Maker vs. Manager: How To Schedule For Your Productivity Style

Makers are individual contributors with a specific skillset: designers, developers, writers, etc. Managers coordinate projects, manage teams, develop their direct reports, and make sure their team is moving forward.

Each of these distinct designations require a different type of schedule. Optimizing for the wrong schedule can mean an annoying day of unending meetings when you really need to be heads down, or a lonely day trying to do work when really you need to be connecting with others on your team.

The maker’s schedule is comprised of long stretches of uninterrupted time. I repeat:

  • Long: You should be able to block out however much time you need to get “in the zone.” Research shows it takes as long as 30 minutes for makers to hit that sweet spot of flow where things really start to happen.
  • Uninterrupted: This is the key. No Slack…really, no Slack. No phone notifications.  Nothing but the sheer pleasure of a cup of coffee and an empty screen.
  • Stretches: You may need more than one in a day. For some people the key is something like the Pomodoro technique which drives you through multiple short stretches of time delegated to certain tasks.

Read This Story Without Distraction (Can You?)

Indeed, multitasking, that bulwark of anemic résumés everywhere, has come under fire in recent years. A 2014 study in the Journal of Experimental Psychology found that interruptions as brief as two to three seconds — which is to say, less than the amount of time it would take you to toggle from this article to your email and back again — were enough to double the number of errors participants made in an assigned task.

.. Not the same as mindfulness, which focuses on emotional awareness, monotasking is a 21st-century term for what your high school English teacher probably just called “paying attention.”

.. “It’s a digital literacy skill,” ..

.. “When I was looking for jobs and interviewing, they’d always want me to say, ‘I’m a great multitasker,’ ” he said. “And I wouldn’t. My inability to multitask was seen as a negative. Now I can just say, ‘I am a monotasker. I am someone who works best when I focus on one thing at a time.’ ”

.. A good sign you’ve task-switched yourself into a stupor: mindlessly scrolling Facebook at the end of the night or, as in Ms. Zomorodi’s case, looking at couches on Pinterest. “I just stuff my brain full of them because I can’t manage to do anything else,” she said. “The sad thing is that I don’t get any closer to deciding which one I like.”

..  “If I keep looking at my phone or my inbox or various websites, working feels a lot more tortuous. When I’m focused and making progress, work is actually pleasurable.”

.. Monotasking can also be as simple as having a conversation.

“Practice how you listen to people,” Ms. McGonigal said. “Put down anything that’s in your hands and turn all of your attentional channels to the person who is talking. You should be looking at them, listening to them, and your body should be turned to them. If you want to see a benefit from monotasking, if you want to have any kind of social rapport or influence on someone, that’s the place to start. That’s where you’ll see the biggest payoff.”

Constant Phone Notifications Are Ruining Your Productivity

Multitasking is so last year. New research has begun to suggest that becoming a GTD all star doesn’t necessarily mean doing it all, all at once. The new way to work is by dialing into one activity, also called monotasking.

.. Some studies have suggested that the average person checks their phone up to 150 times a day. The reason for that stems partially from a desire to feel connected, but also, interestingly, as a stress reliever.

According to a study by Baylor University, compulsive phone checking was seen as an attempt to reduce anxiety. Participants reported that the behavior of looking at their phone alerts was a way to boost their mood.

Another study conducted by Aalto University in Finland found that the process of checking your phone and receiving a notification produces a reward loop in your brain which compels you to repeat the action over and over again in search of more “rewards,” in the form of notifications. These findings substantiate the above Baylor study that phone checking is correlated with a dopamine response, by providing momentary satisfaction.

Why Is Productivity So Weak? Three Theories

From 2011 through 2015, the government’s official labor productivity measure shows only 0.4 percent annual growth in output per hour of work. That’s the lowest for a five-year span since the 1977-to-1982 period, and far below the 2.3 percent average since the 1950s.

.. During the 2008 recession, labor productivity soared. Was this because employers laid off their least productive workers first? Because everybody worked harder, fearful for their jobs?

.. Think about a business that is investing for the future. It hires a bunch of people and opens new offices and builds new factories. But while it is doing all that stuff, its actual productivity is quite low. It has a lot of people working a lot of hours, but very low economic output until its operations are fully up to speed.

The False Promise of Last Year’s Wage Gains

According to EPI, if wages had kept pace with productivity growth over 30 or so years, a worker making $50,000 today would instead be earning about $75,000. Instead, the gains from productivity have been channeled elsewhere, often to executives and shareholders.

In 2015, things seemed like they might be getting back on track. Nominal wages (that is, wage growth not adjusted for inflation) increased by 1.8 percent on the year. But according to the report, 2015’s uptick was caused by a decrease in inflation rather than an improvement in actual wages, and when looking at real wages (adjusted for inflation) and factoring in core inflation, which specifically removes more volatile portions of the inflation measure—wage growth was zero.

 

Why the Gap Between Worker Pay and Productivity Is So Problematic

Though productivity (defined as the output of goods and services per hours worked) grew by about 74 percent between 1973 and 2013, compensation for workers grew at a much slower rate of only 9 percent during the same time period, according to data from the Economic Policy Institute.

.. Without a strong middle class we see weak consumption. With unhappy workers we have a less productive set of people for business to hire. If we’re only tapping the creativity and potential of a small fraction of our population that can’t be good for society. If working, middle-class Americans are not thriving, eventually they become anti-business voters.

..  I think that business leaders just need to recognize that companies can’t thrive for long if their communities are struggling.

.. The current path is one where federal policy makers squabble for partisan gains, delay tough choices, and make America a less attractive place to compete. Business leaders pursue their narrow short-term interest and free ride off each other’s investments—the business environment deteriorates, businesses leave America, the government enacts anti-business policies, companies reduce their U.S. activities further, and distrust deepens.