The virtual day

For much of my professional life, I have had to complete weekly time sheets – not just ones that are used by HR to track my attendance, but ones that are used to manage project budgets and allow me to indicate which projects I have been working on the related tasks. When you are only committed to one project or task, life can’t get any easier as 100% of your time is attributable to  that one project or task. Things get a little trickier when you need to need to start accounting for all of your time and splitting it across various tasks or projects.

As most people should already be aware, not everyone is always 100% productive every day. Toilet breaks, coffee runs, ducking out for a smoke (or just a chat if you don’t smoke), personal calls, meetings, travel time between meetings, etc. Except for the meetings and conference calls, it’s hard to attribute any of these activities to a particular client or project.

So when it comes time to complete my weekly timesheet, and I discover that I really only have 4.5 hrs out of an 8 hr day that I can effectively charge for, it occurs to me that my manager is going to start questioning my productivity. It’s not that I’m a slacker or waste time; if anything, I’m a workaholic and often put in a lot more than the typical 8 hour day. It’s just that without a BAU (Business as usual) code that I can charge to, or a pre-determined budget that I can account ancillary activities to, I need to start inventing ways to bill my time – let’s call it the virtual day.

A real day:

  • 30 mins – Check online newspaper & IT journals
  • 30 mins – AM/PM Coffee Run
  • 10 mins – Bathroom breaks
  • 20 mins – Friendly Office banter/Chit Chat
  • 30 mins – procrastination
  • 15 mins – making space for email account (limited to 50Mb)
  • 15 mins – Playing Phone Tag with someone you need to discuss a report with
  • 15 mins – Walking around the office looking for the someone you were playing phone tag with
  • 15 mins – Heated discussion with colleagues about poor process design and everything that is wrong/right with the organisation
  • 15 mins – time wasted in meetings waiting for people who are running late
  • 15 mins – Packing up early so we can leave the office on time.
  • 4 hrs 30 mins – Working.

So, whilst this might not be my typical day, it reflects those typical activities that take up the most time which are not directly attributable to a billable client/task. Let say we have a few projects going A, B, C & D. A and B are a bit bigger than C & D, so we need to split our time accordingly for these project as such:

  • Project A – 30%
  • Project B – 30%
  • Project C – 20%
  • Project D – 20%

Enter the Virtual Hours. Three point Five of them to be exact.

Our new normalised daily time sheet is virtualised:

  • Project A – 2.5 hrs
  • Project B – 2.5 hrs
  • Project C – 1.5 hrs
  • Project D – 1.5 hrs

For a total of 8 working hours each day.

In a perfect world, this would be 100% accurate, otherwise there would be an additional ‘bucket’ of budget we could charge to for the ‘ancillary’ activities that dot our pragmatic working lives. Until then, these are the virtual grains of sand that measure the virtual hours in the virtual days of our virtual  lives.


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