As a writer who needs to freelance in order to pay the bills, I’ve developed two distinct (opposite, in fact) modes of working.
One is the “manager” mode that recently got an “out of memory” error on my 4gig laptop–I was running with 50 Adobe documents open, 50 Excel documents, most with multiple sheets, 140 tabs on Firefox, 19 Word documents, one very long Power Point slide show, and a bunch of other stuff open, all with my son running in and out showing me the good guy beating the bad guy, informing me that “Dad, these superheroes saved the day!” and asking the names of odd colours, like fuchsia. I told him to ask his mother, she’s a painter, she paints with colours. He said, “And you’re a writer? So you know what’s right?”
Smart kid, but I digress and do so because that’s how the project manager brain works — all with a bunch of deadlines on a variety of projects, making Facebook posts while waiting for the computer to process something and making sure that my trip to the kitchen and bathroom coincided so I’d save myself twenty seconds.
The other is the “writer” mode, where I don’t want anything on my computer other than my novel and my only self distraction is a chronic wish to have an office on a mountaintop or, failing that, at least two blocks away from my family. Sometimes this goes too far into the extreme, to the point where I even clean my desk.
I didn’t really think about these two methods, just lived them, until I read a great essay by Paul Graham about the difference between the manager and the maker in terms of scheduling. Here’s an excerpt, but I recommend reading the whole thing.
There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.
When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and you’re done.
Most powerful people are on the manager’s schedule. It’s the schedule of command. But there’s another way of using time that’s common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.
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.