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Mastering Maker and Manager Schedules for Productivity

Explore the Maker vs. Manager schedule dynamics in the modern workplace. Learn how to optimize both for productivity and work-life balance.
Makers schedule vs Managers schedule

In 2009, Paul Graham authored "Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule," outlining two distinct working styles: makers and managers. Graham discussed how makers struggle with focus and morale disruptions, primarily caused by meetings. He emphasized the conflicts that arise when leaders, often managers, fail to grasp the impact of imposing their work style on makers. Graham aimed to promote understanding and accommodation of these differing work styles to reduce conflicts and foster team success.

Today, the workplace is undergoing a rapid and profound transformation, embracing remote and hybrid work models driven by technology and aligned with managers' schedules. This shift underscores the importance of preserving makers' schedules. As we approach the future of work, it's crucial to revisit Paul Graham's ideas and implement practices that support the flourishing of both work styles.

In this blog, we examine the differences between the maker's schedule and the manager's schedule, and how to use metrics and work analytics to navigate the changing nature of the workplace.

The maker’s schedule

The maker’s schedule is designed to allow long, uninterrupted slots of focus time spent working on cognitively demanding tasks. This schedule is fundamental to facilitating what Cal Newport calls “deep work”, where an individual is able to dedicate many uninterrupted hours to a core task, essentially getting into a state of flow and performing at peak productivity. In this schedule, any interruption during focus time disturbs the individual’s state of flow.

Let us consider an example of a senior developer Jane here, 

Picture a day in the life of Jane, a quintessential maker/senior developer at a remote-first and distributed tech company. Her workday starts at 9 AM, she goes through a team check-in, answers some emails, and then goes into a DND mode between 10 AM and 2 PM when she prefers to write code. In this uninterrupted stretch of time, Jane enjoys the uninterrupted quiet, the almost perfect mirroring of the still focus of her mind reflected in her environment and therefore in her work. At this time, she’s in a state of flow – her creativity is abundant, her focus is sharp, her work is impeccable, and when she closes work, she feels completely satisfied. 

The manager’s schedule

In contrast, the manager’s schedule is structured to accommodate several meetings. Managers and bosses often view their days as hourly time slots that can be used to run meetings, respond to communication, plan strategies collaborate with others, etc. Managers, for the most part, do not spend long hours in siloed focus, instead, their productivity is maximized and measured by how much they are able to organize and manage the people reporting to them, often involving voluminous collaborative outreach.

Let us consider an example of Kat, who is Jane’s manager,

Kat’s workday is a picture of an individual on the manager’s schedule. Kat is Jane’s manager, managing 12 software engineers across three distributed offices. Most of her day is segmented into hour-long meetings, scheduled with scrum calls, team meetings, virtual cross-collaboration meetings with other teams, and executive meetings. Even if she manages to find a window of time for focus work, the consciousness of upcoming engagements preoccupies her the whole day. 

 Comparison between Maker and Manager Schedules

Challenges to Maker Schedules in the Modern Work Landscape

The new normal of hybrid and remote work operates on the bedrock of virtual meetings and communication since they facilitate all processes from onboarding new talent, strategizing new products, building team cohesion, and ensuring seamless business operations. These virtual meetings are helping amalgamate the vastly different schedules of makers and managers, asking makers to oblige and conform to managers’ schedules.   

Unfortunately, meetings scheduled as per managers’ schedules are a threat to makers’ time, productivity, and well-being. Studies show that it takes at least 25 minutes of focused work for an individual to get into a state of flow following an interruption. Deviating from this state and switching contexts adversely affects the productivity of an individual, sometimes leading to up to a 40% dip in productivity. 

In addition to risking a loss in productivity, when makers are made to oblige to an inflexible manager’s schedule and lack time to create, they tend to compensate by adopting unsustainable practices of working post-work hours in order to complete their core tasks. This trend could lead to the problem of employees staying always–on, adversely affecting work-life balance, and creating the risk of burnout. 

This is perhaps why makers dread meetings. Anecdotes from engineers, developers, and writers interestingly quote that a stand-up meeting or even a single 30-minute meeting can sometimes break an entire day’s state of flow, even if the meeting was scheduled outside of their focus time. One developer recounted how a no-zoom day on their calendar would instantly put them in a productive mood, while another recollected how having to take a Zoom meeting in the middle of the day would completely disturb their focus at other times because they were constantly preoccupied with factors such as meeting agenda, associated preparation, and most importantly remembering to dial-in to the meeting. 

The Importance of Establishing Your Schedule

1. Efficient Time Management:

Defining a clear and concise schedule helps teams to manage their time effectively. A structured schedule has separate room for prioritizing important tasks, and creating a micro plan for the day ahead. As a team's time management gets on track, they can achieve greater productivity and alignment.

2. Prioritization and Focus:

A defined schedule lets teams prioritize tasks and focus on what matters most. Moreover, a clear schedule can help clutter distractions, and empower teams to do deep work.

3. Accountability and Discipline:

Hands down, a defined schedule promotes accountability and discipline. Once an IC sets specific time slots for different activities, they are likelier to stick to them- a psychological fact we can all agree on.

4. Work-Life Balance:

Defining your schedule helps in achieving a healthy work-life balance so each individual has enough dedicated time for family, hobbies, self-care, etc. Moreover, a defined schedule can reduce stress and overwhelm.

5. Flexibility and Adaptability:

A defined schedule helps you to overcome the unexpected. Challenges and unforeseen circumstances are inevitable. However, an organized schedule empowers individuals to better position themselves in the face of adversaries.

How Managers Can Support Maker Time?

Understanding the challenges faced by the Maker's Schedule

The modern workplace cannot function without thriving virtual communication and collaboration, the same way that it cannot function without makers producing quality work. When engineers are equipped with long, uninterrupted maker’s time, they are more likely to produce quality output, with lesser errors, with more creativity, and lesser missed edge cases. This in turn leads to better productivity for the team as a whole while it enhances the satisfaction and engagement of the individual engineer. It is imperative then that organizations build robust and agile schedules that allow makers their time for deep work so that they can create meaningful work.

Managers and leaders must adopt practices and processes that preserve and optimize maker time for their team members. Here are some opportunities for managers to define a successful middle ground: 

1. Mindful meetings

Leaders and managers can start by improving the quality of their existing meetings using data. Audit and identify which meetings are necessary and which individuals are necessary for those meetings. Make agendas compulsory and encourage early sharing of agendas so that all attendees can be well-prepared to contribute productively. Emphasize hybrid meeting etiquette, taking people’s locations, time zones, and work-life balance into consideration. Most importantly, when a meeting involves a maker, scheduling meetings at either the very beginning or the very end of a workday can help reduce the cognitive stress that is brought on by the consciousness of meetings. Similarly, use data to identify the least productive time slots for teams that can be used as collaborative work slots. Another great opportunity is to identify complete meeting-free days so that makers have less fragmented time and more focus time throughout the day.

2. Better async work 

Asynchronous work allows employees to design focus time and deep work into their schedules while mindfully allocating time for collaborative work and other communication commitments. Async work mandates lesser intrusions and immediate-response requests by making delayed response as default. This will define the culture of the team as respectful of the makers’ work model while also encouraging makers to dedicate time for teamwork. 

3. Enable focus time and deep work 

Creative work and productive work happen at different hours, in different manners, and can take many different expressions. Managers should stay cognizant of their teams’ working styles and personalities and allow flexibility to accommodate the different work modes. Particularly when working with makers, allocating and communicating individual focus time slots that suit the makers’ workstyle can help teammates focus their attention on their tasks. 

4. Prioritize productivity over presenteeism

Several makers often spend long periods of time focusing on one project. This tendency to engage in focussed work can cause a maker’s efforts to go unnoticed, especially in the remote workplace. Managers should build a robust practice of visibility in the hybrid and remote workplace that will counteract this pitfall and encourage employees to focus on productivity without being preoccupied with the need to project presenteeism.   

5. Metrics for Managerial Success: Enhancing Maker's Time

For software engineers, the quality of code and the speed at which they produce code are leading indicators of productivity, and for good quality code, engineers need optimized maker’s time. Managers can use the data from their team’s calendar and meeting metrics to gain invaluable insight into their team’s focus time, maker’s time, and collab time. 

Data can help managers measure how much time their team members are able to spend on focused work without being interrupted by communication requests from tools like email or internal messaging. Data can provide an insight into the breakdown between focus time and collab time, presenting an opportunity to schedule collab time without risking maker’s time. Visibility into meeting metrics can help managers reduce the burden of frequent, or long, or ad-hoc meetings, adding to the available maker’s time. As leading industry benchmarks indicate, highly productive engineering teams are able to provide 70% of the workday as maker’s time to their individual contributors. It is imperative that managers stay cognizant of their team’s maker’s time since only what is measured can be managed.

Work Analytics for the Future of Work

Work and collaboration analytics can help managers and leaders get an elevated and complete viewpoint of the work environment in which employees collaborate. Analytics of how teams connect, communicate, and collaborate can help managers build a robust schedule of deep work for makers, and thereby improve employee engagement, performance, well-being, and productivity.

Visual representation of a tool for optimizing the Maker's Schedule

Focus time follows the Pomodoro technique of balancing focussed work with slots for breaks. In practice, when an engineer has blocks of time, with short interruptions, potentially interruptions such as stand-up meetings, or urgent Slack requests, we identify these blocks of time as available for focus work.

However, focus time differs from maker’s time since the latter is characterized by absolutely no fragmentation in time and lasts longer than two hours, often extending into several hours at a stretch. This extended period of maker time promotes a better quality of work since developers achieve and maintain a steady state of flow, with lower chances of missing edge cases leading to lesser bugs and cleaner code. This long stretch of time also makes way for uninterrupted thought, creativity, and ideas.  

Hatica helps improve makers’ time by tracking the extent of interruptions teammates are subject to due to meetings, communication, and collaboration requests. In reality, many managers are able to promote allocation of focus time for their teammates by promoting time chunks that are not spent in meetings but still allowing short interruptions or context switches. However, managers are often unable to optimize makers’ time, that is, large blocks of time that are completely uninterrupted. Identifying interruptions can help managers gauge how much makers’ time their team members get. These insights can paint a factual picture of maker time and interruptions trends, allowing managers to identify and fix interruption issues thereby optimizing maker time. 

As the workplace undergoes a phenomenal transformation towards a distributed, remote, and hybrid work model, managers should accommodate the maker’s schedule in the new normal, leveraging data and adopting technology and processes to facilitate better ways of working for everyone. 

Take Control of Your Schedule Today

💡 Hatica’s work analytics platform equips engineering managers with data about their team’s available makers’ time and provides visibility into factors that fragment makers’ time such as meeting and communication load.


1. What is the difference between a maker's schedule and a manager's schedule, and why does it matter?

Understanding the distinction between these schedules is crucial as it empowers individuals to align their work style with their true strengths and preferences. Discovering which schedule resonates with you can bring a profound sense of fulfillment and enable you to work naturally and authentically.

2. How does the maker's schedule foster creativity and deep work?

The maker's schedule provides dedicated, uninterrupted blocks of time for individuals to dive deep into their creative processes. By honoring this schedule, you create an environment that nurtures your unique talents and allows your creativity to flourish, bringing a deep sense of joy and fulfillment to your work.

3. What are the benefits of the manager's schedule in fostering collaboration and communication?

The manager's schedule prioritizes meetings, coordination, and collaboration, providing a platform for meaningful connections and teamwork. Engaging in the manager's schedule can evoke a sense of camaraderie and fulfillment as you contribute to the growth and success of your team or organization.

4. Can I blend aspects of the maker's and manager's schedules to suit my needs?

Absolutely! Finding a balance between the two schedules allows you to honor your need for focused, uninterrupted work while actively participating in collaborative efforts. By blending these schedules, you can experience a sense of harmony, harnessing the best of both worlds.

5. How can I overcome the challenges associated with transitioning between the maker's and manager's schedules?

Embracing flexibility and adaptability becomes key when transitioning between these schedules. Embodying a growth mindset and approaching these transitions with curiosity and resilience can help you navigate the emotional ups and downs, ultimately leading to personal and professional growth.

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Table of Contents
  • The maker’s schedule
  • The manager’s schedule
  • Challenges to Maker Schedules in the Modern Work Landscape
  • The Importance of Establishing Your Schedule
  • 1. Efficient Time Management:
  • 2. Prioritization and Focus:
  • 3. Accountability and Discipline:
  • 4. Work-Life Balance:
  • 5. Flexibility and Adaptability:
  • How Managers Can Support Maker Time?
  • 1. Mindful meetings
  • 2. Better async work 
  • 3. Enable focus time and deep work 
  • 4. Prioritize productivity over presenteeism
  • 5. Metrics for Managerial Success: Enhancing Maker's Time
  • Work Analytics for the Future of Work
  • Take Control of Your Schedule Today
  • FAQs
  • 1. What is the difference between a maker's schedule and a manager's schedule, and why does it matter?
  • 2. How does the maker's schedule foster creativity and deep work?
  • 3. What are the benefits of the manager's schedule in fostering collaboration and communication?
  • 4. Can I blend aspects of the maker's and manager's schedules to suit my needs?
  • 5. How can I overcome the challenges associated with transitioning between the maker's and manager's schedules?

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