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Are you on a maker’s or manager’s schedule?

October 16, 2010

I often see some of my co-workers on instant messenger as “active” way past office hours. I recently tried to  contact one of them to ask a question, but despite several tries I did not get a response. When my unsuccessful attempt came during a casual conversation the following day, my co-worker asked me to read Paul Graham’s blog post titled “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.” If you have not read the post you should because I really believe that it will bring deeper understanding and appreciation for the phrase ” being productive” and “managing your day” at work.

In the blog post Paul Graham, a  well known programmer, essayist and investor, explains that, depending on the type of work assigned to us, we tend to keep different schedules either consciously or subconsciously. Being a manager your day is broken into hourly chunks and you fill them up with meetings hoping to get a few moments to check email and return calls throughout the day. If you are a “maker” (e.g.  programmer or writer) you need longer chunks of time to concentrate on your work. You usually break your day in two sections (broken by lunch) to make sure you have plenty of quality uninterrupted time to concentrate on your task at hand. When these longer chunks of time are broken by a meeting, for example, “makers” lose not only an hour of their workday, but often much more than that since they will have to spend longer to regain their concentration.

I understand that even while being a “maker ” at work you are still expected to attend meeting, answer your phone or respond to emails. For these folks Graham has an interesting suggestion to set up “office hours” either at the beginning or at the end of their work day to devote to meetings or doing “managerial” work.

What about those folks like me  whose job is a mixture of being a manager and a maker? I think it takes some creative resolve and a lot of self-discipline in today’s world of twitter, instant messenger and cell phones to simply “unplug” for a few hours at work. After reading Graham’s article I am committing to changing a few things in my weekly schedule including “protecting” time that I need to spend writing and strategizing.

Needless to say I will not be instant messaging my colleague after hours when he is on the “maker’s schedule” and I respect that.

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