Understanding What Drives Your Behavior

Thanks to Jeff De Cagna for pointing out this interesting article by venture capitalist Paul Graham about "managers schedule" versus "makers schedule." By "maker" he is referring to people like software programmers and writers. They organize their schedule very differently than traditional manager or boss types because the nature of their work is very different.

Graham argues that managers schedule their days in hourly slots because their work is primarily comprised of meetings where they discuss fairly focused topics and make decisions. These are the bosses, so most organizations end up extending this kind of schedule to everyone.

But Makers are thrown for a loop by this, because if you schedule three one-hour meetings (one in the morning , one at lunch, and one in the afternoon) you've RUINED the whole day, because the maker is not left with any significant blocks of time to do the really hard work (an hour is hardly enough time to really get started!). 

I think it's an important concept, and we should all probably look at how we block our time so that we give ourselves enough time to do the work we need to do. This requires a lot of thinking, however. Time "blocks" will vary depending on the task and the results we're looking for, and this requires us to really understand how we get our (varied) work done (in some cases, an hour isn't really a block). 

And it can help us understand other people, too. Have you ever grumbled to yourself about the lack of discipline, or attention, or "professionalism" someone else had because of the fact that they missed a meeting or didn't behave as you expected them to during the meeting? The same event (that meeting) can have radically different impact on people, depending on the nature of their job and what they spend most of their time doing. But this rarely occurs to us. We don't see it.

Bottom line here: your own behavior is driven by things that you don't particularly notice (and so is everyone else's, of course). The more you expand your awareness (both of your own drivers and others'), the better you will be both in managing your own affairs and interacting more effectively with others. It's not just about time. How does the organizational culture shape what you're doing or how you do it? What about your own professional background or training? When did you really learn how to think? What shaped that? Get a handle on some of these questions, and I think you'll be pleasantly surprised at your ability to apply it to doing better work.

Expanding your awareness, by the way, will sometimes require some time blocks that are longer than one hour!  


  1. 04.08.2009 at 11:50 am

    I found this article fascinating as well. Makes me think that association staffers need to get a good understanding o the time blocks their members use in their work and then incorporate that thinking into how they schedule meetings, conference calls, etc.

  2. 04.08.2009 at 10:33 pm

    Great post, Jamie, and great article. My problem—some days I’m a manager, other days I’m a maker. Or, more typically, I have to find time to make things in my manager’s schedule. Quite a challenge, but this article has given me an awareness I didn’t have before. That should help!