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makers Schedule

Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule (2009)

July 2009One reason programmers dislike meetings so much is that they’re on a different type of schedule from other people. Meetings cost them more.There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day…

July 2009

One reason programmers dislike meetings so much is that they’re on
a different type of schedule from other people. Meetings cost them
more.

There are two types of schedule, which I’ll call the manager’s
schedule and the maker’s schedule. The manager’s schedule is for
bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with
each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several
hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change
what you’re doing every hour.

When you use time that way, it’s merely a practical problem to meet
with someone. Find an open slot in your schedule, book them, and
you’re done.

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.

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.

For someone on the maker’s schedule, having a meeting is like
throwing an exception. It doesn’t merely cause you to switch from
one task to another; it changes the mode in which you work.

I find one meeting can sometimes affect a whole day. A meeting
commonly blows at least half a day, by breaking up a morning or
afternoon. But in addition there’s sometimes a cascading effect.
If I know the afternoon is going to be broken up, I’m slightly less
likely to start something ambitious in the morning. I know this
may sound oversensitive, but if you’re a maker, think of your own
case. Don’t your spirits rise at the thought of having an entire
day free to work, with no appointments at all? Well, that means
your spirits are correspondingly depressed when you don’t. And
ambitious projects are by definition close to the limits of your
capacity. A small decrease in morale is enough to kill them off.

Each type of schedule works fine by itself. Problems arise when
they meet. Since most powerful people operate on the manager’s
schedule, they’re in a position to make everyone resonate at their
frequency if they want to. But the smarter ones restrain themselves,
if they know that some of the people working for them need long
chunks of time to work in.

Our case is an unusual one. Nearly all investors, including all
VCs I know, operate on the manager’s schedule. But
Y Combinator
runs on the maker’s schedule. Rtm and Trevor and I do because we
always have, and Jessica does too, mostly, because she’s gotten
into sync with us.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there start to be more companies like
us. I suspect founders may increasingly be able to resist, or at
least postpone, turning into managers, just as a few decades ago
they started to be able to resist switching from jeans
to suits.

How do we manage to advise so many startups on the maker’s schedule?
By using the classic device for simulat

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