Office Hours

When I was at MIT, I loved the idea of office hours.  I didn’t use them often, but when I did they were incredibly helpful to me.  When I had focused one on one time with a professor, it took some of the intimidation out of the learning experience and gave me a tight window to be open about the ideas and concepts that I was struggling with, while not worrying about being graded on that stuff.

I received a note from a blog reader recently in response to one of my work-life balance posts.  In it he said "I have kids that I like to spend time with so one thing that I do that quite a few of my peers have adopted is have office hours from 8pm-10pm.  People know they can reach me and it’s the one time I don’t mind getting "have you heard of this or that" type of emails.  Then I can get in later and leave earlier. "

I thought this was a brilliant idea.  I’ve been doing this with TechStars, although not late at night since I’m basically useless after 10pm. Instead, I schedule a block of "office hours time" once a week and get through a bunch of focused 30 minute interactions.  I’ve also got this scheduled in July while I’m at my house in Homer, AK for when I want to do phone calls; there’s a block of time every day that are the equivalent of office hours.  I’m sure I’ll periodically have other phone calls throughout the day around urgent stuff, but anything that doesn’t need to be dealt with in real time will be relegated to office hours.

When I step back and think about my work pacing, the office hours concept plays a big role.  I already schedule almost all of my phone calls and my assistant Kelly has blocks throughout the day when she knows she can do this.  Overall, most of my time is scheduled so I have specific blocks when I am "in class" (usually board meetings or meetings with companies), "office hours" (when I’m on the phone or taking blocks of short meetings such as the random meetings that I do), and "research time" (when I have time to work on exploring new stuff, writing, reading, and thinking.)

I hadn’t ever put it together that a lot of my pacing mirrors what I’d do if I was in an academic setting.  When I was at MIT, I watched my advisor Eric von Hippel have an excellent rhythm for his work.  I think I’ve unconsciously mirrored some of it, albeit with a different tempo.

  • http://www.seononsense.com p00ka

    What a great idea! My boss was recently promoted and had another department added on to his list of responsibilities. While we were used to working very “off the cuff”, we really can do that anymore due to the overwhelming nature of all of these additional duties.

    Implementing something like this could really help out, not just with our interaction, but with each department.

  • john

    The thing this post makes me most want to ask. How the heck did you pick Homer, AK for a summer place? Very un-vc'ish spot.

    • http://www.feld.com Brad Feld

      Do a search on Homer (or click on the Alaska category link on the right) and you'll see a bunch of reasons. The short version is that my wife grew up 20 miles from Homer. We've gone to Alaska every year for the past 15 years (well – except last year). We don't have any family up there, but we love just chilling out.

  • http://luravernon.com Lura Vernon

    I had to laugh at this concept, because, although I went to UCLA in engineering, the concept of having the professor having office hours is foreign to me. At UCLA, it's the TA's that have office hours, with the problem being that most of them speak very limited Engish. One time, I went to a TA's office hours with my friend Vera, who had moved from Korea when she was 17. While the TA was explaining the solution to a problem, everybody broke into Mandarin, and luckily I had Vera there to translate for me. I don't think this is the ideal office hours concept.

  • p00ka

    What a great idea! My boss was recently promoted and had another department added on to his list of responsibilities. While we were used to working very "off the cuff", we really can do that anymore due to the overwhelming nature of all of these additional duties.

    Implementing something like this could really help out, not just with our interaction, but with each department.

  • john

    The thing this post makes me most want to ask. How the heck did you pick Homer, AK for a summer place? Very un-vc'ish spot.

  • Lura Vernon

    I had to laugh at this concept, because, although I went to UCLA in engineering, the concept of having the professor having office hours is foreign to me. At UCLA, it's the TA's that have office hours, with the problem being that most of them speak very limited Engish. One time, I went to a TA's office hours with my friend Vera, who had moved from Korea when she was 17. While the TA was explaining the solution to a problem, everybody broke into Mandarin, and luckily I had Vera there to translate for me. I don't think this is the ideal office hours concept.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/bfeld bfeld

    Do a search on Homer (or click on the Alaska category link on the right) and you'll see a bunch of reasons. The short version is that my wife grew up 20 miles from Homer. We've gone to Alaska every year for the past 15 years (well – except last year). We don't have any family up there, but we love just chilling out.