Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule, Investor’s Schedule

You know it’s a really good blog post when the engineers are sending it to the product managers instead of the other way around. PG’s Maker’s Schedule, Manager’s Schedule was one that rocketed around YouTube teams when it was originally published summer of 2009. The basic gist is that productive teams should contain large blocks of no meeting, no interruption time so that makers can work without having to context shift. Google would periodically ask product managers to “refactor” schedules – drop or modify unnecessary standing meetings, cull non-essential people from the room. Over 10+ years in product management I became more skilled at finding the efficient frontier.

When I moved over to the investing side with Homebrew that all kind of fell apart. I lacked the muscle memory and experience to always make the highest ROI decisions about how to spend my time. Even more challenging was that my “bad” choices weren’t actually bad – they were still positive discussions with smart teams, future founders, industry execs. And so I’ve spent time over the past 18 months tuning my calendar and priorities towards the outcomes I feel are most important: assist the companies we’ve invested in, pursue new investments, scale our own operations. At a high level this was recounted in an earlier blog post around “how a VC spends their time.”

Since my calendar is the one variable that I actually have control over in this job – even if it doesn’t always feel like it – it reflects the ultimate truth. Sure I write “exercise” 7-9am on Wednesday and Friday. But then I schedule right over it. I try experiments – such as only 30 minute meetings – knowing that one out of every five times it won’t be sufficient, but that the other four times it was perfect (and I wouldn’t be able to tell you which in advance was the outlier).

I’ve also asked some VCs I admire about their strategies for “Investor’s Schedule” – here are some of their replies. In reading them one thing that struck me is how much their “Investor’s Schedule” is tied to their personality in general. Like, I could have matched each of these strategies to them without knowing the association up front. It’s very much like I believe about great investors in general: you run your own playbook, not a mimicked version of someone else’s.

Brad Feld – Foundry Group

1. I try not to schedule any meetings until 11am. This gives me plenty of morning time to do my thing which includes writing and running.
2. I never schedule meetings on the weekends unless absolutely necessary. I use the weekends to catch up, but also to write.
3. I schedule every phone call – each is for 30 minutes. Some last five minutes, many last 10 minutes, and a few last 30 minutes. That gives me a lot of breathing room throughout the day. It also means that I rarely get a random phone call.
4. I take a week completely off the grid every quarter and disappear. No phone, no email. Total decompression.
5. I try to answer all emails with “one touch” – I get the email, I respond to the email, I archive the email. If it’s a task I need to do, it goes on my task list.
Update: Fred has since written a longer post called “That Didn’t Need to Take an Hour

1. I spend 5am to 7am every weekday by myself reading and writing and thinking

2. Once I get to the office, I am in meetings back to back to back all day and can’t do any of that during the day
3. I’m not an evenings/nights type of person. when the sun goes down, i’m done unless it’s a business dinner which i do some of.

The one way I help maximize productivity of “real” work is that I have sessions (often at a favorite coffee shop) where I turn off WiFi and give myself homework that I have to complete before I grant myself WiFi privileges – so no email checking, Internet browsing, etc. until the tasks are done. I’ll often go through a bunch of investment memos or company presentations or write a blog post or memo or complete some analysis in batch form this way. It allows me to get to high productivity at a particular task and then do as much of that task as possible in batch form. In fact, right now I’m on a 10 hour flight (so WiFi isn’t even an option!) batch-processing “thoughtful” email responses – thoughtful meaning emails that take more than a couple of lines or relate to logistics, etc. Like this one (hopefully)!

So those are three Investor’s Schedules – any other VCs want to chime in with their tips?

Addition: Charlie O’Donnell of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures shares his rules