Are You On A Manager's Schedule Or A Maker's Schedule?

Are You On A Manager's Schedule Or A Maker's Schedule?

The more slack we have in our lives, the more we can give ourselves the mental space to be more creative and less reactive.
— Cal Newport

Paul Graham is a successful entrepreneur and tech investor who cofounded Y-Combinator, the world's most respected startup incubator. 

He’s also a gifted writer, composing essays on various topics via his popular blog

One of his best-known essays is titled ‘Makers Schedule, Managers Schedule' and explains the difference between these schedules. 

So what is a ‘manager’ or ‘maker’ in this context? 

Let’s start with the first. 

When a company gets to a certain size, you have to introduce managers.  

Their role is to direct and organise those working underneath them. 

The belief is that without them, everything would descend into unstructured chaos. 

Because they tend to have more than a few people who report to them, managers have tightly controlled diaries full of status and catch-up meetings.

This tight scheduling ensures they have sufficient time with each person and a good overview of their work. 

Even if they’re senior enough to block out a couple of hours during the day to work on a single task, by and large, their day is full of back-to-back meetings. 

Managers have little free time during the day outside these meetings and, therefore, are reactive by nature.

In other words, they spend considerable time “putting out fires”. The fixes are often temporary because they don’t have sufficient time or mental bandwidth to get to the issue’s root cause. 

‘Makers’, on the other hand, have more freedom. They have a job to do, but meetings don’t constantly interrupt their work. 

Good examples of this type include coders and writers. 

This gives them more time to think about the problems they are working on. In other words, they do more ‘deep’ than ‘shallow’ work

A manager's schedule is a tax on creativity because there is no ‘slack’ in the system. 

Without some unstructured time in your schedule, your mind can’t wander and make new connections preventing new ideas from emerging from your subconscious. 

Consider the story of Charles Darwin. 

While developing his theory of evolution, he built a gravel path around a grove of oak trees on his estate Down House. 

He walked multiple loops around it almost every day for forty years.

Darwin called it his “thinking path” and credited these strolls with providing him with the mental space needed for his groundbreaking scientific discoveries.

The father of evolutionary theory isn’t the only great thinker in history to take this approach.

The famous French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau whose philosophy influenced the progress of the Age of Enlightenment throughout Europe did his best thinking on foot; the German thinker von Goethe would take a walk when he wanted to come up with new ideas. 

And Charles Dickens did the research for his novels by walking an estimated twelve miles per day. 

Even the visionary entrepreneur Steve Jobs was known for walking the old Apple campus when wrestling with a complex problem. 

Don’t worry if you identify more as a manager than a maker. 

If you can carve out even a small amount of uninterrupted time at work, it will probably turn out to be the most productive part of your day. 

If you want to learn more about how to think creatively, try our Creative Thinking course made in collaboration with Cannes Lions. 

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