Maker vs. Manager vs. Minder

Investor Paul Graham once argued that a maker (such as a software engineer) requires long bouts of uninterrupted time to create valuable work and cannot be incessantly interrupted by a manager (such as a project lead)—whose primary job is orchestrating the activities of others. Cal Newport expanded on this idea, adding a third persona: a minder. This administrative profile (such as an executive assistant) creates value through processing a large volume of small tasks—billing clients or filing reports—and thus requires a different schedule.

While I believe both these thoughts have merit, the ideas ooze an undertone of intellectual superiority and are too theory-heavy to be immediately practical.

The reality is that today’s knowledge worker must balance all three. For instance, a PM might primarily follow a manager’s schedule of heavy meetings, but they still have maker work, such as writing specs or performing analyses, and aren’t immune from minder work like submitting expense reports or scheduling meetings.

The underlying idea is to 1) recognize the distribution of work on your plate and 2) create a schedule that provides sufficient scheduling for your work profile. Here are some sample schedules: