"Makers" Schedule

Another great essay by Paul Graham. This time about keeping control of your schedule to ensure large chunks of uninterruped time. Paul can sometimes wear programmer-colored glasses and this essay is no exception. I completely agree that programmers are one group that often needs uninterupted time, but they are not alone in any way. Even Paul's bogeyman -- "managers" -- often need uninterrupted time to focus on problems of strategy or operation (or any other type of problem or goal). There are LOTS of ways to do this. Paul mentions office hours as a way to consolidate and shorten meetings. We've been doing that for product counsel legal advice for years now and I highly recommend the "office hours" approach. In a large organization, it can also have big benefits in terms of reminding people that maybe they should drop in to ask your advice on something as long as you consistently schedule the office hours and hold them in visible locations (our preferred room was a glass walled room on a busy walkway in the center of campus).

Some other things I have heard tried:
  • Meeting Mondays (or no meeting Thursdays): The important thing here is that you designate certain days as acceptable for meetings and others as not throughout the company. The fewer exceptions, the more likely this will work.
  • Meeting with yourself: My calendar at Google was world-writeable within Google. That meant that if I wanted uninterrupted time, I had to schedule it. One way to do "no meeting Thursdays" is to just schedule yourself for an all day meeting with yourself on Thursday.
  • Retreats: Being in a physically different place as well as being "booked" for uninterrupted time can be amazingly productive. Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, two other programmers turned managers like Paul, to regular extended retreats to think.
I'm sure there are many more ideas along these lines and I'll try to update this post with links as I come across them.
Update: David Weinberger on office hours.

On Leaving Google

Working in Google Legal has been a dream job. The people at Google are phenomenal. In every part and at every level of the company there are great people with multiple useful talents in addition to those that got them the job. For a lawyer, the issues we dealt with every day were fascinating, the real-world impact of our work was humbling, and the ethical compass of the place remained true

Among many other things, I am proud to have been part of the legal department that helped:

Increase transparency for removals: Google remains the only search engine that sends legal notices to ChillingEffects.org to document search results suppressed for legal reasons. UPDATE: I'm pleased to report that as of sometime in the last few months, Yahoo! is sending at least some (maybe all) of their notices to ChillingEffects. This is GREAT news and I apologize to Yahoo! for not noticing this earlier.

Stand up to the Department of Justice: Google was the only search engine provider that stood up to the Department of Justice’s overbroad request for search query information.

Launch Google Book Search: Google is making books easier to find by using fair use for a great purpose and is working to expand access to books through the Book Search settlement.

Stand up for users: In my experience, Google does “focus on the user.” Google Legal is no exception in its decisions about everything from global product functionality to individual removals. As a result, we’ve been threatened or sued many times for user-focused functionality and what our users have said through our services.

There are many other examples, and many more that are confidential or privileged, but these give you a flavour of the types of things the Google legal department gets to do. I still can’t recommend it highly enough (really, go check out the jobs page).

Thank you Googlers, it was an honour.