The Hypothesis: As I’ve mentioned a while back, 2015 is a year where my over-arching focus is intended to be a complete abandoning of any “time-management” techniques. That is to say: I don’t want to manage my time, I want to master it. Managing is something you do with what you’re given; mastery is what you do with something you own. It’s a shift in perspective and framing and, for the most part, I find it beneficial (even as I frantically type this blog post before a 6:30 phone meeting).
It meant that the recent article by startup mogul Paul Graham Maker Time, Manager Time caught my eye and captured my imagination. The gist of it is that you need at least half a day of uninterrupted time if you are a creative – and that goes for writer, coder, artist, whatever. Managers, on the other hand, thrive on meetings, and therefore will fill their day with fifteen minutes here, an hour there, a lunch date later on. But one of those meetings in the middle of Maker Time?
…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… 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 liked this image; the idea of dedicating four hours to one project, one goal, with a singleminded focus. Not necessarily to accomplish something – just to see how much further I could get in a project with Maker Time.
: I picked a morning when I knew I’d be working at home, and picked a project that I’ve been actively procrastinating: laying out the manuscript of a book for a client for print and for e-book versions, as well as designing a cover. It’s not that these are exactly difficult, but they are tedious. The client wasn’t really in a hurry to get it done either, so there wasn’t the normal extraneous pressure.
Everything I did for those four hours – every tweet, every browser tab, every cup of coffee – would be focused in some way towards that task. It wasn’t that I was going off-grid, it was rather that I was saving all of the attention in my brain for that one project.
8:30am. I started.
Result: 12:30pm I reluctantly took the message from my partner reminding me that I should eat some lunch. I had looked at the clock exactly once beforehand, at 9:33, when I was chafing at the layout constraints of footnotes and headers and facing-page margins.
But at 12:30? I had all twenty-five chapters laid out, a table of contents generated, a rough draft of the book cover along with the “blurbs” that go along with such things. I was able to send off to the publisher for a preliminary review and show the cover to the client for a “sleepover” – that’s when you look at it, record your initial reaction, then sleep on it and come back in the morning to give it another go. You’d be amazed at what people catch.
Meanwhile, I was jubilant. I had been in hours of flow, had solid deliverables to show for it, and still had half a day to do any of the other tasks – the managerial ones – that might be necessary. And there was a cost; I’d missed one time-sensitive email from a client and been unable to help her with her newsletter. She was ok with that, though, when I explained what I’d been doing.
Conclusion: Maker Time rocks!
I tried another test of it today, producing a video for another client who is hoping to do an IndieGoGo fundraiser. This time it was harder – I had some Dad-stuff come up and require attention, which made it more difficult to stay relentlessly focused. I compromised by simply making sure that every moment at my desk was VIDEO VIDEO VIDEO. The result is a finished video for the client delivered hours ahead of my self-appointed deadline.
I don’t know if Maker Time can work for everyone. But if you have a project you’re putting off…I recommend giving it a try.