Fourth in the Series…

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On Getting Ahead, Getting a Job and/or Getting Funded

Advice too Simple Not to Know

Be Billable

When I was a Partner at Accenture people knew that if I saw them take a newspaper into the bathroom it would show up on their “permanent record” – at least in my mind. Newspaper in the bathroom seems to be a guy thing but there was no gender discrimination here. Let the record show (and what I always declared in public) that my intent was not to inhibit fantasy football player picks. Newspapers and bathrooms are all about time, not discrimination. My message was very clear:

Treat your time like someone is paying for it – someone is.

Much has been written about the tyranny of a billable time environment. Stanford Professor Jeff Pfeffer’s research suggests that working in a billable time environment can wreak havoc in one’s personal and professional life. But there is one element of filling out time sheets that is useful. That is the notion that someone is paying for your time so you should be productive and fulfill your responsibilities.

In some professions the concept of time and billing is obvious: consulting, law, prostitution, automobile repair, accounting, and services in general. Although the rates by-the-hour or by-the-day will vary considerably, the concept is the same: someone pays for a service rendered based on the time it takes to perform that service. Not a bad concept in general but as Pfeffer points out, when the demands to be “billable” are too onerous, that’s when pressure builds and bad things can happen.

On the other side of the ledger are many other professions and workers who have forgotten that someone is paying for their time. In all those millions of jobs where the concept of billable time is not a key to success, remember that time and productivity/results are still important.

Just thinking about billable time conjures up lots of variables that can lead to fairness questions. Like, “Why am I getting billed-out at $200/hr. but I only get paid $40/hr.?” If you think you can make $200/hr on your own, you should quit that job and do it. Chances are, you cannot.

How can you tell if someone you are working with is a billable person?

Constant watch gazing and incomprehensible scratches on note paper
Endless discussions comparing 6 to 15 minute increments
Irritable behavior toward office gossips, because if you listen, you have to subtract; if you ignore them, you lose out on all the good stuff
No perceivable lunch hour; either you can scarf a sandwich in less than a minute, or you graze on the sandwich for hours.
Multi-tasking pros and speakerphone addicts; and Bluetooth headset as you wander the office.
Billing time may be tedious and lead to strange behavior but it does make one think about the most important thing to do in that hour or day or week because someone has to pay for it. That billable time mentality may help you meet deadlines, finish projects, hit goals and all the other behaviors that will help you get the job or the deal. It’s not a bad approach.

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