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Managers Vs Creators | Entreprelife

Managers Vs Creators

Paul Graham rocked my world with the essay Manager’s Schedule, Maker’s Schedule . In it he walks through the differ­ence between how managers and creators think about time.

I have been studying creativity for about six months now and one of the issues that keeps coming up is this differ­ence between how creators and managers think about time.

Managers vs. Creators

Managers view time as a resource; every moment needs to be scheduled and manip­u­lated effi­ciently. This is why they love meetings. It is why they can stop what they’re doing and meet you for lunch and then go back to work without missing a beat.

Managers think of time in hour-long segments. Every 60 minutes they enter a new segment of their day. If a manager works on something for four hours she thinks of it as four one-hour segments instead of one four-hour segment.

Creators, on the other hand, view time in larger half day segments. A creator needs isolation and dedicated time to do the work. To them, an hour is barely long enough to get started; they may spend an entire day working on one project.

Creators hate meetings and other inter­rup­tions. If they know they have a meeting in an hour they lose moral. They think, “What’s the point? I won’t be able to get any work done anyway.” And they are right.

We Need Each Other

Managers and Creators see thing differ­ently, but neither method is better than the other.

Seth Godin points out on his blog that Managers benefit greatly from doing things like a Creator. He says, “making is more important than ever before. Even the most Outlook-driven manager can benefit from finding the isolation to do truly chal­lenging work.”

Creators also benefit from doing things like Managers. Seth says, “Makers need to be disci­plined enough to interact like managers, else they will become pawns in a system they don’t suffi­ciently influence.”

Managers need to give Creators the oppor­tu­nity to focus on their projects long enough to get it done. Creators need to incor­po­rate Manager’s schedules into their work flow so they can influence the direction of their projects.

Which One Am I?

I have no idea which one I am. I’m probably a bit of a hybrid.

Most of my friends would say I am more of a manager. I like lists and I schedule my time ferociously.

On the other hand, I can see a lot Creator in me as well. If I don’t schedule large chunks of unin­ter­rupted work time I won’t even start big projects. To accom­plish this I do nothing but write on Saturday mornings, I block out all of Tuesday night to lead Bible study, and I spend the majority of Wednesday night building the infra­struc­ture for this site.

This leads me to a bit of an identity crisis. Am I a Manager or a Creator?

I am probably a bit of both. I’m betting you are too.

You may lean more in one direction, but to you some areas of life have time limits and other need large chunks of the day to be focused on.

The Take Away

Paul’s essay and Seth’s comments brought some clarity on a few struggles in my life.

  1. Time needs to be inten­tional. Whatever you decide to do, make sure you decide to do it.
  2. Managers need half-day segments. Creativity comes when the music is off, the room is quiet, and there are no time limits. Managers who don’t incor­po­rate chunks of time into their week will lose the thing that makes them most successful: their creativity.
  3. Creators need meetings. Without influ­encing those around you, nothing creative will make it outside your creative mind. Ideas only matter if you have enough influence to do something with them.

Are you a manager or a creator? What changes are you going to make today to get the benefits from the other way of thinking? Let me know in the comments.

17 Responses to “Managers Vs Creators”

  1. Brandon April 12, 2011 at 7:31 AM #

    I am more of a manager, but I’m like a creator because I hate meetings. However, I like things scheduled and planned out…

    • Alex April 12, 2011 at 10:41 PM #

      Haha, I should probably clarify what I meant by meetings. Either way, good insight, dude.

      Do you think you have creator in you when it comes to being a musician? Is it easier for you to spend small bursts of time honing your craft or do you like to spends hours and hours working out a song?

  2. Mike Luna April 12, 2011 at 12:02 PM #

    This reminds me of the movie Stranger than Fiction and the rela­tion­ship between the writer and her assistant.

    Her assistant is trying to force her to be more organized, using note cards and other methods. The writer, on the other hand, wants to be left alone to allow the idea to come to her.

    There’s the scene where they’re out during a rain storm and the writer is trying to think.

    Her assistant says something like — “I don’t see what sitting in the rain has to do with writing.“
    To which she responds — “Well, that goes to show just how much you know about writing.”

    • Alex April 12, 2011 at 10:42 PM #

      That is an absolute perfect analogy. I am almost certainly going to steal it from you in the future and may or may not credit you.

      • Mike Luna April 13, 2011 at 10:17 AM #

        You don’t have to give me credit. It’s not as if it’s my own original though, as I stole it from a movie.

        I do wish I had written that movie, but I didn’t.

  3. Don April 12, 2011 at 1:35 PM #

    That’s a tough one. I don’t consider myself very creative, but I detest meetings as it prevents me from getting any work done…

    • Alex April 12, 2011 at 10:43 PM #

      I think it’s important not to get too bogged down by the names. Creators can create anything: paintings, books, but also sermons, and lessons, and web programs, adver­tising campaigns, missions state­ments, etc. It is more a question of how do you work best: when you can do things in short spurts and move on or when you have a lot of dedicated time to work something out.

      Which do you think is more you?

  4. dustin April 12, 2011 at 4:46 PM #

    I think if I had to classify myself, it would be more of a manager.… simply because I tend to take my time, be less spon­ta­neous, more calcu­lated, etc.

    Inter­esting post, Alex. Really enjoyed reading it!

    • Alex April 12, 2011 at 10:44 PM #

      Thanks Dustin!

      It’s hard to come down completely on one side or the other. I tend to think of myself as more of a manger in my thinking, but then when I get down to the nitty gritty work I tend to work best when I have long chunks of time to work.

      I bet being organized and calcu­lated helps a lot with such a young family! =)

  5. Pastor Matt April 12, 2011 at 9:04 PM #

    Thanks for sharing, Alex. A great read.

    • Alex April 12, 2011 at 10:45 PM #

      You’re welcome, Matt. Thanks for stopping by!

  6. ixnayonthetimmay April 13, 2011 at 2:32 AM #

    (As a note, the page title seems to be Mangers vs Creators. I doubt God battled the manger before Mary and Joseph arrived there.)

    I am thor­oughly convinced my own percep­tion of time is slower than everyone else’s, so I operate at a slightly slower speed. To overcome this, I “manage” my time for easy and trivial things so I don’t waste too much time on them, but will try to dedicate bigger chunks to things that I know will require some thought and creativity or that seem more intel­lec­tu­ally engaging.

    Oh yeah, I also am loath to spend time in meetings, if they are the stereo­typ­ical time-wasting phone-booth-stuffed congre­ga­tion where a lot of things get said but nothing gets done. I am more of a fan of the small-scale impromptu gathering of a few people who are on the same page and are able to quickly make a plan or work out an issue and get on with real, actual work.

    • Alex April 13, 2011 at 3:30 PM #

      Thanks Tim, I fixed it!

      I think that last bit makes you a fan of meetings…as long as they are a specific type! lol.

      I agree with what you’re saying about you perceiving the world more slowly. Maybe you just take more time to think through and enjoy things…maybe it’s something else. lol

      The most important thing is you realize there is a differ­ence. Great thoughts, Tim. Thanks for commenting!

  7. Josa-fa-t E-mili-ano April 13, 2011 at 9:54 AM #

    i think that you are a Mantor or a Crenager, yeah a crenager it is :D lol. either way, you’re very good at what you do. and i for one am very grateful for that :)

    • Alex April 13, 2011 at 3:30 PM #

      haha, thanks Josa!

  8. Moe April 13, 2011 at 10:57 AM #

    I’m creator. I hate meetings, I like to get in a “mood” for concen­tra­tion, etc…

    But I want to push people around… so can I be a manager too? (kidding).

    • Alex April 13, 2011 at 3:30 PM #


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