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How I explain Paul Graham’s Maker schedule and Manager schedule without being insulting

'Day [009]  Schedule.' photo (c) 2010, Sadie Hernandez - license: of Paul Graham’s most useful insights has been his Maker Schedule vs Manager Schedule. Go ahead and read the link if you’re not familiar with the concept.

It is

  • True
  • Useful
  • Deep
  • and very hard to explain to people without being insulting

By singleing yourself out as a “maker”, and hence on a “Maker Schedule” you run the serious risk of alienating all of your equally smart colleagues who have different interests and work responsibilities.  Coders, designers and artists will understand it immediately, but if you’re not one of those people it can sound like you’re putting yourself on a pedestal.

Remove Maker Schedule and Manager Schedule from the description

Just remove the job description, and substitute the noise that you’re making, which implies the type of work that you’re doing.

If you’re producing mouse clicks, you’re doing manager work, and you’re on a manager schedule.  If you’re producing keyboard clicks, you’re doing maker work, and you’re on a maker schedule.  The work is being labeled, not the person.  No one is categorized as “creative” or “business people”, it’s just the work you happen to be doing at the time.

I’ve found that people understand this instantly and intuitively.  No need to explain “Flow” or why interruptions cost so much time.  People can relate to the fact that (usually) work involving the keyboard just takes longer than work involving the mouse, and no one is inadvertently put down by being implicitly labeled.

That’s worked for me anyway.

May 12

Written By Steve French


An odd thing I noticed after years and years of coding

365.8 (Distracted by Penmanship) Growing up all of my teachers told me that my handwriting was horrible and needed improvement.  I took two years of Russian in college and somehow learning Cyrillic made my handwriting even worse.  My first few jobs after college had varying degrees of handwriting needed, but over time, and especially after I moved to development full time, I wrote things out longhand less and less.

As I’ve gotten older I am now writing things out far more than I used to (thank you Pormodoro Technique) I’ve noticed that my printing has markedly improved, while I’ve forgotten how to write cursive, and I can no longer write anything in Cyrillic, though I can still read it to some degree.

Creative Commons License photo credit: kpwerker


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

Jul 10

Written By Steve French


Productivity Tool – a printed call sheet

For unknown reasons I have embraced printed forms this past year.  I started using the Pomodoro Technique  (and their To Do Today sheet) for several months now and recently I came up with a form to keep phone calls on track, and I thought I would share it here.  This will probably make it into the Stronico at some point, but until then, this is what I intend to use.


Feel free to download and use!


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

Jul 10

Written By Steve French


How I engineer my life for maximum productivity

Keep Out Experiment In ProgressSo far 2010 has been the year of gradual improvements in life, health and productivity.  I made most of these changes based on what I learned in Brain Rules.  Here is a snapshot of my changes so far:

General Improvements:

  • No more smoking (though it did take two months to get my concentration back)
  • 8 hours of sleep per night (up from 6)
  • Minimal alcohol consumption (I never drank that much, but I now drink alcohol once a month or less.  I think I’m more sensitive to sugars than anything else)
  • Six hours or more of intense aerobic exercise a week cycling, and 11 of mild exercise (walking the new dog).    I think I’m close to the optimal level of physical activity for maximum brain function.

Workplace Improvements Continue reading →

May 10

Written By Steve French


The 5 lessons of personal development

Helper - B4 I’ve read many personal development books and business books in the past year, and they all seem to be variants of the following five ideas

  • Live in the present – thinking about the past and the future leads to thoughts of grievance or anxiety.  The best example is Derek Sivers’ essay on the topic
  • Be specific – self explanatory but the general rule is that if you can’t be specific about something, you will not get it, and probably don’t need it.
  • Not much will kill you – we conjure up dragons and doomsday scenarios in our heads, all for no purpose.  Go ahead and try it
  • Nothing is that important – you can afford to lose a few times so long as you rounds of the fight so long as you learn something
  • Measure – measurement is the key to everything – if it can’t be measured in at least some way, reconsider doing it.

The rest seem to be specific tips and tricks.

Creative Commons License photo credit: h.koppdelaney


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

Apr 10

Written By Steve French


The Kill Shot and Project Management

Sniper - SpetsnatsWhat is a preventable cause of scope creep?  Anxiety.  Anxiety attacks project managers at the end of projects, making some or all of the following happen:

  • Project managers insist on new “essential” features
  • Assistants demand detailed technical explanations for the most mundane of matters.
  • Urgent, surprise meetings will be held
  • People you’ve never heard of start talking about “revisiting” and “Ten Thousand Foot Views“.
  • The main project manager will put the project on hold “just for a little while” until “this is all sorted out”
  • The main project manager will decide that every manager in the company must sign off on the project.

The cause of the above is a difference in anxiety between you and the client.  The web developer experiences the highest anxiety and least clarity at the beginning (least specific point in terms of development) of the project and the lowest anxiety and most clarity at the end of the project.

Continue reading →

Apr 10

Written By Steve French


New Business Adage: The Lemansky Rule

Wooden ship on the Rupsa River (Bangladesh)In the television show about corrupt cops The Shield, Curtis Lemansky, one of the main characters, once said “Why can’t we just do our jobs, and stop?“.   That quote came back to me while reading Jason Friend’s book Rework.

Rework is A) about doing the bare minimum, B) starting now, and C) completing the work as fast as possible.  On The Shield, the characters spend most of their time trying to cover up a few early crimes, which are the corrupt cop equivalent of cool, unrequested features.

Both of those notions seem relevant to me as I’ve spent two hours trying to fix a special “feature” on a website I built several years ago.  The client did not ask for the feature in the original specification but it was easy enough build, and I thought the client would like it.  She liked it, and she was happy with that I “Under-promised and over-delivered.”  Now that feature conflicts with some new security feature(!) on the server and  I’ve spent two hours getting it to work.  Two unbillable hours gone fixing something the client never wanted enough to ask or pay for.  Now that I think about it most of my “emergency” fixes have centered around unrequested features that people liked, but didn’t need.

Continue reading →

Apr 10

Written By Steve French


Why you should never complain about anything – with anecdotal proof!

Stop complainingMy new commandment: Never complain about anything.  Ever.  If you feel the need to complain to pressure someone else to make something happen, then be honest and call it manipulation.

I realized this while at a client meeting; we were talking about problems with a botched sales program and the staff had a litany of complaints about the program (ed. note: it was created by a separate vendor years ago, and the fault lies with the now-departed project manager who designed something inappropriate.  It does a masterful job of integrating legacy systems from different vendors, languages, platforms, a mainframe and Europeans are involved somehow,  but the user interface is wanting.  But I digress…).  Then I remembered hearing the same litany of complaints a year ago.   Unlike last year,  I offered suggestions on how to make small improvements to the program. Everyone proceeded to ignore me and continued complaining.  At the end of the meeting everyone felt a lot better once they had talked about their problems.  No one made any plans to actually fix the problems. Continue reading →

Apr 10

Written By Steve French


Ways to be smarter – I’ll be testing some of these soon

Via some Twitter link I can no longer find, I stumbled across these two posts.

  • Nootropics: their effects, their risks, and where to get them – I think I’ll be picking up some Thiamine and sticking with that, as the others seem a bit scary.  It is a fascinating bit of research though.  Nootropics are “Smart Drugs”
  • How to get Smarter – these are all fairly basic, but I intend to find some way to test them as part of my measuring everything possible campaign of 2010.

The first link is far better than the first, but you should read them both.  Upgrade your wetware!

Creative Commons License photo credit: Andrew Mason


This post originally appeared on the Stronico blog – with the absorption of Stronico into Digital Tool Factory this post has been moved to the Digital Tool Factory blog

Mar 10

Written By Steve French


How to write an effective email

envelopeAfter listening to Jeff Atwood rant about email on the most recent Stack Overflow Podcast I thought I would write a quick guide to creating an effective business email.  I am defining “business email” as email designed to garner information needed to perform some larger, work related task.  Business emails tend to be a constant stream of communication between two parties over an extended period of time.  This quick guide should eliminate 90% of problems related to those emails.  We now resume our regular “How To Fix” formatting:

The Problem: People send email  to occupy time and simulate forward motion, and in some cases convey information, but they seldom use email to elicit information from co-workers.  Attempts to elicit information are likely to transmit anxiety from sender to receiver rather than triggering a useful response from receiver back to sender. Continue reading →

Feb 10

Written By Steve French


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