Focus: in personal productivity, focus is power. Or maybe I should call it concentration. Have you ever borne down on a task, locked out all distractions, and gotten more done in an hour or two than you thought you could get done in a day? I have the feeling I used to do that a lot; but now, only rarely.
Part of the problem is the obvious computer-dominated workplace, with emails, instant messages, Twitter, my office phone, and my cell phone, all competing with the task at hand.
But it’s more than just technology. It’s like in an office, more to do, more distractions, more of everything. Especially, more meetings.
I was struck the other day by Paul Graham’s recent essay Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule. He says time is different for different types of jobs and people:
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.
So the manager’s day divides into 5, 10, and 15-minute pieces. The programmer’s, designer’s, or writer’s day doesn’t.
I can relate to this. In 40 years of adulthood I’ve had three lives as a maker and one as a manager. For years my real work was developing a software product, which included some of the code plus content and even documentation. Meetings were big interruptions. Then for a lot of years I was building and running the company, doing nothing but meetings. During those years I was unable to get much writing or software content done at all.
People are different. I like the maker’s life better; but then I’m a hermit by nature, I can go for hours concentrating on a task without talking to anybody. I know people who would hate that, and live for the actions, the thrill of the chase, the decisions, the jockeying for position, the sense of getting things done (in a different way) and, with it all, the meetings.
What are you: Maker or manager?
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I am more on the manager side rather than maker. I like doing a lot of things and meeting people compared to finishing reports and other writing tasks.
[…] Blog Week in Review — 8/20/09 Maker or Manager: Do You Hate Meetings? — Tim Berry on why frequent office meetings work for some types of workers and not for […]
Thanks for the post, Tim.
I haven’t been able to assess myself how much of a maker or a manager I am but one thing’s for sure: your article made me want to look into myself more closely and evaluate my capabilities as a marketer, as a person and as a business mover.
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Great thoughts. I think I am more of a maker, myself. However, I do like to work in 1 -2 hour increments more so than half-day increments. I find that some tasks take a long time to gear up for, but then once you are doing them, you could go on for awhile and get a lot done. Obviously, scheduling meetings in the middle of these types of tasks can cause serious derailment.
The question then becomes, how does a manager work with a maker so that both can benefit? One thought is no mid-day meetings.
I also read Paul’s post, with is getting a great deal of attention from bloggers, and I think he has really hit on something. As an accountant I am 80% maker and 20% manager. In accounting, as in many career paths, as you get promoted you move more and more into the manager role which is not one that all accountants are prepared for and maybe even not wired for.