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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