Notes on the Maker/Manager Schedule

If you don't know of it, this essay by Paul Graham is solid 👌🔥🤌

Tl:DR: makers (devs/artists/writers) need big blocks of focus time to do epic things, whereas managers split their time into small blocks & do epic things while switching a lot. If you're a maker, context-switching sucks.

Maker/Manager is treated like a binary, but I see it as a spectrum

if you're a solo founder you can code all day, but the moment you have a team you start managing [1]

as a CTO i’m always in somewhat of a manager schedule so the question isn’t "should i have a maker or manager schedule?" it’s "how do i balance both?”

Your brain has limited number of things you can think about at once. This is like RAM in a PC [2]

Manager schedule == rapidly scheduling different things in/out of ram, you may have like 10 things going on, you’re loading new ones in and out, one particular thing isn’t on your mind for long

Maker schedule is like loading a big program into your brain. It takes a long time & so you don’t want to load it in/out rapidly because its slow to get back all the context

If you have a big program in your brain that needs all that space & you load a bunch of other smaller tasks into your brain then they seem to take up space so you’re not processing the big thing as fast

How to get more maker time as a manager

Define your longest maker-time block without interrupts: if you don't schedule uninterruptible time, you probably won't get any. You can probably do a couple hours daily if you put your mind into it.

delegate interruptible events

not all interruptions have the same impact

If an engineer needs a bit of advice about engineering, giving them context doesn’t completely destroy my flow.

I think this is because I already have lots of engineering context so it's kinda like shared RAM

Going from deep engineering to a sales call is a huge context shift because virtually none of the context in my ram generalizes to a sales call

I think people think about it too much in terms of "meetings vs no meetings" rather than “Focusing on a set of things that are as related as possible”

In this lens, it isn't about task-switching, rather it’s about preventing tasks that make me have to deload a bunch of my brain to think about some new thing.

choose your interrupts carefully

Instead of worrying about not having a 4 hour focus block just put yourself in an engineering mode where you say: Hey, I'll have a 4 hour work block, but I allow engineering-related interruptions. During this 4 hours I won't do anything that's heavy on the bizops side.

Log your context switches and figure out which are expensive

It's different for everyone.

I've noticed a pattern where certain context switches destroy my day and stress me out

Example of things I rarely can rarely do in the same day

interviewing + fixing a nontrivial bug

sales calls + fixing a nontrivial bug

If I try to do both in a day I struggle to focus coding which results in me guilting myself so now I'm unproductive and stressed about being unproductive. How wasteful. [3]

If I want to code something that will take 3 days then I can't expect to do sales calls or hiring interviews at this time

Examples of things that seem different but I can focus well on both in the same day

Studying Spanish + Studying C++

Coding + Lunch date

This only works if I've been dating the person a long time.

If it's a first date my brain treats it like a sales call and my coding tanks

Doing a sales call + Hiring interview

Exercising + Anything

Hiring calls + Writing essays

for example on the day I wrote this, I somehow wrote 3 different essays on my mind + did 2 interviews, yet I couldn't code for >30 minutes

I suppose language-learning is like a part of my brain, and I can switch between spanish / C++ without losing focus on the concept of language learning.

I can code + go workout + come back and code again without losing context

Exercise is seems like a catch-all special card I can use on any day

your emotional health impacts RAM

if you’re feeling bad you may have less mental capacity left to do your work

e.g., that feeling of fogginess, exhaustion, you’re not engaged

if this is the problem then you probably won't fix it by being "more disciplined" or taking 3 omega 3 supplements for breakfast instead of 2.

You need to figure out the what's on your mind that’s blocking you.

How to do this is a whole other topic I'll probably write about later because it haunts me

There seems to be an upper limit on a focus-block

At some point if I'm focusing too long I get foggy and context switching helps more than not

It seems to be a function of my interest in a topic

This feels like a computer overheating and you have to empty memory & reboot it once in a while to let it cool off

[1] see The role of a startup founder where i rant more about this. also wow i can quote my own blogposts now what a flex kyle

[2] RAM == random access memory

[3] This is an example of