Do you work on a Maker’s Schedule? Or a Manager’s Schedule? Should you switch?

wpid-20150816_153645.pngI was going to only write about Genius Hour today, but in poking around, I came across a link to this article from July, 2009 by Paul Graham about the Maker’s Schedule vs. the Manager’s Schedule and my first thought was: Genius! These two are related.

First, Genius Hour. It’s is a pretty simple idea. Torn from the Google playbook, and seemingly adopted in education (I’m hoping my kids will come home with Genius reports this year), it’s all about designating a piece of time for the pursuit of your passions.

Classroom or office, the idea is If you give people time to pursue what they’re interested in, they’ll develop their best ideas, the ones they care enough about to implement. We all need time for creative refreshment (vacation, anyone?) and focus. Voila: Genius Hour. Daniel Pink shares a great story about how a Credit Union manager made time for her front line staff to have an hour a week for Genius Hour. Pink also emphasizes the importance of not just being creative but having the power to implement the results when you’re given a genius idea.

And that is what brought me to the Maker’s Schedule vs. the Manager’s Schedule.

In a nutshell, Makers (in Graham’s case, coders) need time to produce. We all know this feeling. You’re writing something, running numbers, preparing a budget, doing anything that requires more than a 30 second attention span and your reminder bings: time for a meeting! That’s when the Manager’s schedule (1 hour increments for meetings) is colliding with what your Maker needs (uninterrupted time to think-and-do).

For most of us, our jobs are not clearly divided. We’re both Managers and Makers. We’re in meetings, our time is chunked up, but we’re still expected to produce. We don’t give ourselves time to produce well, which leads to rushed work, stressed employees, and missed opportunities. Meanwhile, we’re in meetings, we’re wondering how we’ll ever get around to doing X.

Can the calendar bring some control to this conundrum?

I’ve experienced a designated a block of time each week for staff meetings agency-wide. That means nobody is scheduling “can’t miss” meetings over standing team meetings, which reduces scheduling stress. It’s predictable, simple, and everyone does it, so it has an impact.

Bringing these thoughts together, what practical action can we take?

  • If you manage your own schedule, you might designate a regular Genius Hour and a Maker time (half a day? A few hours?) on your calendar.
  • If you manage others’ schedules, can you help them do the same?
  • Respect the scheduled time – yours and others’.

Has this given you any genius ideas? Or have you seen these efforts in action? If so, please leave your story here.

Why you shouldn’t wait for the right moment to act


Yesterday, I had to force myself to shut my door, sit down at my desk, and finish a bunch of things that I don’t relish doing. They weren’t particularly hard tasks, or complicated. I just don’t like to do them.

Those are the things that tend to drift quietly to the bottom of my task list, especially when there are big projects I can more eagerly turn to.

I occasionally think about a cartoon by Emily Flake in the New Yorker showing a teenage girl sitting on her bedroom floor surrounded by instruments, art supplies, and other hobbies. Her mother says something to the effect of maybe if you focus your energy it’ll come out with more force. The same is true for our work energy. And I would add, don’t wait until you feel like doing it.

In the crush of ever-increasing demands at work and home, we struggle to prioritize and make room for what really matters while keeping the rest of the balls in the air. Mindfulness, time-management, apps – they all promise greater efficiency and better control over the chaos of our modern existence.

A few days ago, I was talking to a colleague over lunch about the transition from managing single projects to managing many projects and people who manage projects. It can be overwhelming and the usual time-management techniques are useful, but not quite enough. So what works?

1. Prioritize

If you have a clear sense of your mission – for the day or for the year – you can use it as a measure for whether something belongs on your to-do list.

  • Is it directly relevant to your mission?
  • When will you do it?
  • How long will it take?

I have found that putting a few things on your list for first thing in the morning and sticking to that gives you a mental boost for the rest of the day. Not to mention, you can cross them off the list!

2. Plan for interruptions

This is especially important when you’re managing other people. They need your time and input. If you can, it helps to block periods of time when you’ll be available to them. This won’t completely eliminate interruptions, but knowing when you’re likely to be available helps others respect the times you’re not.

  • Are there times when you’re likely to be in your office with the door open?
  • If you manage people in other locations, do you make a point of being there at certain times of the day?
  • Do you respond to email all day (and night?) or do people know they’re most likely to hear from your at certain times of the day?
  • If there’s a big project or a team that requires more time than usual, do you have a standing time for questions? Do you respect that time on your calendar?

3. Say No

This is hard. How many of us really believe someone who begins a request with “it’s okay if you don’t have time but….” Yet we admire the people around us who are able to say “I don’t have time right now,” or who let us know that if they take that task on they’ll have to let something else go.

In a world of overachievers and super-women, it can be hard to say no, but it’s a muscle worth developing.

If you have a hard time delegating, or tend to take everything on yourself, you may want to recognize that tendency and address it.

4. Act now

Don’t wait until you feel like filling out end of the year budget reports, paperwork for evaluations, filing a project, or whatever task is your least favorite. You probably won’t ever feel like doing it, you’ll just hit that point of panic when the angst of your long-neglected work outweighs the ugh factor of doing it.

Is it on your list for today?

Then just do it.

And it doesn’t hurt to have something you enjoy on the list just behind it!

There’s no such thing as free time


Last week, I left work on Friday and shoved a few things in my bag with my computer. They included information for a memo I needed to write, a publication I’ve been meaning to read for several weeks, an article from a colleague, and several half completed to-do lists that I intended to consolidate. I figured I’d get those done during some of my free time that weekend.

Monday morning, I got to my office and pulled all those things – untouched since Friday – out of my bag.


Because there’s no such thing as free time.

My weekend is just a full as my work-week, the content is just different.

This led me to think about why I was bringing things home on the weekend in the first place. They all had something in common – they weren’t preventing me from getting the essentials done, but they were all activities I planned to “get to” during the work week when I had a moment of free time. Which meant I didn’t get to them because….there’s no such thing as free time.

If you’re familiar with the Meyers-Briggs test, you’ve heard of the P-J categories. Perceiving vs. Judging. In brief (and forgive me if you’re a MBTI expert who craves greater nuance in this description) Perceivers go with the flow, Judging types tend to organize and stick to their plan. I sit right on the border between these two categories, which gives me a peek into both.

I’ve had the pleasure of working with some amazing J types over the years. Their ability to sit down, think through all their tasks, get them done in order and on time is what keeps complicated projects clocking right along. They’re the reasons we ever accomplish anything on time.

And I’ve loved working with some of my favorite P’s, too. They bring a spark of creativity – what if we tried this? – and when everyone’s in crisis mode, they’re the ones who lighten the load with humor and a helping hand at the last minute.

For a P, all time is free time, waiting to be programmed in the moment. For a J, free time is planned, down to the minute.

I’m using the ends of the spectrum to make a point:

If there’s something you intend to get done, you have to actually make a decision to do it.

Unless something you’d planned falls through, free time won’t just pop up out of nowhere, like an oasis of relaxation waiting for you to kick back and get those long-delayed tasks done. And, when you do get an unplanned moment, will you spend it reading work materials or going for a walk?

The P may decide late in the day, the J may decide three days in advance, but they’ve both decided – that’s when the magic happens.

There are several tricks borrowed from the world of time-management that can help make this happen for you, whether you’re a P, a J, or something in-between.

  1. Use a schedule for everything, including those things you’re going to “get to when there’s time”. This includes returning phone calls, sending an email, that errand to the post-office to mail the package you were going to drop off when you had time.
  2. Decide not to do something. That article you’ve been carrying around for three weeks. Will you really read it? Let’s be honest and get rid of some of the should-do’s that aren’t must-do’s.
  3. Schedule some quality time. Don’t let your to-do list become your life. Use it to manage your time, including the time you spend with family, friends, and on yourself. After all, all work and no play makes….well, you know.
  4. When something falls through, use that moment to do something meaningful with your “free time” – that could be focusing on an important work project earlier than you planned, or it could mean going for a walk and refreshing your thoughts. Either way, having a better handle on how you’re spending your time will help you make the most of it.

When we begin to master our time, we’re not dependent on that elusive prey: free time.

For a related post, with additional resources on time management, click here.

Tired of all those must-do’s? Try asking this question


Do you recognize this day?

Wake up (snooze button, anyone?), stumble into the shower, throw some breakfast together (if there’s time), hustle everyone else out the door, dash off to work, forget something halfway down the steps, run through your list of things you must-not-forget-today while you drive to work, dash from meeting to meeting, realize you forgot your lunch on the kitchen counter (probably next to a kid’s homework or a library book you’ve been meaning to return for at least a week now), accumulate three new post-it-notes next to the ones left from yesterday, leave feeling like you’re even further behind than you were when you started.

Dinner? After-school activities? Family? Laundry? Dishes? Bills? Answer your sister’s phone call? Bed? Repeat?

That clutter of must-do’s quickly translates into a heaping serving of resentment topped with fatigue sauce and a sleepless cherry on top, doesn’t it?

But you can’t get out of it. Because you must eat, you must work, you must make sure the kids are okay (and they are, really).

Must. Must. Must.

Or must you?

When we feel put-upon by a lot of external obligations, we feel powerless. Our time is not our own. Our decisions are not our own. That perception of our situation is very strong and very difficult to manage at busy times or moments of transition.

That’s when you can ask this question: Must I? Or can I choose?

There are external forces at work in our lives. Yet we usually have more choices than we realize. The problem is that by the time you arrive at this over-stressed point, you don’t feel like you have the chance to stop and ask. You feel like you don’t have a choice.

There are a lot of choices though. Start with some small ones and build up you choosing muscles. Through practice, you can change your perspective from put-upon to making-decisions.


Start small.

A colleague told me he sits in his car for one minute when he leaves the office. He just sits there. He breathes. It’s a minute of reset.

I tend to stay until the last moment, dash out the door, turn the key, pull out, and drive all in a matter of moments.

His way is better. He’s choosing to regain control over that moment and says it makes a clean break between work and home.

That’s a small step with big payoffs.

Pay attention.

How often do you scarf down your lunch giving it hardly a thought? When your child or partner asks what you ate for lunch and you can’t really remember, that’s a sign that you’re not choosing to eat lunch, you’re just letting it happen. (hopefully!)

Take a moment. Eat lunch. Choose to pay attention.


Your mind is scrambling along at a million miles, generating anxious to-do’s while you’re supposedly watching your kid’s sports team. You’re surfing the phone, trying to do something that would take you a fraction of the time on a computer, but you’ve got to multi-task and get that last email out.  Really? Or are you choosing to be absorbed in something that might get a few kudos from people who (you hope) notice how dedicated you are?

Your choice.

Manage your time.

Time management isn’t something you’re born with. Some people have a gift, yes. The rest of us learn it.

Too busy to learn?

Your choice.

The bottom line is, when you start seeing your time as something you choose to use, and seeing yourself as an active participant in your life, your ability to choose well goes way up. Your perspective changes.

That’s a great choice.

Want some more information on time management? Check out these resources:

Why you should do your worst task first today

Psychology Today articles on time management

Make your working hours work for you – Entrepreneur article

Manage your energy, not your time – HBR article

Are you ready to take it to the next level?