A fascinating article crossed my path the other day, regarding a key observation in the different working styles of Managers and of Makers, (creative types, programmers, engineers, really anyone who makes stuff). Makers' Schedule, Managers' Schedule by Paul Graham was mostly related to organising meetings and the problems that arise. Meetings, those things so many of us dislike intensely and believe the majority to be a total waste of time, it seems are exponentially more destructive to those creative souls amongst us.
Graham's point was a succinct one. Managers divide up their days into neat little blocks of hours or even half hours, so that scheduling a meeting is dead easy; just find an open slot for however long you think you need and put it in the diary, no problem. Makers however have a very different experience.
For a Maker to get a good run at work and to get in a creative state of flow, they need a much larger block of time, about four hours. If they only have an hour they can't really start much, they're hardly getting going before the hour is up. Therefore if you have scheduled a meeting at 11am or 3pm in an average work day, you've ruined the productivity of creative types for the morning, or the afternoon, or both. Don't you feel the same sometimes? You put off doing something that requires a large block of uninterrupted time until you know you won't be disturbed. This is why many of the Makers that I know, prefer to work late into the night, not just because they're night owls, but simply because there's less chance of anybody bothering them.
This meeting conundrum was more relevant when people were invited to 'grab a coffee', simple for a manager, lose half a day's good work for a Maker or risk appearing rude. Graham's solution in Y-Combinator, that most innovative of California's Venture Capital firms, was to only schedule meetings at the very end of his working day. Erik Hanberg of GTD Times goes further in ruthlessly arranging all his meetings in as few afternoons as possible.
But few of us are 100% Manager or Maker, are we? It's a very helpful appreciation to realise what tasks really need uninterrupted time and what can be dropped into neat little block of 30 minutes.
Managers could benefit from attacking or exploring certain tasks with the focus and depth that is second nature to most Makers work practice. Avoiding the hourly distractions could pay serious dividends. Equally most makers could find smaller but still worthy tasks to drop in around their inevitable disruptive meetings.
With SelfAssemblySites, it occurred to me that those of the Maker mind set will initially leap ahead of their Manager friends. The Planner or QuickStart modules, all in all, are probably best done taking a run at them. You build incrementally and quickly from one module to the next and all of a sudden you have a website. To do it in half hour blocks separated by days you'd lose most of the momentum.
But then you might see a shift. Many of the incremental improvements that make a website all the better, can be done in short, little blocks of time. No need to wait days or weeks for a four hour block of spare time; thirty minutes to do one thing, or ten minutes to set up a widget and fill in new content, an hour to write a kick ass blog post.
This was going to finish with the thought that the Manager types would later have the advantage but I'm not sure they do. I reckon the Makers are the left handers of the working world. Lefties are naturally more ambidextrous, they have to be as they're a minority in a right hander's world. Maker types have to slot into and work around the practices of the Managers around them, so they're that bit more adept at it. What are your impressions?
An awareness of the two types of working time, might just make you better at getting in depth and beefing through the bigger pieces of work and making serious progress quickly. But it also might make you a little more sensitive to your creative colleagues' situation, where your request of a meeting, a coffee, or even ringing their phone, might just disrupt their whole entire day.
Why is this important? Because as an old friend of mine said, "Al, you can always make more money, but you can never make more time".