There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s 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.
When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.
Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. 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.
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. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.
For someone on the maker’s schedule, having a meeting is like throwing an exception. It doesn’t merely cause you to switch from one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.
I find one meeting can sometimes affect a whole day. A meeting commonly blows at least half a day, by breaking up a morning or afternoon. But in addition there’s sometimes a cascading effect. If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I’m slightly less likely to start something ambitious in the morning. I know this may sound oversensitive, but if you’re a maker, think of your own case. Don’t your spirits rise at the thought of having an entire day free to work, with no appointments at all? Well, that means your spirits are correspondingly depressed when you don’t. And ambitious projects are by definition close to the limits of your capacity. A small decrease in morale is enough to kill them off.
– Excerpted from Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule by Paul Graham
Can you identify with the last paragraph?
I suspect it resonates with many of us. It’s why we write, paint, take pictures, and build stuff. But it’s also why we don’t often find the time to do those things we love.
At my core, I am a Maker. But my commitments often require me to be a Manager. Frankly, it’s how I earn a living.
The conflict between the two loomed large, but I never quite found the words to describe it until I read this essay. There really is an inherent difference in the way a day “looks” on each schedule.
For the last few months, I’d been actively seeking flexibility in my schedule, the ability to be responsible for results as opposed to time. It frequently requires me to work more, not less, but at a pace and location of my choice. To many, this makes no sense. Admittedly, it didn’t always make sense to me. But I knew I was happiest when I could “escape” to work in a quiet office for a morning or two.
Now I know why: I need days when I can operate on a Maker’s schedule.
Having even one day a week without required meetings has made a profound impact on my happiness and productivity. I no longer feel trapped, and I’m making time to work on the projects that stir inside me.
What about you? Are you a Maker forced to operate on a Manager’s schedule? Can you use this approach to “escape” for a day or so each week?