November 24th 2010

Management time vs Designer/Developer time

If you work for an agency, or even for yourself, you might have come across the difference in expectation and practice between what you can book in to your 8 hour day, and what you can actually get done. As a designer/developer/wizard it's always a struggle to fit everything in to a day it seems (ignoring the Twitter / Kotaku procrastination circle jerk), and even more so when there's 8, 1 hour tasks booked in, rather than one big spooge of work to get on with. There must be a reason for this, surely? There is.

This is highly paraphrased from an article titled something similar, which I can't find anymore despite searching every nook and cranny of Google with every variant of said title. If you find it, please let me know - it's definitely a better read. Edit - fount it: Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule

Management time

Things you can do that have a defined start and end - like writing a proposal, answering your email, going to a meeting - these things all (mostly) neatly fit into slots that can be block booked out of your day. If you have an hour for a meeting with another management type, you meet for an hour, wrap it up in that time, and move on to your next slot of work (because both parties work to the same system of blocked out days). You can fit in 4 of these things before lunch, and another 4 after. Everything runs fairly smoothly, and events rarely drop out of the system (unless you're a drunk, or horribly un-interested). I call this the "About A Boy Management System"*. Most people who don't create something as part of their job work to a schedule like this, because it's easy for our brains to work within those defined boundaries.

Designer/Developer time

As a designer/developer, it's not possible to turn on and off those creative or technical skills like a light switch. You can't (unless you're a machine, or @JohnONolan) sit down for an hour and work to the same level that you would be 4 hours in to an 8 hour day. I can write an email or have a meeting at the same level regardless of it being 9am or 5pm, but ask me to design complex page layouts or debug some complex CMS at 9am and it just won't happen. Creatives (I'm counting developers in this group too, because technical creativity is the same thing, as far as I'm concerned) need time to warm up, to be inspired, or engrossed in the systems they're using, or the design language they're interpreting to work at an optimal rate.

So when my day is filled with 1 hour jobs, I know I'm not going to be able to do anything major in that time - any creative or technical evdeavour of significance needs at least 5 hours to dedicate to it. I can't start a major project at 3pm, because I know to do it justice, it's going to take me well into the evening to finish (and I get cranky and start making mistakes if I haven't eaten by 7pm, but that's another story). When there's one major job to get on with in a day, by the time lunchtime rolls around, I'm well in to a process or train of thought, and that hour's break doesn't interrupt me too much. When I pick it up again, my brain is still in 3rd gear, and getting back to top speed isn't an issue.

So, a request to all account managers who handle creatives; please don't book us out for more than 2 things in any given day (if they're major creative tasks) - you won't get the best out of us if the blocks of work are squeezed so close that we don't have time to breathe. You may be able to fit in 4 meetings in a day and consider it work, but we don't - meetings are the complete opposite of productivity for creatives - if we're not head down in PhotoShop / Illustrator / Coda / WordPress / Expression Engine, we're not working as much as we'd like to be.

Or I'm a lazy arsehole, I'm yet to decide.

This is coming from someone who isn't a manager, and has no delusions of being one, so if you, as a BlackBerry-carrying member of the other team, have another opinion, please do share.

Bonus round: Watch this TEDx talk from Jason Fried, titled "Why work doesn't happen at work".

* Perpetually single Hugh Grant splits everything in to 45 minute blocks, and lives his life in those blocks until life gets in the way and breaks him out of his routine. Or something, it's a chick flick, and I haven't seen it for years.

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