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Maker vs. Manager: How Your Schedule Can Make or Break You
Consider the daily schedule of famed novelist Haruki Murakami. When he’s working on a novel, he starts his days at 4 am and writes for five or six continuous hours. Once the writing is done, he spends his afternoons running or swimming, and his evenings, reading or listening to music before a 9 pm bedtime. Murakami is known for his strict adherence to this schedule.
In contrast, consider the schedule of entrepreneur, speaker, and writer Gary Vaynerchuk. He describes his day (which begins at 6 am) as being broken into tiny slots, mostly comprising meetings which can be as short as three minutes. He makes calls in between meetings. During the moments between meetings and calls, he posts on just about every social network in existence and records short segments of video or speech. In short, his day, for the most part, involves managing, organizing, and instructing other people, making decisions, planning, and advising.
.. different types of work require different types of schedules. The two wildly different workdays of Murakami and Vaynerchuk illustrate the concept of maker and manager schedules.
.. A manager’s day is, as a rule, sliced up into tiny slots, each with a specific purpose decided in advance. Many of those slots are used for meetings, calls, or emails. The manager’s schedule may be planned for them by a secretary or assistant.
Managers spend a lot of time “putting out fires” and doing reactive work. An important call or email comes in, so it gets answered. An employee makes a mistake or needs advice, so the manager races to sort it out. To focus on one task for a substantial block of time, managers need to make an effort to prevent other people from distracting them.
Managers don’t necessarily need the capacity for deep focus — they primarily need the ability to make fast, smart decisions.
.. A maker’s schedule is different. It is made up of long blocks of time reserved for focusing on particular tasks, or the entire day might be devoted to one activity. Breaking their day up into slots of a few minutes each would be the equivalent of doing nothing.
.. Meetings are pricey for makers, restricting the time available for their real work, so they avoid them, batch them together, or schedule them at times of day when their energy levels are low.
When you’re operating on the maker’s schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in.
.. It is far from unusual for a person’s job to involve both maker and manager duties. Elon Musk is one example. His oft-analyzed schedule involves a great deal of managing as the head of multiple major companies, but he also spends an estimated 80% of his time on designing and engineering. How does he achieve this? Judging from interviews, Musk is adept at switching between the two schedules, planning his day in five-minute slots during the managerial times and avoiding calls or emails during the maker times.
.. people who successfully combine both schedules do so by making a clear distinction, setting boundaries for those around them, and adjusting their environment in accordance. They don’t design for an hour, have meetings for an hour, then return to designing, and so on.
.. Because they come at the end of my day these meetings are never an interruption.
.. the batching of hard but important intellectual work into long, uninterrupted stretches.
.. During the fall semester, Grant is in manager mode and has meetings with students.
.. managers damage their employees’ productivity when they fail to recognize the distinction between the types of schedules.
.. . A 30-minute meeting does not just take up half an hour of an afternoon. It bisects the day, creating serious problems. Let’s say that a computer programmer has a meeting planned at 2 pm. When they start working in the morning, they know they have to stop later and are prevented from achieving full immersion in the current project. As 2 pm rolls around, they have to pause whatever they are doing — even if they are at a crucial stage — and head to the meeting. Once it finishes and they escape back to their real work, they experience attention residue and the switching costs of moving between tasks. It takes them a while — say, 15 to 20 minutes — to reach their prior state of focus.
.. Taking that into account, the meeting has just devoured at least an hour of their time.
.. Ray Ozzie has a specific technique for handling potential interruptions — the four-hour rule. When he’s working on a product, he never starts unless he has at least four uninterrupted hours to focus on it.
.. programmers from the same companies performed at more or less the same level, even though they hadn’t worked together. That’s because top performers overwhelmingly worked for companies that gave their workers the most privacy, personal space, control over their physical environments, and freedom from interruption.