Strong opinions, weakly held

Maker’s schedule versus manager’s schedule

Paul Graham explains on how people who make things must manage their time to maximize their productivity:

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.

I think that the biggest sap on my own productivity is my failure to schedule my time to maximize it. I pride myself on being accessible and unperturbed by interruptions, but at the same time I think that keeps me from entering the mental state to really get things done.


  1. I started to write an email recommending that article to my entire team yesterday but ultimately held off for fear that the managers would take it as an indictment of their past behaviour, which has generally been pretty good. And after finally convincing them that I should be included earlier in the planning process, I didn’t want to give anyone a reason to leave me off a meeting I should be in.

    But after the scheduler showed up today at 2:30 and pulled me right out of a deep dive into some complicated code, I think I’m going to have to.

  2. The thing I struggle with in that article is, yeah, meetings suck, and a 1:30-2:30 meeting will pretty much destroy all coding work that might have gotten done in an afternoon — but if you don’t have the meetings, people end up not knowing what’s going on, there’s no team coordination, and everybody is busy coding on a bunch of stuff that’s never going to integrate.

    There is a tension there, but it’s nowhere near as one-sided as Graham makes things out to be.

  3. I’m a fan of a productive meeting. A lot of times you can get more done in a one hour meeting than you can in an email thread that goes on for a week. I think the better lesson is that everyone scheduling meetings should do so knowing how such meetings affect productivity. For individuals, I think it’s important to realize that on days with meetings you are not going to get the most coding done, and that you should plan your day accordingly. On “meeting day” you should take care of the bugs and loose ends that can be finished without deep concentration.

  4. This is so true. I like coping mechanisms like meeting-free days or certainly blocks (like mornings or afternoons). And no meeting is to be scheduled without an agenda distributed in advance. negroponte made the argument that meetings serve two purposes – levelling and posturing. Levelling can be done via email, conference call, wiki, or a meeting if absolutely necessary. And posturing we can do without.

  5. I don’t think anyone claimed that meetings were not necessary, but I think it’s important for managers to realize the impact they can have and try to make accomodations if they can.

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