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Hi, I’m Brad Feld, a managing director at the Foundry Group who lives in Boulder, Colorado. I invest in software and Internet companies around the US, run marathons and read a lot.

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Lessons From Maker Hours

Comments (21)

My shift from manager hours to maker hours is officially over. I’ve learned a lot the past two months about how I work and the challenges of trying to both shift to maker hours as well as be effective in a blended manager / maker world.

I started out in June with a hard shift to maker hours. I only scheduled calls between 1pm and 4pm – the rest of my time was unscheduled. I was able to maintain this rhythm for about 30 days before my scheduled time expanded to 5pm, then 6pm, then noon. Ultimately the backlog of “other stuff” started to creep in and it was hard to ignore it.

My primary maker task was writing – I finished Startup Communities: Building an Entrepreneurial Ecosystem in Your City, the second edition of Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist, and made some, but not nearly enough, progress on Startup Life: Surviving and Thriving in a Relationship with an Entrepreneur (which I’m writing with Amy.) There was a lot of overhead associated with each book as I worked on the website (I’ll finally launch the Startup Revolution site later this week), some publisher stuff (which I knew about from before), and plenty of “edit cycle” stuff.

I discovered that I could only write effectively for four hours a day – any more than that and whatever I did was crap. If I did anything – even check my email – before I started writing, I got virtually nothing done that day. So – the ideal “writing day” was “get up early, have coffee, write for two hours, run, write for two more hours, switch into manager mode and deal with everything else.”

The magic lesson here is something I already knew – my best time for creative work is from 5am to 7am. This is my normal rhythm that I’ve had for a long time. Trying to change it was hard and when I reflect back on things I’m not sure I was any more productive than if I had simply decided to be incredibly disciplined for the past 60 days and just written every morning from 5am to 7am and then let the day be whatever it was.

As I shift back to manager mode, that’s the approach I’m going to take for August and see what it gets me.

  • http://simplifilm.com/ Chris Johnson

    Out of pure curiosity – what time do you go to bed?

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      10pm-ish.

  • http://www.kineplay.com/ben Ben Milstead

    For me, switching from code (or anything creative) to manager (mostly BD these days) is massively difficult. Very often the energy brought to one zaps the other, and, not unlike Graham in the original article, I find myself with two days of work each day and an unsustainable setup. Easy to get trapped in it, too, until burnout starts knocking.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mengjie.wu.71 Mengjie Wu

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  • http://twitter.com/ColterBergh Colter Bergh

    Oh the magic of the early morning, it almost feels like you have all the time in the world, but then it goes by so quickly.

  • http://about.me/kirsten.lambertsen Kirsten Lambertsen

    As a founder I’m constantly refining my balance of maker hours vs manager hours (I love the term ‘maker hours’ by the way).

    Mine is the exact opposite – my best maker hours are from about 9 pm til 2 am. Oh how I wish I was a 5 am to 7 am! But it’s hard to fight nature.

    Did you ever find yourself in a phase where you never could make time for exercise?

    I just received my copy of “Venture Deals.” Thank you for writing it! It’s a lifesaver, seriously.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I’ve gone through phases where I didn’t exercise much. Those days are long gone – if I don’t run 5 – 8 hours / week, I’m no fun to be around.

      Glad you are excited about Venture Deals!

  • http://twitter.com/hertling William Hertling

    I max out at about 3 or 4 hours of writing in a day also. As long as I can get 2, I am both productive and my happiness goes up. Less than 2, and I haven’t really gotten into the zone and can’t tackle more challenging, bigger scope issues.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I love intrinsic motivation. It is so interesting how just doing the things we WANT to do (go for a run, write for > 2 hours) generates real happiness and the absence of them doesn’t.

  • http://erich.mx Erich von Hauske

    It’s amazing what you can do in these 3 or four hours from 4am to 8am

    • http://erich.mx Erich von Hauske

      But when your 5 year old wakes at 5:15 to go to the restroom and tells you “Dad, don’t you think it is too late to be working?” kind of spoils the fun. I’ll have to think in a good answer for that. :)

      • http://www.feld.com bfeld

        Yeah – I can totally see how that would harsh your calm.

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I keep thinking of shifting my wake up time to 4am. I feel like I’ve bottomed out at 5am – I just need the sleep given all the running. But I’m starting to think about taking a mandatory afternoon nap / meditation session for an hour and seeing if I can shift to an hour earlier in the morning.

      • http://erich.mx Erich von Hauske

        I keep thinking the opposite, at 4am is 3 hours before sunrise which is my energy peak. I take naps Thursdays and Fridays eventhou I don’t excercise

  • http://www.facebook.com/mary.berkery.71 Mary Berkery

    Thank you for this .. a reminder of what I already know and had forgotten .. thank you again

  • http://www.facebook.com/jami.scholl Jami Scholl

    A friend turned me on to this post, and I am wondering if you are familiar with heat-mapping? http://www.productiveflourishing.com/how-heatmapping-your-productivity-can-make-you-more-productive/

    • http://www.feld.com bfeld

      I hadn’t read this particular post before but thought it was great / very relevant.

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