The Maker’s Schedule

Posted on March 12, 2010.

In an email exchange with Jason Putorti (@novaurora) this week the term “The Maker’s Schedule” was brought up. I’d never heard it before and decided to investigate. My first inclination was that this was some kind of religious phrase that has carried over into the professional world. Turns out I was wrong. Way wrong.

A quick google search revealed a blog entry from last year by Paul Graham where he describes two different ways of working – the manager’s schedule (hourly increments scheduled at the whim of business needs and co-workers’ demands) and the maker’s schedule.

The gist of the maker’s schedule is that those who “make things” (makers) need solid blocks of time to create those “things.” Having your day chopped up into thin slices of 30 minute availability in-between other meetings destroys a maker’s ability to produce work. Paul advocates for, at least, half day blocks of time for designers and developers that cannot be carved into smaller chunks.

I couldn’t agree more with this approach – especially for designers. It’s been proven over and over that it takes at least 20 minutes to “get into the zone” when you’re making something. Any significant distraction resets that clock. Thirty minute or even one hour slots of availability don’t provide enough runway for the creative zone to kick in, take off and produce quality work. Jason Fried touches on this too in Getting Real though he advocates the abolition of all meetings which, in a 3-5 person startup may be possible (to an extent), but proves impossible in a company with over 25 employees.

I would also add that there is a layer of responsibility for those of us in design management roles to protect these blocks of time for our teams. As design thinking and culture takes hold in a company, it is incumbent on design managers to ensure the success of our team. Promoting and protecting our makers’ schedules is a good step towards that.