The Maker-Time Schedule

This would be one of those “public accountability” posts, or maybe just a “notice of an experimental life hack.” As you may remember, a while back I tried out the concept of “Maker Time” – with some fantastic results. I’ve also been trying to come up with a more definitive schedule for myself because my projects seem to be flagging. It’s not that things aren’t getting done – it’s rather that they’re not getting done efficiently (or, in some cases, even noticeably). Based on my initial foray into Maker Time, it seems that integrating that concept into my everyday schedule might be a way to get out of this rut.

The temptation at first is to just schedule what 99U recently called “A One-Dayer“, but that doesn’t seem like a sustainable way to run my work day any more than a constant STOP (though there are times when I long for just that). The problem with that much focus is that it robs us of the ability for kaizen – incremental progress on things that we do every day, getting just a bit better.


courtesy Catalina Olavarria via Flickr CC
A Glimpse into My Time

The Maker Time Schedule

The first thing I did was make a list of the things I want to do every day – the things that require a daily (or semi-daily) practice in order to become an actual skill or aspect of my life:

  1. Morning protocols
  2. Exercise
  3. Sketching
  4. Reading
  5. Writing
  6. End-of-Day Review/Next Day Planning

Roughly speaking, I was only going to need to “schedule” the latter four; Morning Protocols happened first thing, not in the midst of the work day. The EOD Review also didn’t need to be much – I don’t do any review right now, so scheduling myself five to fifteen minutes just to get a head start on the day seemed like a pretty reasonable thing.

Then it was time for the projects. What were the things that felt out of control, the Big Projects that would benefit from focused attention in a large block of time? Back to the lists:

  1. Improving this blog.
  2. Working on my book(s)
  3. Working on my business, Gray Miller Creative LLC
  4. Improving my public speaking/presentations
  5. Building my podcasts/audio productions

I could have found more, but these five seemed to fill in a nice Monday-Friday slot. But how much Maker Time did I need each day? “Four hours” was the interval that stuck in my head. I blame Tim Ferriss.

Paying Attention to Flow

With half of each day dedicated to Maker Time, that didn’t leave a whole lot of day for the other activities. Things like writing and sketching required at least a half-hour, preferably an hour, to really show some progress. Exercise could be 20-30 minutes if I was being super-focused, but if you include showering and stretching it realistically needed to be an hour. Plus I knew from experience that I did not want things to be back-to-back. There needed to be transition time as well.

Taking a cue from the many productivity gurus who say “Do the most important thing first“, I decided that my days would go right from Morning Protocols into Maker Time (for whatever project got focus that day). That meant no emails (that were unrelated to the theme), no tweets, no nothing that didn’t directly affect the project until after noon. I arbitrarily chose to start the day at 8am, because I’m the boss of me. Most of my clients were on the west coast anyway, two hours behind me, so it wasn’t likely that I’d miss anything urgent…

Urgent! That was what I forgot. I have some clients and sites I manage that require attention on a daily basis (for example, today I had to notify two people of contests they’d won for websites I manage). Where did that fall in? Suddenly I was looking at a day that started at 8 and would go until…9 or 10pm!

Time is what keeps everything from happening at once;
space is what keeps everything from happening to you”

Gretchen Rubin

“Schedules are what keep you from doing
twice as much as you think you can
half as well as you wish you could.”
– Me

Something had to give. But I knew that writing every day, no matter what, was essential. I knew that sketching – an unexpected passion of mine found late in life – also required daily practice. Exercise? C’mon, we all know that you need to do something every day.

That left reading. I reasoned that I always found time for reading – at lunch, standing in lines, listening to audio books, a few pages before bed – and that it could also simply be something I did more of after the work day was done. I crossed it out, and my maker schedule took form, starting when I woke:

  • 1 hour Morning Protocols (includes a healthy breakfast
  • 4 hours Maker Time, based on the following daily themes:
    1. Blogday
    2. Bookday
    3. Bizday
    4. Speakday
    5. ‘Castday (I thought about “Pod-day” but it has unpleasant connotations)
  • 1 hour Lunch (with reading)
  • 1 hour Sketching
  • 1 hour Writing
  • 1 hour Urgent Business/Reading
  • 1 hour Exercise
  • 15-30 minutes End of Day review/Next Day Planning

You may notice that I didn’t actually put in times; that’s intentional, because as I mentioned there needs to be “passing time” in between tasks. I also don’t want people to think that this is implying that I only spend one hour a day working on client business; if I did, I could write some kind of bestseller, maybe called “the 5-Hour Work Week.” No, when I’m writing it means I may be writing copy for clients; sketching or ‘Castday means I might be designing something for pay or recording an audiobook as well. After all, when people ask me what I do for a living my usual answer is “Whatever I can get away with“.

Sustainable and Flexible Structure

It works out, if you put in about 5 minutes between tasks, to an 8-6pm workday with an hour for lunch…which is pretty reasonable, when you think about it. Of course, with my travel and such there are times it will simply wither away in a flurry of busy-ness (such as today, when the sick needed hugs, the car needed estimates, and my partner needed snuggles).

And it’s an experiment – an attempt to create a framework organically, based on my own needs and wants. It’s a life-trellis, you might say: now we just have to see what grows.

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