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Manager's Agenda x Executor's Agenda » Insights Portal
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I was recently talking to a friend about how personal organization changes as you move from a “executor” position to a “manager” position and, fortunately, I ended up remembering this excellent text by Prof. Paul Graham.

He was essential in becoming a high-performance manager when I made this transaction. Therefore, I decided to translate and adapt it so that more people have access.

Click here to read the original text “Maker's Schedule, Manager's Schedule”.

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Programmers and professionals whose work is measured by ability to execute hate meetings because they operate on a different kind of agenda than other people.

There are two types of agendas, which I will call “manager’s agenda” and “executor’s agenda”.

The manager's agenda is for the bosses. Each day is organized into hourly intervals. You can block off multiple hours for a single task if necessary, but by default, every hour of your day is focused on one task.

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When you use your time this way, it's not complicated to organize for meetings. Find a spot in your calendar, reserve it, and you're good to go.

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The most influential people in business management and leadership use the manager's agenda, as most of these people's value lies in making the best decisions with the information available.

But there is another way to use time, which is common among people who make things, like programmers, writers, designers, etc.

They generally prefer to use time in units of at least half a day. You can't write or program well in units of an hour. In the context of these professionals, an hour is just enough time to get started.

Therefore, when you are a specialist who needs to execute things and are organizing yourself as a manager (or vice versa), productivity drops alarmingly.

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A single meeting can blow up an entire afternoon, splitting it into two chunks too small to do anything difficult or meaningful.

For someone using the executor's calendar, having a meeting is like making an exception. It doesn't just make you switch from one task to another; it radically changes your mental state from focused to generalist (and there is a high cognitive cost to this).

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I know this may sound very sensitive, but if you are an executor, think about your own case. Your spirits probably lift just thinking about having a whole day free to work, without any commitments.

In the same way, you tend to become more discouraged knowing that you will have meetings in the middle of your journey.

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And ambitious projects are, by definition, close to the limits of their capacity. A small decrease in morale is enough to kill them.

Obviously, both agendas are important for any type of business. Problems arise when managers do not understand this difference in the functioning of executors' agendas.

As managers lead the organization and delegate things, it is natural that executors need to fit into their agenda model, and not the other way around.

But the smartest managers control themselves because they know that execution professionals need longer periods to perform better and solve more difficult problems, or build more sophisticated products.

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When you are a manager, meetings are important for you to gather information, understand contexts, identify problems and create rapport with the team. You can have purely speculative meetings just to learn about new possibilities.

Entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley (and around the world, for that matter) have speculative meetings all the time.

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Now, speculative meetings are terribly expensive if you are not a performer, because in practice they mean interrupting the long periods he needs to perform.

Therefore, the responsibility for understanding the difference between manager and executor agendas will always lie with managers. After all, they are responsible for the team’s delivery.

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