Dislike structure, schedules, deadlines, and meetings? Learn about the Maker’s Schedule and how understanding it can help you be more productive as a creative spirit like me!
I am a maker, plain and simple. I love to make things. Crafts, projects, blogs, a pretty home, a happy family, you name it — if it can be made, I pretty much want to at least try making it. I am a true creative spirit! I’ve always been this way, but I didn’t always thrive at it.
You see, like most kids, I went to school on a strict schedule. Up by 6:30 or 7:00 am, in my seat by 8:00 am, lunch at 11:30 am, and out by 3:30 pm. Of course, I had a bedtime, too. I detested this schedule from my earliest memories. I distinctly remember making up excuses to stay home with my mom when I was only in Kindergarten.
Getting a job and going to college just made this situation worse for me. By my early 20s, I realized how unhappy I was with this structure and schedule. And I set out to change it.
I began working for myself from home in my early 20s so I could have the flexible schedule I craved. It wasn’t easy and I didn’t have much money, but I stuck it out and eventually got jobs working at home. Then by the late ’90s, I started my own business.
I’ve now been working with a flexible schedule at home for, oh, 25 years now. Almost the entirety of my adult life. And I LOVE IT. I can’t imagine it any other way. Which is why when my business began to have issues paying me enough money, I decided to make a blog rather than get a job.
But people are always curious about how I manage to get work done at home with all the inherent distractions that entails. They want to know how I do it.
Honestly, it took time to figure this out. School had taught to schedule everything, after all. So I had a lot of unlearning to do. But in time, I came to understand what worked best for me — I learned what to do and what not to do. I have a Maker’s Schedule. And I’m going to share that with you in the hopes of helping you, too!
Maker’s Schedule vs Manager’s Schedule
I recently read an excellent article by Paul Graham called Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule that really illustrates this concept! Paul feels (and I agree) that there are two ways to structure your time: the Maker’s Schedule and the Manager’s Schedule.
The Maker’s Schedule is composed of long chunks of time where you can focus on specific task, sometimes even the entire day could be devoted to a single activity. This is essential for making and creating. And when you break up that time often with meetings and timeslots for this and then, the ability to create drops sharply. Meetings are very tough for Makers. I can attest to this! A single meeting or deadline can derail me for the entire day.
The Manager’s Schedule is, conversely, sliced up into small slots for specific tasks. These slots may be filled with meetings and calls, as well as responding to issues that come up. There’s not generally a need to hyper focus on a single task for a long period of time, and when they try to do it, it can cause issues with other things they are dealing with.
Basically, if you find that planning out your entire day makes your productive and happy, then you’re a Manager. But if when you plan out your day you just feel restricted and unproductive because you didn’t do everything you planned, then you’re a Maker.
I am a Maker! What are you? Understanding which schedule works best for you, your time, and your tasks is the first step in being more productive!
Now I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that you might be a Maker — in my experience, most people drawn to creative pursuits like crafting and blogging are Makers. If so, join the club and keep reading!
My Maker’s Schedule: How I Structure My Time
A member of my Blog What You Love Facebook group posted this today: “I know you’ve said in the past you don’t work well with structured schedules, but I love to know ‘a typical day in the life…’ type scenario! What do you work on each day? What tasks do you have to complete each week? Monthly task? Do you batch tasks? I’m a ‘creative spirit’ and I’m REALLY struggling with consistency! I feel like I’m pretty tech savvy, but I feel like I’m missing how to get everything to come together! Any help/guidance is appreciated!!”
So here goes..
First, I don’t have a planner or scheduler. I keep important appointments and dates I simply cannot miss in my iPhone’s Calendar app, but that’s it. I’ll be honest—there’s not a lot in there. Just the essentials. That’s because too many things to do in a schedule will stress me out and freeze me up.
I usually get up at 6:00 am (7:00 am in the summer). I used to love sleeping late and staying up late, but all that changed when a had a child. I always think about my day before I even get out of bed—I ask myself “what I need to do today?” and “What I want to do today?” The answers to these questions will determine the day itself.
I get coffee and go right to my desk. If I have pressing things I NEED to accomplish today, I get to work on them immediately. I do this before email, before checking stats on my blog, before any other distractions. I work on them until I have finished them, or until I’ve met the goal I set for myself to do. This might take most of my day, but usually not — maybe an hour or two, or sometimes until lunch. Things I might do during this time are write a post or letter, design a new pattern, record videos for a course, etc. If I have a lot of these “must do” things, I stack them in order of importance and move from task to task immediately after finishing each one, sometimes with short email and FB breaks in between as a “reward.”
If I don’t have a lot of pressing things I need to do, I get to do things I WANT to do. The things I want to do vary wildly, but are almost always still related to making things. So that may be things like researching something for my blog, working on a craft or project, and so on. Often this is when I begin NEW things — like courses, posts, projects, designs. Thus, it’s important I have time like this to embark on NEW projects.
I usually work all day, by choice. I enjoy work and being productive. I could probably work less, but even when I’ve finished my must-do things, I find myself making new things. That said, because I have a flexible schedule, I can and do have days where I don’t work much or I’m out of the house doing something else. Sometimes I take naps in the afternoons. I had a one-hour nap today and yesterday. And I do usually take breaks in the afternoon to walk my dog, hang out with Alex and Greg, and (if the weather is nice) sit on my porch. (During the school year, I also have to factor in getting my child to and from school, which isn’t particularly conducive to my Maker’s schedule, but I’m a mom so that’s just how it has to be.)
I stop working at dinner time. I sit down and eat with my family, and we play games together. If I am in the mood, I might work a little after dinner, but it’s light work — Facebook, emails, little things. I don’t watch TV in the evenings, but I do play interactive games with Greg—it’s our way of spending quality time together every day. I go to bed by 11 (or midnight in the summer). So I get a solid seven hours of sleep everyday. Sleep is SUPER important.
I can’t tell you the exact things I work on each day because it’s different every day. I work on projects, usually working until they are finished, then immediately moving on to the next one that feels right at the time. By focusing on these need-to- and want-to tasks in a long, uninterrupted stream, I can pack in a lot of things. And having the flexibility to choose what I want to work on, based on my mood or whatever, means I’m more “into” those things and can them done faster and better.
How Does a Maker Stay Consistent?
So just doing a bunch of projects in a row when I feel like may seem super vague and inconsistent. How do I get the things done I need to when they need to be done?
I keep myself on a loose weekly schedule, more or less. Each week, there are things I need to get done, as follows:
- Write and send out newsletters
- Make a new blog post at least once
- Check on my students’ progress and give feedback and help
- Manage social media (Facebook groups, Pinterest, etc.)
- Pay bills
Those are my must-dos every week. I give myself flexibility on WHEN those things need to be done during the week, as this makes it easier for me to work into my Maker’s Schedule. But I still make myself do these things every week. These are often the things that crop up on my “need-to-do” lists as I lay in bed each morning and think about my day.
By having this loose weekly schedule, I stay more or less consistent. I am not perfectly consistent, but pretty darn close. And that’s saying something for someone like me.
That said, when a new “need-to-do” item enters my life, sometimes it takes a while to incorporate it into my week. I make mistakes early on, forget to do things. A Manager would have put it in their calendar, but I don’t. But over time, I get the hang of it and it becomes part of my weekly schedule. That’s the downside of the way I do things.
Can a Maker Batch Tasks?
If you’re not familiar with “batching,” this just means grouping together like tasks together or doing a larger quantity of something at one time. For example, some people batch write blog posts, writing 4-5 at a time and scheduling them out to be released later.
You can totally batch tasks if it works for you. Does it work for me? Yes and no. I don’t batch designs or posts or anything like that. I prefer to work on those when I feel inspired—I do a much better and faster job when I do it that way. But harder tasks that require more setup or focus, such as videos and writing, often get batched into giant chunks of time that can take most of my day.
Whenever I have the ability to batch something, I do. It’s more efficient that way. But as a Maker, I can’t always do it. Creating does take inspiration, and inspiration isn’t usually something you just snap into existence. So instead, when I am inspired, I make the most of it and do as much as I can.
The Magic of Hyper Focusing, or Flow
Speaking of inspiration, I want to talk about what I call hyper-focus. I also call this “flow state.” For me, this means having the time and interest to really get INTO a particular task so deep that I can shut out everything else. I don’t shut things out intentionally, it just happens. When I’m in this state, it’s all I want to do and I will stay there for as long as I can — usually until I’m interrupted by something like a meal or a family member needing me.
For me, a flow state is almost a crazy kind of focused yet floaty feeling. It’s like I’m just sailing through the task, amazing myself at what I am accomplishing. Nothing seems hard when I’m in a flow state—in fact, it feels like I’m totally at peace with whatever I’m doing.
I seek out this state whenever I can, because I find this extremely helpful for me as a Maker. Being in a flow state allows me to be WAY more productive. Right now, for example, i am in one as I write this article. Nothing else is distracting me — I’ve closed Facebook, email, and all other tabs on my browser. Right now, it’s just me and you. Nothing else. And this is the only place I want to be right now. I will stay right here, with you, until it is done.
And the best way to get into a flow state is to have large chunks of unscheduled time, which brings us back to the whole idea of the Maker’s Schedule.
How to Find Unscheduled Maker Time
Alas, my friend, finding unscheduled time is not easy. Even now, after 25 years of working at home and ruthlessly saying no to things that create schedules in my life, I still have things I have to do at specific times. I’ve had many years to create my life the way I want, so chances are you are in an even more difficult position.
The only advice I can give you here is that you need to MAKE TIME. You have to say no to more things, and be committed to this. There will be things you cannot say no to, like jobs and family and doctor’s appointments. But there will be time in your life when you could do something else for a few hours. For many moms, this is in the evenings after the kids have gone to bed. Many people watch TV and movies during this time, but you could use this time differently. There’s a reason I don’t watch TV. I chose to cut it out of my life a long time ago. Even now, when I probably have time to do it, I chose not to. It’s just a time-suck with no real purpose or reward.
If you can carve out a chunk of unscheduled time for yourself, you’ll be amazed at what you can do with it!