In Part 1 of this two-part series on Manager’s Time vs. Maker’s Time, I distinguished between two different orientations towards the workday that arise from the different types of work people do: the manager’s time and the maker’s time (a maker is anyone on a business team whose job is to create a product or service). In sum, the manager’s time is usually structured according to meetings and hour long intervals, while the maker tends to work in half-days or full days as the type of creative thinking and work demands.
These different orientations in time can lead to frequent misunderstandings and miscommunications between managers and makers about how the work day should be structured and even how work itself is conducted. One of the first steps in reconciling these different orientations is developing trust and mutual respect. In Part 1, I identified some general principles for building this trust and respect, but in Part 2, I am sharing a specific strategy for moving from the general to the specific.
Research shows similarities and overlap across the board for how people’s energy levels fluctuate across the traditional work week (see Tony Schwartz’s, Jean Gomes’s, and Catherine McCarthy’s book Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys To Transforming the Way We Work and Live for an overview of some of this research). However, our own specific idiosyncrasies make it necessary to be aware of how our own working styles and patterns overlap and veer from these generalities. Not only do we need to be aware of these working preferences, but we also need to be able to provide a rationale to others about these preferences. This is especially crucial where people may work on the same team, but perform vastly different work.
Know Your Own Process
While many people are out there getting their work done, these same people are often not cognizant of what specifically enables them to work effectively during certain times and not get much done during other times. While cliches like “doing work you love” are stamped on situations where we find ourselves working effectively, doing what we love tells us little about our actual working process. (Besides, most of us probably aren’t doing what we love, despite the pervasive myth.) However, being aware of how we work and what situations enable optimum work can contribute to feeling better at what we do in our work lives.
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For managers and makers specifically, knowing one’s own work process enables clearer communication about what we do and why we do it in the particular way we do. And, frankly, it also reveals to us what we are doing that is inefficient and ultimately meaningless to the overall big picture. If you are experiencing frequent misunderstandings and miscommunications (and even resentments) on your work team, consider involving everyone in the following activity for developing awareness of individual work processes.
Step 1: Track Your Time
The first step involves paying attention to how you work during the week. With time tracking apps like Rescue Time or Toggl, you can track their work on tasks for a single week. At the end of the week, review and evaluate your input. Pay attention to areas where you achieved focus and flow, as well as times where they were distracted and/or avoiding work.
- What was going on during these times?
- How did these periods fit in with the overall work day?
- Did you work most effectively during particular times of the day or week?
- How did meetings or interruptions during the day impact your ability to complete tasks?
- What times did you experience frustration with your work? Could this be attributed to the nature of the work or the work environment?
- What about when you experienced satisfaction with your work? Was this a consequence of the nature of the work and/or the work environment?
During the evaluation process, it is important to not judge yourself. Consider yourself as a benevolent outsider who is looking to help someone maximize their work performance. Beating yourself up won’t solve the problem or help you improve your work efficiency and communication — in most cases, it will inhibit it.
Stage 2: Compare & Contrast Input
After a week of inputting time on work tasks and evaluating the input with a time tracking app, it’s time to share what you discovered with your team. You may not need to share all of your insights, but you do want to share what you see as most important to your fellow team members. For example, if you noticed you worked best during the morning, you would want to convey this to your team so they are aware of when they schedule meetings or interrupt you. As you compare and contrast, consider how individual working preferences impact your time on task, but also how the nature of the work you do impacts time on task, as well.
Stage 3: Brainstorm Strategies
Since your team probably consists of multiple people who are juggling different roles and tasks, this is a great opportunity to share tips and strategies for optimum work on an individual and team level. For example, if during Stage 2, the entire team noticed a commonality in energy levels and focus during the morning, the team could agree to not schedule meetings during this time. Or if everyone notices that by Friday mornings, everyone is having trouble focusing. This might be a good time for regular team meetings with status updates and/or other pertinent info to effective teamwork.
Stage 4: Put it in Practice
You’ve done all this work, now you need to put it into practice. Maybe you learned about a time management technique from one of your colleagues like the Pomodoro technique. Try it for a week and see how it works for you. Report back to your colleague at the end of the week or beginning of the following week. They might have some suggestions for improvement or maybe you will quickly realize that it just doesn’t work for you.
Stage 5: Review
As most work is constantly changing and shifting due to demands from various stakeholders, particular seasons, timelines, and etc., it is important to revisit this process. You might need to track your time again, but meeting again to compare and contrast time on task can provide great insight into shifts in work and work roles.
Even if you can’t get your whole team to participate in this activity, try it on your own, whether you are a manager or a maker. Being aware of your own work process is great way to incorporate more mindfulness in your work life and to find greater purpose in what you do and how you do it.