Business

What a Maker’s Schedule is and how it’s revolutionizing my work time

The longer I’ve been a “creative”, the more I’ve realized that inspired work doesn’t just happen naturally.

Nor does it fit in around the cracks of a busy schedule.

At least for me (but I’m quite sure this applies to many or even most creatives), I work best when I have solids chunks of time to settle in to my work, to get focused, to brainstorm, to dream, to invent, and to immerse myself in what I’m doing.

Though I can write, work on design projects, and do important strategizing work in shorter stints of time, the simple fact of the matter is that I don’t do it very well in those circumstances.

I need time. Time to engage in what I’m doing. Time to work without distraction. Time to let my mind wander and to run through possibilities and ideas and wild thoughts. That’s often how the creative process works best.

Perhaps that’s why for many people, their best business ideas or that amazing new title for their book or those brilliant lyrics came while they were jogging or washing the dishes or driving their kids to karate.

Creativity requires play and freedom and open spaces. It can’t always be told when to show up. It’s rather impulsive, and flourishes best when given room to wander.

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Enter the Maker vs Manager Schedule

About a year ago, I first read the article Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule by Paul Graham, when my friend Myquillin wrote this fantastic post about the concept.

I thought it was brilliant. Essentially, this is what he says:

Makers work best in uninterrupted chunks of time.

Managers are used to scheduling things by the hourly slots in their planner.

When people who do “maker” work try to function on a “manager” schedule (ie. I’ll spend this hour writing this one thing, then the next hour in this team meeting, then I’ll have 30 minutes to edit some photos and make graphics, etc.), they struggle. Even one task that breaks their creative workflow, such as a half hour meeting, can throw off an entire morning, or even a whole day.

This quote from the article says it well:

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. (bold mine)

When I first read this last year, and then came back to it again this fall, it stopped me dead in my tracks. I can’t state strongly enough how true I have found this to be.

Putting a Maker’s Schedule into practice

Ryan and I have been tooling around with our weekly schedules lately, especially as we plan out 2016 and figure out how we’re going to make time and space for our most important tasks.

I came to the realization that my most important work is my creative work. All the other “manager” type tasks I do matter, and clearly, I’ll never be off the hook. To my utter dismay, answering emails, attending meetings, giving people feedback, and fixing technical issues will always have their inevitable place in my work.

And yet, if I don’t make time to write well and write often, work on design and branding concepts, create marketing and business development strategies, record podcasts, etc. then I will lose my impact, because those are the principal things I personally do to add value and substance to our businesses.  

Which means that I absolutely must factor Maker time into my schedule and make it a priority.

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This is what it looks like for me right now.

As you can see, most days I work 9:30-3:00 (with a break for lunch as a family), and on Tuesday and Fridays we have a nanny here until 5:00pm. This hasn’t really changed much from what we’ve previously shared about our schedule.

What has changed is the way I’m structuring my days and my week. There are a few key things to note:

  • Email distracts me greatly. When I open email early in the day, I feel anxious and struggle with letting other people’s needs/demands/desires direct what I do the rest of the day. So, I’m trying not to dig in to email until my most important work is done, at the end of my work day. My really key team members have ways to contact me directly if they need me earlier.
  • Since my afternoons are a bit shorter, and honestly tend to be hold more interuptions, I’ve kept most of them as Manager time. I’m using these spots for scheduling meetings, or working on things that require a bit less intense focus or can be done in shorter periods of time.
  • I included one entire Maker day on Tuesdays. This is a day when we have someone with the kids and I can actually get out of the house (because I work best when I escape our home office), and spend the entire day throwing myself into big projects.
  • There are three other full mornings with a Maker focus, for my various work projects and our different businesses.
  • I have a few spots in the week where I have what I call “Maker Flex” or “Manager Flex”. I’ve defined “Maker Flex” as post writing, copywriting, scriptwriting, video directing/editing, design/graphics, podcasting, photography, brainstorming, book writing. “Manager Flex” includes phone calls, meetings, being interviewed, extra email or slack, looking at things for other people, mastermind conversations, errands, site maintenance. The idea behind this is that there are plenty of other small tasks that have to fit in somewhere, but they can generally be classified as something I would do better when I’m in either Maker or Manager mode. It also lets me use these flex times to give extra time to particular projects that need more of me than usual. 

This realization has literally begun to revolutionize my work. 

When I have Maker time, I can (usually) really clear my plate and focus only on the task at hand, allowing myself to get into a clear, productive, creative place.

When I have Manager time, my shoulders relax and I let go of the tension and anxiety I usually feel, because I know that what I’m doing isn’t an interruption or distraction – it’s what I’m actually supposed to be doing.

What the Maker's Schedule is and why it's revolutionizing my work time

Does this resonate with anyone else? For my fellow creatives, how have you worked to implement a “Maker” schedule?

Image credits – top image, desk and chair, coffee on table
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You’re capable of more than you know

She gave me a C.

It was one of the best things a teacher has ever done for me.

You see, school came easily to me. I was always a straight-A student with little effort.

So you can imagine my shock and dismay when my 10th grade English teacher handed back my writing assignment with a big red “C”I was so devastated and confused (the arrogance, right?), I went back to my teacher and asked how on earth I had managed to get such a low grade on my assignment.

Here’s what she told me: “This isn’t your best work.

And you know? She was right. Oh, it was fine. It was probably a decent assignment overall, but based on what she knew of me (and what I think she actually saw in me and was trying to draw out…), she thought I could have done better.

A bit annoyed and determined to prove I deserved a better grade, I went back to the library that week and spent hours poring over the assignment. Re-thinking the premise, tweaking it, editing until it was just so. By the time I was finished, I knew deep down that it was a vast improvement. And whether my teacher agreed or not, I was proud of my hard work and the final outcome.

I handed it in, and was surprised when she approached me at the end of class the next week, edited assignment in hand. At the top was an A+.

She looked me straight in the eyes and said, “Now this. This is what you’re capable of. Don’t forget it.

I never have.

How a high school writing assignment relates to my work today…

These past six months, I’ve felt in over my head more than a couple times.

In one of our businesses, I’ve been learning new skills, taking on different roles and responsibilities, and trying my hand at things that felt (and often still feel) foreign to me.

They’ve included creating compelling sales pages, doing extensive amounts of copywriting, writing a video script and then directing that video. Even more recently, I’ve launched into yet another unique venture that has me expanding my horizons even further (secrets, secrets… I’ll announce closer to the new year :).

The point is, as entrepreneurs, we’re required to wear a lot of hats, and try our hand at things that might not come easily.

As a blogger, for example, it’s not enough to be good at writing. You also have to learn to use an email service and create drip campaigns, set up affiliate management software, do bookkeeping and accounting, create graphics, edit HTML and CSS, hire people and manage a team, do interviews on podcasts, lead live webinars, build and maintain social media platforms, reach out to corporate sponsors, create and implement strategic marketing campaigns.

That’s just an example of some of the skills I’ve had to acquire over 8 years as a blogger. The specific skills aren’t actually the point. It’s different for everyone, depending on what your business model is.

The point is, we can’t rest on our laurels.

To keep growing as entrepreneurs, to keep improving our business and brand, to keep adapting to a changing marketplace, acquiring skills outside of our toolbox (not to mention, our comfort zone) is a necessity.

Many times these past six months, I’ve wanted to cry “uncle!”. Just give up out of exhaustion and overwhelm. Slam my laptop shut. Cry in frustration. Concede defeat. And then go eat a lot of chocolate (well, okay, I did that part anyways).

And I could have. Just like that high school writing assignment, walking away was an option.

I could have become a victim, blaming my poor grade on my teacher (or in this instance, dismissing the work as too hard, too different, not my skill set or any other number of excuses). Or I could given up and chosen to accept mediocrity and “good enough” as a reasonable modus operandi. 

But oh, I am so glad I didn’t do either.

Was it really, stinking hard, to do things that challenged me so deeply? You bet. Did I still cry a lot of tears and have days when I let the negative thoughts engulf me? I’ll confess, I did.

I’m thankful for a husband who didn’t let me stop there. Who listened to me and loved me and bought me another coffee or told me to go for a walk and take a break. Who encouraged me and told me he believed in me, and was still willing to be honest when my first (or second or third) draft sucked and I needed to go back to the drawing board, again.

I’m thankful I didn’t let the struggle define me or stop me. I pushed through, with a mixture of success, some things I would do differently next time, and a ton of lessons learned.

Best of all, I came out with a fresh belief in my own abilities. You see, I’m more capable than I knew.

And I don’t want to forget it.

you're capable

How personality tests can help you as an entrepreneur

A very long time ago, in a far away, distant galaxy, I studied psychology in university, took Myers-Briggs tests and learned all about personality theory (am I the only one who feels like those days are lightyears away from my life now?).

Several years later, once my psychology degree began to appear fairly useless for the path my life was on, I concluded I’d never use any of this silly old personality theory again.

And then I joined a couple mastermind groups. (Crunch, chew… swallow. That’s me eating my words.)

Lo and behold, I had unwittingly returned to the land of extrovert or introvert, thinker or feeler, sensor or intuitor. It turns out personality typing is no longer just for bored undergrad university students or human resource directors at government agencies.

They’re trendy now.

It’s become hip to know if you’re an ENTJ or an ISFP, an Enneagram type 2 or 8, and what your top 5 strengths are.

I’ve been surprised over the past year at just how much knowing your personality type has come into vogue, and even how mainstream it’s becoming.

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4 things to do when you’re feeling stuck

Have you ever felt stuck in your work?

Between new projects and old projects, the way things have been and the way you want them to be, where you’ve been and where you’re going?

Personally, we’re looking forward to some changes in one of our business, but right now, those changes are only anticipated. They haven’t actually arrived yet.

And in this season (or others we’ve been in like it), I can sometimes struggle, because it’s easy to become impatient and even apathetic.

When things are unsure… when moving forward isn’t quite clear yet… when there are questions unanswered or decisions yet unmade… what do we do now?

Have you ever been in this place in your business and work?

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To ship or not to ship (and a podcast for you)

A common discussion between entrepreneurs is the complex subject of “when is a product ready to be shipped?”

By this, we don’t necessarily mean physically sent somewhere, but rather when is that thing you offer (whether it’s digital content, anbook or manuscript, a physical product, a new course or training module, etc.) ready to begin offering to people for purchase or consumption.

For many of us, it’s the drive for perfection that trips us up.

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