The Maker’s Schedule

A couple weeks ago, David was telling me about an article  he read explaining the difference between a maker and a manager’s schedule. It’s written more from the point of view of a developer, but I thought a lot of what he was saying applied to designers as well.

To briefly recap the article, (which you should read!) managers plan their time in increments of one hour, and makers work more on a schedule of half days. If you are a maker, and someone wants to meet with you at 3, that blows the second half of your day as far as actually doing important creative work goes. That’s why makers tend to be meeting avoidant. It wastes a lot of time.

Reading this was an eye-opening experience for me. I have always felt bad about how I am unable to sit down and crank design work out in an hour. It takes me a long time to gear up and get in the zone, and the way I’ve scheduled my time in the past, by the time I am in that zone, I usually have to get up and do something else. It results in a lot of wasted time, and a lot of frustration on my end. Sometimes I would have days when I only had an hour or two left for design work, and by the time I was actually getting work done, the day would be over and I would feel like nothing was accomplished.

I’m in sort of a unique position, since I am both the maker and the manager in my job, but after reading this article, I took a look at how I schedule my time, and changed it.

I’m now going to look at my day overall in two halves: Morning and afternoon. In the morning, I will do all of my ‘meeting’ type things, whether it’s actual meetings, responding to emails, giving people quotes, talking on the phone, social media-ing, etc. Basically, the stuff that doesn’t take too long, but can be a major interruption when I’m trying to get real, creative work done.

My afternoons are going to be reserved for creative work. I’ll shut down my email, turn off my phone, and focus on design. I think that by making sure I have large blocks of uninterrupted time to work each day, I will be more productive and more satisfied with the day’s work. At the end of the day I’ll probably check in with my email and phone, and tie up any loose ends I might have.

This seems simple, but it was an aha! moment for me. I know I can be bad at scheduling my time, but I never knew why. Accepting the fact that it takes time to be creative, and realizing that just because I really want to be good at sitting down and cranking something out in an hour doesn’t mean I will ever be able to actually do that is a big step for me.

What did you think of the article? How do you schedule your day? Do you find it hard to manage your time? If the answer to the last question is no, share your secrets!

  • Nathan

    I am glad that you chose to write about this. I’ve read the article before, but this time it clarified a problem that has been bothering me lately.

    The past few months I have been trying my hand at contracting. Things started of well, but as the days turned to weeks I found myself putting off consulting more and more until I was spending more time thinking about work than actually working.

    Thanks to this article I now believe that consulting is impossible for me.

    If I only have 2 hours a weeknight to work on a problem, and it takes me an hour before I am in the zone, then each week I will be doing 5 hours of real work but it will have consumed 10 hours of my free time.

    It would be far better if I spent a full 8 hour day each weekend. It would still take an initial hour for me ramp up, but I would get 7 hours of work done.

    This also means that as an employer, one is better of hiring someone that can work two or three full days a week than someone that only has a couple hours here or there.

    One possible solution is to break the work into small chunks that can be consumed without significant ramp up time. If it only took me 15 minutes to get into the zone instead of an hour then my time would be much better spent. This puts the burden on the manager since they have to do more work upfront, but the contractors will much more efficiently use their time which will save money in the long run.

  • Nathan

    John Cleese is very very good on this subject.