Rethinking Maker, Manager, Consumer
Nearly two years ago, or perhaps a little more than that, David Sparks spoke an idea into my life; people are simultaneously a maker, a manager, and a consumer. He wrote this up in a blog post about journaling and broke down the differences between each of these three roles. The maker is creating things, putting them out into the world. The consumer is experiencing others’ creations, whether through media or physical objects. The manager is handling all the admin work around that, like paying the bills, scheduling meetings, deciding what has priority.
At some point between then and now, David also offered up what he considered his ideal ratio for these three types of tasks. I’ve forgotten what he came up with and it doesn’t really matter, because I think this ratio will be different for everyone. A movie reviewer will need to consume more movies in order to write reviews–not just the movies they’re reviewing at the time, but entire catalogs and genres so they can make comparisons and talk about the career of a director. A writer on the level of Stephen King is going to spend a lot of time creating and will likely need to give someone else the manager role so they don’t have to deal with it. Project managers are going to need to maximize their management time… as is any parent, if we’re honest.
I, historically, spent a lot of time being annoyed at myself for my ratio. I felt as though I was always consuming or managing, never creating. I would plan and plan and plan to create and then end up scrolling through Reddit or Instagram, or fall into a book and not resurface from the series for three months. Over time I have realized, however, that my creative periods come from combining the things I consume in new and interesting ways. I see a fascinating runway look and think, I wonder what it would take to recreate that feeling, then sketch up designs for a dress I’d wear to a cocktail party. I spend seven hundred hours watching Regency-period films or reading Regency-period books and end up thinking about the ramifications of some Austen-era character managing to figure out space flight; can you imagine how much faster ladies would be allowed to wear pants if they had to survive in zero gravity? Soon I stopped regretting the amount of time I was spending consuming.
Time managing myself was harder to shake. I love planning. It makes me feel like I have set everything in order, that everything will work out, and that my dreams are possible. To be clear, my dreams are possible, but not because of how diligently I plan. Plans are made so that when the field changes, you know how to react. I was planning for no changes for the longest time. When I realized this was an exercise in futility, I stopped planning for a while. It was shocking how fast I got anxious, feeling like I was flying blind into the unknown. But how could I go back to spending all that time planning if the plans would change?
The truth was that my excessive planning was more like wish-casting. I was trying to escape into an imaginary future by “planning” how everything would be if I could only exercise the plan. When I made that connection, I realized it wasn’t plans I needed, but the organization and making habits that helped me get my creating done. So my admin time transformed into making lists of what I needed to create, setting up structures that allowed me to adjust my course as I went along, setting aside time to do things like review the business budget.
I couldn’t tell you an exact ratio for my three roles. It changes daily, but I can say that during the work week I try to spend only about an hour managing myself daily, at least 6 creating or doing things that are important to me, and maybe 3-4 consuming tv shows or podcasts or books. That is obviously not all of my waking hours, but let’s be honest, I am not always doing something. Sometimes I’m just taking a nap.
As a complete side note, if you enjoy what I write here, or get something out of it, please consider checking out my page on Ko-Fi. Thanks for being here!