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 youcanbook.me 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 youcanbook.me, 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.