Are you a maker or a manager?

A lot of you can relate to this incident from childhood. You have just built yourself two LEGO battle tankers. You are sprawled on the floor, firing imaginary shells into the air across the two battle tankers, making shell noises… bang… crack!. Your hero tanker has taken a few hits and is weak and your enemy tanker is just two shells away from destruction. The suspense is building and you are totally in the zone, lining up your barrel at the enemy’s tanker for two final shots, when…. your mother calls you and says that lunch is ready and that you should eat it NOW! You say, ‘Just two minutes, mommy’. But she is adamant. You have to go RIGHT NOW or she will get angry. She reasons with you that you can always have lunch and go back to play, ‘LEGO tankers’.

But the point is that you have been shaken off your zone, that total isolation of focus that got you completely involved in whatever you were doing physically, mentally and emotionally. While it may not be your mom anymore, you are constantly ripped away from your zone by meetings, phone notifications and calls and visiting people. In this post, let us talk about what gets you in the zone in the first place and how you can keep yourself there.

The tale of two persons: Maker and manager

Y-Combinator’s co-founder and tech investor Paul Graham, talks about two different types of people and how their schedules affect their productivity in one of his most viral blog posts, “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule“. For any project, two types of persons are needed, the manager and the maker.

The Manager


A manager is responsible for thinking ahead, planning, making to-do lists and schedules, talking to people, assigning and then moving on to the next items in the list, so that the team stays on top of the project. The manager’s schedule is based around scores of tiny tasks throughout the day, each one lasting typically only an hour or two at most. The tasks generally involve surrounding themselves with people, interacting and talking to them on basis. Also, most of their work is based around assignment of tasks to others and then gaining feedback from the assignees later. The manager will typically say, “Alright, Mr Designer, please get to work on our new logo design”. This task takes only seconds for the manager to say and another few seconds to note down on a calendar, “May 9 2016: Designer begins work on Logo”. The manager then moves onto the next task on the list, which may be the copy-writer, “Mr Copy Writer, we require content for the home page.”

The Maker


The second of the two persons is the maker. The maker is the person who has specialised skills to actually perform tasks. This is the player who lives ‘right here, right now’ like the young LEGO tanker player. In fact, this type of person needs hours of uninterrupted time to put out his / her best work. The first 30 to 60 minutes are spent in getting from a clean sheet of mind into the proverbial zone, after which the productivity hits peak. However, any interruption to the maker’s zone will reset his / her mind to a clean slate. Think of it as a fire kindled steadily and then someone dousing it with water. The fire will require the build up time again to reach peak. This category consists of professionals like engineers, artists, designers, authors, accountants and other types of persons who require huge chunks of uninterrupted time, so that their work flows smoothly.

Maker vs Manager: The eternal clash

Seeing that the maker and the manager work at different levels, we can assume that they chug along with their own work pretty comfortably right? Well, not quite. Let us take our LEGO story. We are in the zone with our LEGO battle tankers and wouldn’t like to be interrupted. But mommy has tiny little tasks all day to ensure that the house runs smoothly. That would be buying things for home, helping the kids with studies, receiving guests and doing errands around home. If she is a working mom, then she has her own world of work to catch up on. She would like nothing more than for you to come immediately for lunch, when she calls you, since she has a lot more things to attend to. Your game and its delay will push her carefully scheduled day into disarray.

In the corporate world, the manager has small tasks to run throughout the day. He/she has clients to answer to and plans to make and alter depending on how the different stakeholders want the project to pan out. The manager will invariably need to speak to the maker professionals from time to time to find out how much code developers have finished, if the designer has finalised on the fresh design, if the accountant has found ways to save costs and so on. And just like mommy, the manager would like nothing better than speak to his/her makers NOW! This results in a barrage of suddenly called flash meetings which may last for minutes and even upto an hour. That is enough to throw the makers off their gear.

How can makers and managers co-operate

The manager wants to know how the project that he/she manages is positioned and for this he/she wants to speak to his/her makers. It is clearly unreasonable to walk on the maker and interrupt him/her from his/her sweet spot zone. Nor can the maker frequently attend meetings all day, thus putting his/her productive schedule at peril.

The maker wants to enter his/her cocoon of isolation and work uninterrupted. However it is completely unreasonable of him/her to think that the manager is not within his/her rights to request visibility on progress.

Pre-committing to meetings

Both can arrive at a consensus by setting a fixed schedule to meet up regularly per week. The frequency of meetings can be mutually agreed upon by the manager and the maker. But as a rule of thumb, it should not exceed more than once per day, preferably even only twice or thrice per week. Secondly, it should be at one of the ends of the day, just around a big break. E.g. start of the day, end of the day or just before or after lunch makes perfect sense. The schedule should be respected without delays. A meeting towards the start of the day ensures that the participants are fresh and sharp. A morning meeting will also make sure that an agenda is set for the day. A meeting should be brief with a clear agenda and with only those participants who can really benefit from it. It should be as brief as possible, definitely not exceeding the hour mark. 15-20 minutes are ideal for covering most meeting topics. Participants whose role in the meeting is done should be allowed to leave immediately if the rest of the meeting wont affect his/her agenda.

The idea of sterile cockpit

In their book Switch, Dan and Chip Heath talk about the concept of a sterile cockpit. In a plane that is taking off or landing, no one is allowed to talk anything other that what is essential for the plane to fly safely. Once in auto-pilot mode, the conversation can be even be so casual as discussing their relationships. Companies have borrowed this idea to ensure that their makers are not disturbed during certain blocks of time. There are cubicles, so that visual distractions are cut off, chat programs are disabled so that no one is tempted to ping, “Can you come here a moment?”. No one is allowed to approach the makers during sterile time. This helps the maker get into and stay in his/her zone for longer periods of time.

Working from different locations

Although there is no concrete evidence about how it works, makers and managers have often reported improved productivity when they work from different locations, which may mean different floors in a building, different buildings, different cities, both working from their homes and the like. It is attributed to the fact that the distance reduces the number of casual / flash meetups between the two which robs the maker of productive time. Meetings are often via channels such as telephone, Skype or Hangouts during very specifically scheduled times.


Any project needs both managers and makers, both with very important roles to play. Both need to meet up in order to collaborate and steer the project where it should be heading. It is best to allow the maker sufficient time to hit his/her stride and get the work done, but at the same time, touch up with the managers frequently in order to show progress and to receive guidance on how to proceed.

Now I would like to know about your experiences in your projects. If you are a maker, how do you manage hitting your zone and yet take time for collaborating with your managers? If you are a manager, how do you get the best of your makers by allowing them isolation and yet always stay on top of your project by getting your makers to speak to you regularly?

Published by

Harikrishna Natrajan

Unleashing life's full potential

70 thoughts on “Are you a maker or a manager?”

  1. I have not checked in here for a while since I thought it was getting boring, but the last few posts are good quality so I guess I’ll add you back to my daily bloglist. You deserve it my friend

  2. I will immediately grab your rss feed as I can not find your email subscription link or enewsletter service. Do you have any? Kindly let me know so that I could subscribe. Thanks.

  3. I do agree with all the ideas you have introduced for your post. They are really convincing and can certainly work. Still, the posts are very brief for newbies. May you please extend them a bit from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

  4. Nice read, I just passed this onto a friend who was doing some research on that. And he just bought me lunch since I found it for him smile So let me rephrase that Thank you for lunch! Whenever you have an efficient government you have a dictatorship. by Harry S Truman.

  5. Thanks for this article. I’d also like to express that it can often be hard if you are in school and simply starting out to initiate a long credit standing. There are many students who are just trying to endure and have an extended or favourable credit history are often a difficult matter to have.

  6. Pingback: phen375 buy
  7. Pingback: para para dinle
  8. Pingback: New Music
  9. Pingback: Business Alarms
  10. Pingback: motogolf
  11. Pingback: nam linh chi
  12. Pingback: sg seo
  13. Pingback: Homepage
  14. Greetings from Ohio! I’m bored to tears at work so I decided to check out your website on my
    iphone during lunch break. I love the information you present
    here and can’t wait to take a look when I get home.
    I’m surprised at how fast your blog loaded on my phone .. I’m not even using WIFI, just
    3G .. Anyhow, awesome blog!

  15. Greetings! Very useful advice in this particular article!
    It is the little changes that produce the biggest changes.
    Thanks for sharing!

  16. I just want to say I’m new to weblog and definitely savored your web site. Probably I’m likely to bookmark your blog post . You definitely come with great writings. Many thanks for sharing with us your web-site.

    1. to me once that life has an ending but i never thought it would happen like this..Don, i know your happy right now and hope to see u someday wherever you may be but always remember that i was glad and happy that i met you and your family they are all families to me but i THANK you for everything and i will always be here remembering all the good times we had before and u will never forget you and always be in my heart miss you And i love you bro…

    2. Hi there, I believe your internet site may be possessing browser compatibility problems. When I search at your internet site in Safari, it seems to be good but when opening in Net Explorer, it’s some overlapping. I just needed to provide you with a swift heads up! Other then that, wonderful website!

    3. ER entfacht den glimmenden Docht nicht nur wieder, -ER richtet das geknickte Rohr auch wieder auf ! SEIN WORT verspricht auch, wenn wir durchs Feuer gehen nicht verbrennen – denn JESUS ist mit uns. HALLELU-YAH…alle EHRE u. aller DANK sei IHM allein für SEINE GNADE!

    4. As soon as I observed this internet site I went on reddit to share some of the love with them. “So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence.” by Bertrand Russell.

    5. Nice post. I study something more difficult on totally different blogs everyday. It can at all times be stimulating to read content material from different writers and observe slightly something from their store. I’d favor to make use of some with the content material on my weblog whether or not you don’t mind. Natually I’ll provide you with a link on your web blog. Thanks for sharing.

    6. Hiya, I am extremely glad My partner and i have discovered this information. Today people publish only regarding gossips and net this also is really frustrating. A good website using interesting information, this is what I require. Thank anyone for maintaining this site, I will possibly be visiting it. Do you accomplish newsletters? Cant find it.

    7. hi!,I like your writing very much! share we communicate more about your article on AOL? I need a specialist on this area to solve my problem. May be that’s you! Looking forward to see you.

  17. Although we have had deployment schedules for code for a long time, Multiple Data Fix requests from multiple people through the day with varying urgency kept propping up. Once it was decided that only one data fix will be done per day say by 4PM and communicated, it has vastly controlled propping up of such adhoc requests that has enabled our developers to work dedicated on tasks that require more time like development or bug fixing !!

Comments are closed.