Paul Graham, the most influential hacker-philosopher of our era introduced the concept of a maker’s schedule and a manager’s schedule in 2009. Shane Parish has an updated version of this concept at the Farnam Street blog.
Essentially, the concept is super-simple — we’re all either makers or managers. And if you’re a solopreneur, a creative entrepreneur or have a side hustle — you’re both!
Here’s the difference between a maker and a manager:
A manager’s day is, as a rule, sliced up into tiny slots, each with a specific purpose decided in advance. Many of those slots are used for meetings, calls, or emails. The manager’s schedule may be planned for them by a secretary or assistant.
Managers spend a lot of time “putting out fires” and doing reactive work. An important call or email comes in, so it gets answered. An employee makes a mistake or needs advice, so the manager races to sort it out. To focus on one task for a substantial block of time, managers need to make an effort to prevent other people from distracting them.
Managers don’t necessarily need the capacity for deep focus — they primarily need the ability to make fast, smart decisions. In a three-minute meeting, they have the potential to generate (or destroy) enormous value through their decisions and expertise.
A maker’s schedule is different. It is made up of long blocks of time reserved for focusing on particular tasks, or the entire day might be devoted to one activity. Breaking their day up into slots of a few minutes each would be the equivalent of doing nothing.
A maker could be the stereotypical reclusive novelist, locked away in a cabin in the woods with a typewriter, no internet, and a bottle of whiskey to hand. Or they could be a Red Bull–drinking Silicon Valley software developer working in an open-plan office with their headphones on. Although interdisciplinary knowledge is valuable, makers do not always need a wide circle of competence. They need to do one thing well and can leave the rest to the managers.
If you’re wondering why the heck would it even matter, let me explain… you only have 24 hours in a day! And despite the technological advancements, you’re not going to get any more anytime soon! Heck, I think they’re making us even less productive!
Here’s another couple of reasons why you should care:
First, defining the type of schedule we need is more important than worrying about task management systems or daily habits. If we try to do maker work on a manager schedule or managerial work on a maker schedule, we will run into problems.
Second, we need to be aware of which schedule the people around us are on so we can be considerate and let them get their best work done.
We shouldn’t think of either type of work as superior, as the two are interdependent. Managers would be useless without makers and vice versa. It’s the clash which can be problematic. Paul Graham notes that some managers damage their employees’ productivity when they fail to recognize the distinction between the types of schedules. Managers who do recognize the distinction will be ahead of the game.
As some of you would already know, I’ve had my share of experiments with several productivity systems. And now that I’ve simplified and identified how best I work, I can’t help but appreciate how important being aware of your role (a maker or a manager or both) helps you be productive.
I choose to be a “maker” for the first half of the day and a “manager” for the rest of the day. My schedule resonates with my roles and utilizes my energy efficiently, making me more productive and happy.
What about you? What are you?