Nothing Takes Less Than an Hour
On assessing the value of time in the era of multitasking
If you’re one of the thousands of newly remote workers out there, you’re probably managing your own schedule in a way you never have before. As someone who’s worked from home for a long time, I’ve learned a strange, basic truth that I believe can help you: Nothing takes less than an hour.
I work in marketing, and my value to my employer comes down to billability. I’m asked to keep tabs on how I spend my day, down to 15-minute increments. After years of feeling like my time sheets were at odds with how busy I always felt, I realized that I was vastly underbilling. Here’s why:
“15 Minutes” is a lie
In a recent case, a client needed a quick edit. I was asked how long it would take, to which I stupidly replied, “15 minutes.” But the task wasn’t really just the edit itself. I had to read the email, respond to the request, do the edit, save the work to a server, and correspond with the client to make sure they were satisfied.
Needless to say, the whole process did not take only 15 minutes. I’ll repeat for the record that nothing takes less than an hour, but it’s important to note: The hour is often sneaky! The editing itself was interrupted by meetings and other tasks. Its subtasks, actions, and events did not all immediately follow one another. Rather, they were spread out across a large part of the day.
Power Up Your Language to Revolutionize Your Freelance Life
Words and phrases that keep you happy, sane, and paid
The real question is perhaps semantic. Just what is “the task?” There is of course the consideration of overhead — all that purportedly nonessential business around but not of the task itself — and most of what I laid out above is overhead. But a better way to think about a task’s parameters is as follows: A task is something that, when being performed, prevents one from doing something else. It’s defined by the absence of your attention elsewhere.