning/afternoon would work better than time slots.

    I’m currently using a Notor, and I usually just write notes on what I have to do that day in the lined section. If I have an appointment, I write the time; I hardly ever use the appointment section. Especially since it only goes until 7pm. I do find myself wishing I had at least some time-based structure in my notes, and tried using an Exacompta Visual… but the time slots are too limited, and too exact.

    If you design a time-block calendar, I’d suggest not giving exact times. Split it into Early Morning / Morning / Noon / Afternoon / Evening / Late Evening blocks, and people can write in exact times when necessary.

  2. Thank you for posting this!

    It’s very timely – I’ve just decided to give up three hours of (paid) work one day a week, because it took so much out of my writing time.
    And ‘Maker’s Schedule’ perfectly points out why that was such a good decision!

  3. I use my current planner in a similar way. My planner has an empty box for each day, no lines, no times. I break my day into morning, afternoon, and evening. This keeps me on track. If I have an actual appointment (which is rare) I write the time. Otherwise it’s tasks that I have to do not necessarily at an exact time, just during a particular time of day (for example, in the evening after the kids go to bed so I can have quiet to actually concentrate on something!). I can’t really schedule things at an exact time, because I have to be more flexible than that. Inevitably something else comes up. So, a 3 or 4 hour block works better for me.

    I currently use a week + notes format because I have things to do each day (as detailed above) and also I have a lot of lists every week. I have tried having my lists in a separate notebook, but I have found that I work best having my lists alongside my schedule, so I can see what I have to do and when I have time to do it.

    I have to agree with, well, a lot of people, that I need just as much time for Saturday and Sunday as I do during the week. I have just as much, or more, that I need to accomplish on the weekends!

  4. I am currently using a simple lined notebook for calendar, writing week and dates on the top of odd pages, To-Do-List on even pages (the list goes for a week), several pages with long-term goals broken into tasks where I can see the bigger picture and LOTS of notepages (aproximately the same amount as the calendar).
    I get bored with a calendar quite quickly so I have one for every three months or so.

  5. I’m the opposite. Yes, I’m a writer, but I have to interface with the more traditional schedules as well. So the traditional divisions work for me. However, my hours vary from the historic 9-5 and my work week rolls onto different days of the week, both because of my writing and my activity with my faith.

    What this means is that I need LONGER work day divisions. I’m not always able to write during the times listed on the usual pages and my critique groups or classes may not get out until 10PM. Sundays I teach multiple classes in my Faith, including Sunday evening. So I need Sundays to look the same as the rest of the week, not be an afterthought of a few lines assuming nothing occurs on that day.

    I can divide off my own time, given those lines, and set certain days of the week and times of day to concentrate my appointments. Plus, conventions often run from weekdays through weekends and have events starting from registrations at 7AM to functions beginning at 9PM if they’re held in late-starting cities like New York.

    Give me more time lined off on all 7 days. And give me removable address book portions so I can transfer them from book to book, or toss them in my bag separately to cut down on weight when I travel.

  6. Whoa! I think that would be wonderful. Large blocks to write in. I’m thinking squared off large spaces with no lines inside them. Maybe 4 for a workday 2 for morning and two for afternoon. There could also be a smaller block for each, before and after work…for pick up laundry, get kids, run, small grocery list etc.

    I’d love this. Fountain pen friendly of course.

    I make things (pens) and run things (household). Currently, I’m using a computer to make two lists on one page. Business to do at top and Personal/house to do below that. Everything during the day kinda gets mixed up. But a layout like you’re suggesting, if I read you right, could help me time-locate the activities.

    Keep me posted about what you decide. Thanks.
    Love and Light,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.