Deep Work:

This is another part of the series on Cal Newport’s Deep Work idea (and this one and this one).   I wanted to reduce distractions, and email is a pretty big distraction to me.  The first thing I did to reduce the amount of email I read is to raise the requirements for me to even open and email.  I now immediately delete much more email if I am sure that it is not interesting to me.

The second thing I did was to finally switch to to book my office hours.  For the last eight years or so, I have not had scheduled office hours.  I did this because I wanted to retain flexibility for scheduling other things (research groups, service, etc).   I had students email me with their schedule, and then I would find a time that works for both of us.  This wasn’t too tough, but it took time (I also hated this scheduling, so it just makes me happier to eliminate this bit of scheduling from my life).

My new plan retains most of the flexibility, makes me more accessible to students (I think), eliminates me having to do the little bit of scheduling that I don’t want to do, and cuts down on email time.  Each Friday, I schedule for the next week roughly one hour worth of office hours each day at a time that is convenient to me.  I run this through, and students can access this website through our course management system to sign up for office hours.

If no student has signed up for a time slot during the office hours, I can simply change the office hours to accommodate my schedule as I see fit.  If a student has signed up, then I simply schedule around the student.

Additionally, I delete all unclaimed office hours for the day each morning.  That way, I don’t have to worry about continually checking my computer to see if anyone has signed up; the students who are signed up by the morning are scheduled, and there will be no new ones for the day.

14 Responses to “Deep Work:”

  1. Joss Ives Says:

    How many hours per week do you typically make available? What fraction of them are typically claimed?

    • bretbenesh Says:

      I usually do one hour per day, so five per week. I would say that I get maybe 30 minutes per week filled. This isn’t much, but it is actually more than what I used to get.

  2. Pinky Says:

    This looks pretty nifty!

  3. Darci Kracht Says:

    First of all, thank you for blogging on Deep Work, Bret! I saw your first blog on this, which prompted me to buy the book. Normally I don’t care for this genre, but I did like the book. I’m working on implementing some of his recommendations.

    As for the office hours: Do I understand you correctly that students have to schedule at least a day in advance? Do they object that you don’t have drop-in office hours? Do any drop in anyway? If so, what do you do?

    • bretbenesh Says:

      Hi Darci,

      Yes, this means that they do need to schedule a day in advance (they could actually schedule about 8 hours prior and be fine, but most students do not get up as early as I do. So it is effectively the day before). I have had no complaints yet.

  4. Darci Kracht Says:

    Also, what about students with a conflict for all the office hours you’ve scheduled for a particular day/week? Don’t they still email you to try to schedule a visit?

  5. Darci Kracht Says:

    Thanks for your replies. One more question: How long are the time slots you use? 15 min? 20 min?

  6. Deep Work: Imperfection | Solvable by Radicals Says:

    […] « Deep Work: […]

  7. Syncing Google Calendar with Outlook | Solvable by Radicals Says:

    […] This integrates with Outlook, and it we are expected to post our office hours to Starfish. I have been using for my office hours for a while, which I like. However, I don’t want my students to have to […]

  8. Cal Newport on Email and Scheduling | Solvable by Radicals Says:

    […] Cal Newport posted last month about the benefits of figuring out ways to reduce the number of emails you get. In particular, he talked about the benefits of eliminating the 3–4 emails that typically go into working out a meeting time with someone. His solution is similar to, which I have been using for several years. […]

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