There is a popular meme (see @sacca and @arrington) going around with people lining up to shout “hurrah!” to Paul Graham’s thoughtful post Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule. You can read it for yourself but the point seems to be that “makers” i.e. web developers or I guess in this case investors have a higher marginal cost to attending a meeting than managers. This is an oversimplification and a cop out.
First let me state that many many meetings are bad, but that’s mainly because people don’t know how to run meetings. Good managers learn to minimize the meetings in their organization, and make the meetings that do happen ultra efficient. I’m not a fan of meetings. But they happen.
I agree with the thesis of the post – which is that people benefit from having long stretches of uninterrupted work time. In fact if you attend just about any seminar on time management this is basically what they teach you. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your priorities and then block time out daily to accomplish the most important tasks. If your number one priority is to accomplish a job that requires several 4 hour (or 8 hour or 10 hour) blocks of time in the coming week, then just open your calendar and block out the time. This is called “managing”. If I am managing someone who is falling behind schedule because they have too many meetings, I will make them open their calendar and go through the meetings one by one and decline the less important ones. Everyone is happy – meetings just disappeared!
My main problem with the post is the assertion that most powerful people are on a manager’s schedule. Really? Who is that? Most powerful people are work-a-holics who don’t sleep much. They are on a “managers schedule” during the day, but they are finding blocks of time early in the morning or after the meetings have stopped to be makers. My first boss ever told me before 6PM is for people, after is for working. In today’s economy, especially in the tech space, there are no pure managers. Everyone has making to do.
Seems like Paul’s main problem is that he doesn’t want to work the schedule of these so-called “powerful people”. No problem there, but lets call it like it is. He needs to go grab coffee with Mark Suster (@msuster), investor by day, uber blogger and maker by night.
The origin of the post is that Paul Graham gets too many “lets grab coffee” requests and feels like he needs to explain his reason for turning down so many requests, but wants to frame it like he has found a better way and distinguish himself from run-of -the-mill managers.
Let’s frame the argument in more reasonable language. Everyone has a different prioritization for networking – we all agree that even the most makerish coder can benefit by meeting new people once in a while, even if its just on the annual trip to comic con. Other professionals (like esp. investors) need to assign networking a higher priority. Some of us can’t possibly meet with everyone who wants to meet with us. So use your new managing power to block out time for making, and time for meeting according to your own personal prioritization. My friend Jill who runs a great non-profit in Portland gets a ton of non-directional “lets get coffee” requests and has come up with a rule – she does one such meeting a month. If you want to grab coffee with Jill you might need to wait 3 or 4 months. Another strategy that busy people use to good effect is to regularly attend a local meetup so that you can suggest to these people that if they want to grab coffee or a drink then attend the meetup. Seems like Paul keeps office hours. Everyone is happy – meetings just disappeared!
But lets drop the “makers vs. managers” characterization. Just manage to make a little better.