One of the downsides of using time-blocking to schedule my week is that my calendar is 90% booked before the week even begins. At the end of each week I review my projects and next actions lists and map out each hour of the day for the coming week. While this ensures that I will spend my time and attention on the projects that are most important to me and my manager, it can make scheduling ad-hoc meetings difficult for my colleagues.
So back in January, I began scheduling daily office hours. Regardless of what else is going on, I block off at least 1 hour every day where I am available for drop-in conversations in-person, via chat, or the phone. I try to keep these hours consistent (MWF 2-3p; TR 1-2p) and will refuse meeting requests during those times when I have the ability to do so. To hold myself to this, I’ve already scheduled my office hours in Outlook through to the end of the year.
For the first few weeks, I mostly sat in silence during office hours. I would use the time to review email, read recently published literature in my field, or catch up on other synchronous communication needs. Lately though, people have started to pop in. Last week alone, five colleagues stopped by and said something to the effect of, “I saw on your Outlook calendar that you have office hours right now…” What followed was either a quick conversation about a question they had or a delightful brainstorm about an idea they wanted to get feedback on.
One colleague expressed their appreciation of how this method makes my availability direct and transparent. Instead of having to wonder “is he available now? is he working on something? if I send a meeting request will it be well received or an annoyance?”, holding office hours offers a bright light that says “I’m here! Talk to me!” Clear and concise.
I feel the benefit of this clarity as well. I host office hours with the expectation of being interrupted. I’m not as anxious as I might otherwise be when someone stops in and I’m “in the flow.” Moreover, it offers me the confidence that I can make myself unavailable at other times, knowing this option is still available to my colleagues. For too often I fall into the trap of thinking that because I’m not in a meeting, I have to make myself available to interruptions. Meetings with yourself (and your priorities) are just as important as meetings with others.