Are you a Maker or a Manager? – Advanced Productivity (Part 1)

One of the podcasts I take the time to listen to somewhat regularly during my morning walks is The Tim Ferriss Show.

Tim deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract tactics and tools his listeners could use to designing their life-style and work-style.

In one of his recent episodes, Tim mentioned the idea of Maker’s Schedule vs Manager’s Schedule, which Paul Graham wrote about back in 2009 and which you can read online here.

Here are the first few paragraphs:

One reason programmers dislike meetings so much is that they’re on a different type of schedule from other people. Meetings cost them more.

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.

The Application – 5 Practical Ways to Apply this Idea

  1. In the E-Myth, Michael Gerber wrote about the importance of distinguishing three different roles that people plan in a business: technician, manager and entrepreneur. In this context, “Maker” = “Entrepreneur” and “Manager” = “Manager. As such, executives and business owners alike, need to be able to change gears – wearing both a “maker” and a “manager” hat, balancing controlling the enterprise with strategically developing it.
  2. Let’s call the first base objective is spending 80% of your time wearing your “manager” hat and 20% of your time wearing your “maker” hat.
  3. Design your week (with the aid of a time map) to allocate two or more entire mornings (4 hours) to “maker” vs “manager” work.
  4. Consider whether you need to work offsite – at home, a café, a library or a friend’s office – to do your “maker” work, to help create / maintain a boundary around it.
  5. Whether a home run equals spending 50% of your time (or more) wearing your “maker” hat is up to you, the stage of development of your enterprise and what you enjoy most – many executives are quite happy and comfortable wearing the “manager” hat. However, in my experience, an 80:20 ratio (manager:maker) is the minimum investment in “making” required to lead the sustainable development of an organisation by members of its leadership team.

If you enjoyed reading this blog, you can continue reading Part 2 here.

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