Make Before You Manage: A Mantra That Saves Creators from Overwhelm

written by Dan Silvestre
Entrepreneurship, Personal Development
make before you manage

Every week is different. But you can generally group them into 3 types.

Some weeks are nothing short of magical. You finish that big project. Meetings are productive. You eat well, exercise, connect with meaningful people. You’re in control of your time and well-being.

Oh, the wonder. What a time to be alive.

Others feel like a balancing act. Some things go your way, while others don’t. It’s a battle of managing expectations and outcomes. But at the end of your week, you are still happy with your results.

“Ah, nobody’s perfect.”

At least you scored some wins.

And then there are those weeks.

When your life feels like a horror movie. Everything hits you at the same time. It feels like the only goal of the entire universe is to ruin your life. You’re so overwhelmed that you don’t even know what to do. You just want to curl up and cry. To go to sleep and wake up next Monday with your problems solved.

This is my story of one of those weeks.

And the simple mantra that helps me overcome the horror.

Just One of Those Weeks

So it was one of those weeks.

I took on more than I should.

A lot of big things. Create new content. Hire people. Work on my website’s redesign. Try to book surgery.

And a lot of small things too. Errands to run. Transfer to make. People to call.

So much on my mind that it felt my head was going to explode.

Thursday rolled around and I was in pieces. Stressed about everything that I had to do and clueless about what I had to do about everything.

Does it matter that I brought this week upon myself?

No. Sooner or later, it’s going to happen to the best of us. While you can prevent it from happening on a regular basis, it will still happen.

So what matters is how you deal with those weeks.

My mantra comes from Tim Ferriss:

“Make Before You Manage.”

In Tim’s words:

“Each morning, before plugging holes, fixing things, calling vets, answering text messages, delegating things, or yanking out dead raccoons, this mantra was a reminder to make something.

Even the most time-sensitive items can usually wait 60 minutes, and by make something, I mean anything.

You just need to feel like you’ve pushed a millimeter ahead in some creative direction.” (emphasis mine)

Making Time for Making

In “Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule“, Paul Graham writes there are two types of schedule.

“The manager’s schedule is for bosses. It’s embodied in the traditional appointment book, with each day cut into one hour intervals. You can block off several hours for a single task if you need to, but by default you change what you’re doing every hour.

[Makers] generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can’t write or program well in units of an hour. That’s barely enough time to get started.” (emphasis mine)

To create high-output, you need large blocks of uninterrupted time. This is what Dr. Cal Newport defines as Deep Work:

“Professional activities performed in a state of distraction-free concentration that push your cognitive capabilities to their limit. These efforts create new value, improve your skill, and are hard to replicate.”

If you work 9-5 (like I do), mornings are best for maker time as this is your biological prime time. Reserve the first few hours of the day to create new things.

If you work in an office, block your mornings. As Stephen Covey writes in “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”:

“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities. (emphasis mine)

This is how you make before you manage.

The Importance of Maker Time

When you make, you scale your time.

Your 2-minute video only got 200 views? Your 2-minute video scaled your time by 400 minutes.

A 10-minute article only got 50 reads? Scaled your time by 500 minutes.

A podcast that takes 2 hours to record and only gets 100 views? Scaled your time by 200 hours.

Making today scales your time tomorrow.

And when you are consistent at making, scaling comes naturally.

Defending Your Maker Time

People will ask for your time. Demand, even. So you have to defend your maker time.

One way to do this is through office hours. From Paul Graham:

“To switch to a maker’s schedule, use the classic device for simulating the manager’s schedule within the maker’s: office hours. Several times a week, set aside a chunk of time at end of your working day. Because they come at the end of your day these meetings are never an interruption. During busy periods, office hours sometimes get long enough that they compress the day, but they never interrupt it.” (emphasis mine)

I block the last few hours of my workday. Most of the time I won’t have any appointments, but it’s to know I could if I needed.

If that’s an option for you, consider breaking your day. From Paul Graham:

“I used to program from dinner till about 3 am every day, because at night no one could interrupt me. Then I’d sleep till about 11 am, and come in and work until dinner on what I called “business stuff.” I never thought of it in these terms, but in effect I had two workdays each day, one on the manager’s schedule and one on the maker’s.” (emphasis mine)

The easiest way to do this is to break your day into 2 sections: mornings for maker time, evenings for managing.

Everyone’s a Maker

make before you manage

I don’t consider myself a writer. I write words on the internet. But I do write. So I am a writer.

If you make things, you’re a maker. Even if you don’t identify as one.

You might think of makers as creators: bloggers, YouTubers, programmers, writers, painters. Makers create new things that add value to the world.

But so do you.

In another lifetime, I worked for a bank. From time to time, I created spreadsheets that automated tasks. A single click on “refresh” would do what used to take a few hours of someone else’s time. That automation was both new and valuable.

At work, you make new things that add value.

So start creating and protecting your maker time.

Remember the mantra: “Make Before You Manage.”

Tags:: Entrepreneurship, Principles

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