Published by Calendly - December 4, 2014

How to send 400 fewer emails this year: one swamped college advisor tames scheduling madness

Sick of endless emails, Brian knew he needed a better way to schedule advising meetings. His new strategy eliminates inbox clutter and lets him leave campus early for more family time.

Brian Cohen fills many roles. As Union College’s Director of Advising, he meets with students each trimester to ensure they’re on track with their coursework, internships and study abroad plans. 

“When I’m able to help students find majors they didn’t know about and are passionate about, or get them into classes that really excite them, I feel that a good job has been done,” he said.

Brian also teaches a full course load. He trains fellow faculty members on advising best practices. And he chairs the school’s Organizing Theme Committee, a program in which students design their own majors.

Unsurprisingly, the task of coordinating all these meetings via email was a major timesuck–one that interfered with his teaching responsibilities and, ultimately, cut into the hours he’d rather be spending with family.

“I was getting constant emails when I was trying to do other work, which was a huge distraction,” said Brian, “And it wasn’t one student at a time, it was two dozen of them trying to book appointments, so I never had time to actually focus on grading lab reports or exams. For someone who’s already pretty good at getting distracted, it was a nightmare.”

Brian needed a way to share his availability with students automatically and send fewer emails, so that he could focus on getting real work done. This would require a solution more efficient than writing out his availability to post on his office door–an option still favored by many on-campus advisors.

How Brian saved hundreds of emails this year

This year, Brian tried a new approach. At the beginning of each advising period, he sent one email to his two dozen advisees, letting them know it was time to make an appointment and including the link to his Calendly page. From that link, students could choose the appointment type that applied to them (advising, training or Organizing Theme meeting), select a time and book immediately–no need to bug Brian to confirm, or to inquire about his availability.

And because students’ names and contact information were included in each booking, Brian knew before each meeting what material to prepare. Now, he could hit the ground running when a student arrived, rather than fumbling for their files.

“Having people pick their own times has relieved such a burden,” he said. “Everything is updated in real time, which keeps me from accidentally booking something over someone’s appointment. And since students sometimes forget to tell me they’re coming in, it’s really great that we both get email reminders. They remember to show up, and I know why they’re here when they arrive.”

Brian estimates that before Calendly, he was trading an average of four to five emails with students to schedule each meeting.

With two dozen advisees each trimester, that’s 300-400 emails saved this year–not including those he used to send for faculty training sessions and Organizing Theme appointments.

Less scheduling time = more family time

Eliminating the distraction of scheduling has given Brian back his personal time–so much so that now, he’s able to leave campus early a few days a week to pick up his children from the school bus.

“Since I can block my pick-up afternoons from my Calendly availability,” he said, “I don’t have to worry about students dropping by my office then. I have that fine control you just can’t get from trying to schedule everything by email, or from writing your availability on paper and taping it to your door.”

To make the next term even simpler, Brian plans to include his Calendly link at the top of his syllabus, as well. That way, no matter why they need to meet with him, students will know from the outset when he’s free.

“Calendly has been a wonderful solution, because it lets me block off the times I know I’m unavailable–in class, in lab–so students don’t try booking meetings then, and they can immediately match up their own schedules with what appears on mine. 

“If I decide I’m going to spread appointments out over a few hours each day, I can. If I decide I’m going to get them all over with in two days, that’s an option, too.”

No longer stressed out by an avalanche of emails, Brian can close his inbox and focus on the work at hand–meaning he’s more productive on campus and home earlier with this family.

Your Turn

What would removing yourself from the scheduling process do for your productivity? How would it benefit your students and colleagues?