How to Make More Stuff
I have a condition I haven’t shared with anyone.
It’s Wednesday, and I have a half day off ahead of me. We were supposed to go on a trip with the family but didn’t sync about it. Now I have this void of time in the afternoon creating pressure that I should be somewhere, but I’m in fact wide open.
I’m sitting here; the office is half empty because of a national holiday. I’m jotting down my thoughts. The feeling of anxiety about the unplanned day brings me to ponder how to eliminate these situations, which I’ve been trying for some time now.
I have calendar anxiety. At any given time, I worry there will be a meeting I have to attend, or should be attending.
I’ve tried various jobs in my short career. Mostly, they were management jobs; communicating, taking responsibilities, and getting things done before a deadline. I tried making products and designing services, yet I never dared to get into it as a career. And it is daring. I believe that putting your creative decisions on the line for your livelihood is exceptionally courageous.
But so is taking responsibility for something being done. And even when you think you could do both, there will come a time you will realize one makes you happier than the other. Finally, I’m finding out that the maker’s schedule is the way to go for me.
Meetings Are Worse than You Think
When you’re creating every day, you need a clear mind. You need to prepare. It takes time to get started. Over time, you find your rituals. You look for ways to organize your life, so you leave space for ambiguity at work. One of my favorite quotes of all time is also advice that is proving relevant again and again:
„Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.“
— Gustave Flaubert
Meetings and other requests from the outside are jeopardizing this structure you strive to create for your life. Paul Graham, the co-founder of Y Combinator, said it best. He defends makers by comparing a maker’s and manager’s schedule. He asserts:
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. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That’s no problem for someone on the manager’s schedule. There’s always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker’s schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it.
Most creators are highly distracted and hyperactive. The big ones, the successful, the famous, even they struggle with distraction and procrastination. However, during the years of practice and recognition they’ve gained the ability to say no to more things and people.
It takes a long time to get back to focus after an interruption. It takes years to train your focus over long periods of time. But it is the only way you can get anything meaningful done.
“Without great solitude, no serious work is possible.”
― Pablo Picasso
The Middle Ground
If you must engage in some meetings, as most of us do, the folks at Pinterest have a solution for you. They implemented a no-meeting schedule for three days out of the week for coders on their team.
And they report great impact.
If this is not possible in your current situation, there is a rule I’ve been working with to defend my days being broken up into pieces.
Meetings must be scheduled at least two, ideally three days in advance.
That way I can choose which day I am going to sacrifice for everyone else’s agenda. I’ve been able to get things done under this arrangement, although not everyone is respectful of this. It’s not perfect, but until I have an advance for a book or a few hundred Patreons, I don’t see this changing.
Listen to yourself, observe. Reflect on the good days and the bad. Ask yourself:
What does my perfect day look like?
Is it a day with a bunch of meetings or is it a day when you have time to create with no interruptions?
Do I relish the feeling of tangible accomplishment?
If yes, a strict maker’s schedule might be your ticket out of the calendar anxiety into the land of creativity and productivity.