If your hours are billable like mine, then you’ve likely received the email at 4:30 on Friday that says:
Just a friendly reminder to complete your timesheet for this current week by the end of the day today.
Second only to the impromptu 4:00 p.m. meeting on Friday, these emails are a huge buzzkill because it makes me remember the misery-filled week I tried to forget about with booze, trashy reality TV or a combination of both. Each Friday afternoon, I struggle to get to that 8-hour minimum. I easily work more than 8 hours a day, but when it’s 5:30 and my phone is blowing up for happy hour and dinner plans, I just want to get the hell out of the office. However on the days were I am lucky enough to work fewer than 8 hours, it can also be a struggle getting to that minimum of 8 hours when I’ve wasted my time reading or watching instructional videos on how to fix my slice off the tee.
But in my two years of indentured servitude to the client, I’ve learned a few tricks to make this process as painless as possible.
Be as vague as possible.
Broad strokes here are a MAJOR key. You want to go with something along the lines of “updated materials for ____ event” or “revised ____ based on client feedback.” There is so much up for interpretation that what you actually did on that day generally falls into that statement. It could be as easy as updating the timestamp in the footer of the document, or updating the contact information and it can be as complicated as redoing everything based on your boss’s feedback. The point is, a week later (or a month depending on the firm you work for), no one is going to remember exactly what you did, so “updated materials” works for all involved.
Not talking about on the golf course this time. Find out whatever the lowest increment of time is (typically 0.25 or 15 minutes) and use those as fillers. I often find my timesheet roughly an hour and a half short of 8 hours, so typically what I’ll do is finish up with a bunch of .25s to the business development or admin code. Did you chat with a senior coworker at the water cooler or coffee machine? Put 15 minutes to business development for “touching base with [NAME].” Fill out your company’s bachelor bracket? Put 15 minutes to admin for “culture committee touch base”. Easy stuff and you should also continue to be as vague as possible. Before you know it, you’ll have at 8.00-hour threshold filled. Avoid the allure of billing a full 8 hours to a project for the easy out.
Time travel in your inbox.
Probably the most painful step as this consists of reliving bad memories of emails that read “why didn’t you follow up on me about that?” or “Please call me ASAP,” but this is a good way to jog the memory about what you did over the last week. This step is kinda like fishing. You have to be patient until you land a big ol’ email chain that you can feed off of. Even if you didn’t do anything in that chain email, you were copied on it, so you kinda know what was going on. Bill accordingly. Again, be vague and go low. Don’t want to raise any suspicions for a big block of time on the time sheet. That’s how you raise questions.
This may be a nuance that I’ve only encountered as different people are the billing manager for the global and US side of the business. They would rarely, if ever, coordinate the hours billed across the two pieces of business, so you could double dip for the same project. Wrote that press release that was virtually the same for global and US? Boom, two hours to the global code, two hours to the US code. You’re halfway done for the day.
Do NOT bill to non-billable.
Learned this one the hard way. When I first started, I thought billing to non-billable was a good way to hide the hours I spent goofing off or dragging out a project. However, when I was later confronted about this, I was asked “why are you billing so much time to non-billable? Do you need some additional account work to do?” I managed to justify this time, but this was a near-miss. Non-bill should only be used in an emergency.
Use this as a guide and find what works best for you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go bill .75 hours to content development for the time I spent writing this column on company time. .
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