The goal of your doodle poll should be to have a reasonable number of options. What’s reasonable? I would say about 10 – 20. Anything less, and you’re not going to find a time that works for everyone. But anything much more, and people are going to be more particular about which times they say they’re available. For instance, I recently filled out a doodle poll that had 56 options. In doing so, I didn’t take the time to consider, for each time there was something on my calendar, was it a movable meeting? Given that I was providing a number of available times, I didn’t feel pushed to make myself more available. However, if there had been 10 carefully selected options, I would have spent more time considering each possibility, whether it was a meeting I might be able to move in a pinch, or a time that I usually work at home but would make an exception in this case.
But how do you get to 10-20 carefully selected options? Here are my suggestions:
- Schedule far enough in advance. Sometimes I’m not sure that students realize how busy faculty’s schedules are. Next week, I currently have one 2-hour block available. The week after, I have a couple. But that’s just me, and you’re going to need to cross my schedule with 3-5 other faculty’s schedules. So you should be planning these things at least a month out, frequently more if you have very busy people.
- Do whatever you can to eliminate options. Obviously, don’t include any times you absolutely can’t be there (but be as flexible as you can). Then meet with your adviser and remove times that she absolutely can’t be there. Next, take the time to go online and check the teaching schedules of anyone on your committee, and eliminate those times as possibilities. A few minutes of your time is completely worth the investment at this point. After these steps, you have probably substantially narrowed down your options well below 50.
- If your meeting is at an odd time of year, like summer, check with committee members in advance on their travel schedules. No sense sending out a poll based on a week that a committee member will be in France.
- Once you’ve narrowed down your options, choose a 1-2 week timeframe (depending on how many options you have) and make the poll. Even if you are scheduling a 2-hour meeting, use 1-hour, not 2-hour blocks. I may be free 10:00 – 12:00, but if the options are 9:00 – 11:00 and 11:00 – 1:00, I will not mark either as available. So make a poll that has 1-hour blocks to maximize everyone’s “yes” responses. Similarly, if someone teaches at 1:45, don’t exclude the 1:00 -2:00 time frame completely. You can have a block that is 12:00 – 1:00 and a separate 12:30 – 1:30. If you find a 1.5 hour block that everyone is available, but not everyone is available the 1 hour block before, you can follow up to see if you can squeeze a ½ hour out of them.
- Finally, make sure that you email everyone as soon as possible with the scheduled date/time. It’s frustrating for all if you wait so long that one or more people have already scheduled meetings in the time you picked.
“The post How to set up a doodle poll first appeared on Eva Lefkowitz’s blog on February 6, 2016.