In 2009, Paul Graham wrote an article called Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, presenting two different styles or schedules of working. In this article, he elucidated the difficulties makers faced in terms of loss of focus and morale when their schedules were disrupted, mostly by meetings. He also highlighted the conflict between the two schedules that arose when people in command – managers and leaders, did not fully understand the costs of requiring makers to comply with the managers’ style of working. In his article, Graham says that he attempted an explanation of the two schedules in the hope that understanding and accommodating the different workstyles would help leaders to reduce conflicts and help teams thrive.
Today, we’re experiencing a rapid and radical transformation of the workplace. Remote and hybrid modes of working are becoming more acceptable and widely adopted. This modern workplace is built on the foundations of technology-enabled connectedness, mostly in accordance with the managers’ schedules. However, this throws the spotlight on the need to preserve and protect the makers’ schedules. As we stand at the juncture of the workplace of the future, there has never been a more important time to revisit and imbibe Paul Graham’s ideas and adopt workplace practices that can nurture both work styles to flourish.
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.
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 and 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.
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.