29 July 2009


Yesterday, a post on Gina Trapani's Smarterware blog caught my eye - a link to a piece by Paul Graham titled "Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule." The crux of Graham's argument is this (with my ellipses):

"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. ... 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."

Initially, yesterday, I was struck by the clarity of Graham's analysis - and immediately associated myself with a "maker," because (as someone who writes a lot) I can relate to the challenge of wanting and needing uninterrupted time, and am all too familiar with the deadening impact of constant interruption.I woke up this morning and re-realized that I'm a "manager," with blocks of time diced up into neat little segments - an hour for this, a half-hour for that, 15 minutes for something else, all billed in neat 15 minute increments. But something wasn't sitting quite right with me about this; I was still feeling too connected to the frustration Graham expresses.

By this afternoon, I figured out that what was giving me pause is that I am basically a hybrid of the two types, the "maker" and the "manager." And it's probably true for most of my colleagues, too. We are managers: task managers, project managers, client relationship managers, new business-and-ideas managers, and so on. At the same time, we must also do: make calls, write plans and materials, think through how to present ideas or issues creatively and clearly, etc.

Occasionally, the frustration of this hybrid situation can become, well, frustrating; when you're trying to accomplish something that takes concentration, the things that break that concentration can look like skeet begging to be shot. Just as often, though, it's part of what makes my job exciting and engaging - not just the daily challenge of seeing tasks completed, but the dynamic nature of a job with many different facets. I'm rarely bored, and that's a lucky thing indeed.

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