Ever have this experience: You start your day bright and early. You have your first cup of coffee, you launch your email, Skype, Facebook, Tweetdeck, and then you are ready for your day. And it’s gonna be a good one! Especially if it is a Monday. The whole week to look forward to.

The next thing you know, you look at your watch and it is lunchtime. Your stomach is grumbling and you really must stand up out of your chair. You grab a fast bite and then you are back at your desk again. By the time you look at your watch, it is 6:00PM and you’ve been at it for almost 10 hours (not including the 15 minute lunch break).

On your way home, you start to consider all that you accomplished that day. Well, let’s see…you had a phone meeting, followed by 6 simultaneous Skype chats, you answered at least 150 emails, spoke on the phone some more, posted a few interesting items to Facebook, followed interesting tweets, chatted again…All-in-all, you got pretty much nothing on your to do list done. Sure, you worked. But, it doesn’t feel like you accomplished much of anything.

Does this every happen to you? It happens to me quite frequently. Some weeks, if feels like it happens every day. And then I spend evenings and weekends catching up on the to do list items.

I came across a rather old post from Paul Graham last week. I found it in one of Seth Godin’s recent blogs. Both Paul and Seth have really terrific viewpoints, so if you are not reading their blogs, I think you should.

Paul’s post is from 2009 and it is called, “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule.” The basic premise is this: People who make things (writers, coders, artists, cooks) need to follow schedules that allocate large swaths of time to their craft. The day of a maker cannot be chunked up into 1-hour segments, moving from task to task to task. Makers need wide open space and time so that they can get in the “zone.”

Managers tend to use a completely different paradigm of time. Most of the time, managers spend their days communicating with other people. Communication tends to happen in pre-assigned slots of time ranging from 15 minutes to an hour or more. This is common and it is expected.

Lately, I’ve been trying (and failing) to mix maker time and manager time. Launching our new SaaS product, ContentRules IQ, has had me making a lot of stuff. I’ve been writing, designing, editing, and creating a lot of content. At the same time, I’ve been meeting with customers, speaking with my staff, being available for chat, and allowing myself to be interrupted pretty much any time, for any reason. I guess I like to be considered a CEO whose virtual door is always open.

In an attempt to allow myself some maker time, I started blocking out one morning and one afternoon each week where I am unavailable for meetings. My calendar clearly says, “No Meetings.” Everyone on my team is extremely respectful of this block – except me. Whether it is a potential customer call, a meeting with a partner, or an employee who needs assistance, it seems that the manager in me overrules the maker in me. Consequently, I have yet to spend my set-aside maker time to make anything. Instead, I spend it being interrupted and then really being annoyed that I let myself be interrupted.

I think this is a very interesting siutation and one that is not easily ameliorated. As the CEO, I really do need to be available. It is essentially my job to communicate. On the other hand, as part of the team that is launching a new product line, there is much to create. And most of my creating is being done at night and on weekends.

I am keeping this paradigm in mind. Perhaps I’ll be a recovering manager some day.

Val Swisher
Latest posts by Val Swisher (see all)