Planning Time ConceptAuthor, computer scientist and venture capitalist Paul Graham makes an interesting distinction between “managers” and “makers” when it comes to time management – particularly when it comes to scheduling meetings.

In an essay entitled “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule,” Graham – who in 2005 co-founded Y Combinator, a then-new type of startup incubator that has since funded over a thousand startups including Dropbox, Airbnb, Stripe, and Reddit – points out that managers are used to needing to refocus their attention every hour or so. For them, to schedule a meeting at 3 p.m. is natural and routine. Creators, on the other hand, are likely to find that even one meeting, at 10 or 11 a.m., or 2 or 3 p.m., simply breaks up their days into unmanageable pieces: they are unable to sink into a task and give it full attention in the small chunks of time left over before and after such meetings. Creative work requires long stretches of uninterrupted time, and even half a day of unbroken concentration is often not enough.

This distinction is of interest to those who are working with creative entrepreneurs, such as writers, graphic artists, or programmers: these individuals may prefer to schedule all of their meetings for one day a week and leave the other days open, or to meet very early in the morning so that the rest of the day is available for their creative work.

However, the distinction is also of interest to those of us who tend to move back and forth between one work mode and another.  For lawyers, days full of meetings and appointments are often expected and routine. However, we also require uninterrupted time for writing, researching and thinking. A meeting at 2 p.m. can sometimes not only interrupt the afternoon, it can also throw off the whole day.

Thinking of Paul Graham’s distinction between types of work – manager’s or maker’s? – and scheduling meetings so they don’t conflict with projects that require prolonged focus may help us manage all of our work more effectively.

As always, I welcome your thoughts on this or any other matter related to the law, either in the comments section below or directly via email.