What does the perfect work schedule look like? Productivity experts have spent years trying to unlock the answer, seeking a universal solution that suits every position. But the truth is, different jobs benefit from different schedules.
Some jobs—mostly the creative ones—require long periods of solitude where you can enter a groove and focus without disruption. Meanwhile, administrative jobs benefit from a less restrictive, more diverse agenda filled with various activities and collaborative sessions.
That’s where the maker’s schedule and manager’s schedule come in. These frameworks help you structure your workday and handle the myriad challenges that arise within a shared work environment, whether physical or virtual.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at both of these schedules, uncovering when to use each one and how to effectively communicate with colleagues using the other.
A brief background
The idea behind the maker’s and manager’s schedules traces back to a 2009 blog post from Paul Graham, co-founder of Y-Combinator. In his post, Graham lays out the idea that different types of workers—makers and managers—perform their best work under different timetables. He also proposes a shift in workplace scheduling, so that all workers receive the consideration they need to operate at peak performance.
Although Graham was writing about work as it pertained to the late 2000s, his theories are even more pressing in the modern work environment. With the rise of remote working, scheduling and social cues are harder to see and respond to. This new way of working demands taking productivity into our own hands, adapting our timelines and stating the boundaries necessary to get work done.
To help with this transition, let’s learn when and where to use the maker and manager schedules.
The maker’s schedule is for creating. It provides the stretches of time necessary for creatives and knowledge workers to enter a state of flow and perform work for extended periods. It regards interruptions as detrimental to achieving peak performance, and supports enacting measures to prevent them from happening.
To better understand why this is so important, consider times when you’ve sat down to write a paper, create a design, or code up a feature. These types of creative activities require deep concentration, and the tiniest distraction can feel like a typhoon tearing through your focus and destroying your creative flow.
Author Jennifer Froelich sums up the experience quite nicely:
“Whether it’s Amazon at the door, Outlook pinging me with a meeting reminder, or a computer that will not respond, interruptions are now the enemy and – paraphrasing Emperor Kuzco – my groove has been thrown off.”
It isn’t always easy to implement the maker’s schedule if you have a highly cross-functional role and get pulled into lots of meetings. If that’s the case, you may need to ask for permission to shake up your daily structure.
Here's how I'd approach it. Let your manager know that you're spending a lot of time in meetings and that you could benefit from structured blocks of productive time each day. You'd like to implement focus time on your calendar, where you create 2-3 hour chunks of time to get your work done without interruptions. You'll decline meetings and stay off chat tools like Slack or Microsoft teams.
After experimenting with this schedule for a week or two you should report back. Were you more productive? How did it make you feel, was your mental health better?
Good managers want to empower their teams to get work done, and the maker's schedule can help with that.
But what about for managers?
The manager’s schedule is for performing administrative duties and (surprise) managing others. Graham labels it the “schedule of command,” used by the most powerful people in an organization:
“The manager's schedule is for bosses. It's embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals.”
You’re probably familiar with the manager’s schedule, as—despite Graham’s attempts to educate people about the differences between people’s workplace needs—it’s still the go-to option for most distributed teams.
The manager’s schedule reduces your day down to bite-sized chunks of time. You can use these blocks for various tasks, although they’re particularly ideal for meetings, business correspondence, high-level paperwork, and other activities that benefit from snappy decision making or executive action.
Of course, tiny time slots aren’t ideal for deep concentrated work. But they are crucial in a fast-paced work environment, and a boon for managers who must address situations as they arise. They also offer a buffer against disrupting your entire day. You can easily push back or reschedule a small time block without sabotaging productivity for more than the time you’ve allotted.
The best way to implement the manager schedule is to section off an entire day (ideally days when you already have other admin tasks planned) into 15-minute to 1-hour sections. Use these blocks of time for meetings, paperwork, and other types of pressing admin tasks, adjusting your schedule as necessary.
I also recommend grouping similar meetings together. For example, Tuesdays are my day for 1x1s and team update meetings. I group all of my 1x1s together, typically back to back over the span of two hours. When my 1x1s are over I make sure to organize my notes and to create tasks for any follow ups that came up.
Over those two hours my focus is entirely on my team, what they're working on, and how I can help them.
Maker’s vs. manager’s schedule
The maker’s and manager’s schedules work best for their corresponding roles. If you’re creating or need time to think deeply about a project, the maker’s schedule is for you. If you need to perform single tasks or meet with others throughout the day, it’s time to command a manager’s schedule.
Of course, nobody uses a maker’s vs. manager’s schedule indefinitely. Creatives must poke their heads from their shells every once in a while, performing admin duties and engaging with peers. Managers must also create on a regular basis, brainstorming with colleagues and writing or vocalizing instructions to others (even when they hate the sound of their voice). That’s why it’s so important to remain flexible in your approach, adopting each one to suit your needs while being aware of the impact it can have on your productivity.
For those who primarily make things for work, you may want to set aside one or two days a week for meetings and keeping on top of the books. Meanwhile, those who manage may want to block out time to create alongside those under their supervision, showing camaraderie and taking care of more time-consuming tasks.
Another consideration is that you’re going to be working with people using the opposite schedule. This tends to be more problematic for makers who need time away from others to focus on their work, but it can also be frustrating for managers looking to touch base. The thing is, managers typically have greater flexibility and more power when it comes to defining their agendas. That’s why it’s imperative that those on the manager’s schedule be considerate of the maker’s time and workstyle.
An excellent solution for managers is to group company meetings within a single timeframe. You can also hold regular office hours, so makers can come to you whenever they have comments or questions. But there’s an even better solution, one that's gaining traction among small businesses and tech juggernauts alike. It’s called asynchronous communication.
Use Async Communication To Maximize Your Schedule
Asynchronous communication is a conversation that includes a delay between interactions. In other words, it doesn’t happen in real time, giving the communicator and recipient time to think about the exchange and engage when it’s convenient.
This type of communication bridges the gap between makers and managers. It lets makers reach out and respond to colleagues when there’s a break in their workflow. And it lets managers maintain regular contact with their co-workers, providing an opportunity for others to collaborate, ask questions, and ask for feedback without the burden of meetings or similar interruptions.
Loom is an async video tool that records your screen and webcam at the click of a button. You can also upload these recordings to create an organization-wide video system of record. Everything is secure atop Loom’s industry-leading platform, and it’s safely stored there for future reference.
You can use Loom videos for everything from check-ins to brainstorming sessions to entire async meetings! Just record your loom, send it over, and wait to receive one in return. Try integrating Loom into your workflow, and see for yourself how seamlessly it slides into your maker’s or manager’s schedule.