There is this great article, “Maker’s schedule, manager’s schedule”, written by Paul Graham, that covers the differences between the schedules of makers (which I refer to as individual contributors from here on) and managers.
Managers typically schedule their activities in hourly blocks to make their schedules more efficient, whereas individual contributors are more productive in their tasks by using bigger blocks of focus time, such as half a day or a whole day.
As a software engineering manager, I think it is important to take both into account, from different perspectives.
Firstly, I have my schedule organized into blocks of an hour or even less, so that I can handle leadership sync meetings, one-on-one meetings, team rituals, demos, etc. That’s typically a manager’s schedule. But I also need to block out bigger chunks of time, to get more complex activities done. I usually allocate two or three chunks of time (at least 2-hours long) in my schedule to focus on such activities. By the way, I also like the concept of batching, as explained by Tim Ferriss.
Secondly, to help my teams perform better, I have to consider the individual contributor’s schedule, trying my best to protect their schedule time. Two key considerations I always take into account are
- Plan recurring meetings and one-on-ones in times that allow them to be focused and productive during the rest of their day
- Empower them to manage their own schedules, and to negotiate (with me and peers) adjustments that may improve their focus
For an individual contributor, a short but unexpected meeting may drain their energy for a whole day, potentially preventing them from starting something complex.
Taking care of their schedule can boost their productivity.