How much is a work hour really worth?
Studies show that employees spend about 31 hours per month in meetings, and spend less than 60 percent of time actually working productively.
Having gone to work for a major public relations firm right out of college, I came to understand the value of an hour very early on in my career. While I made far less than my billable rate, clients paid just over $100 an hour for time I spent working on their account. For each 15-minute increment I billed, I had to justify the work I did. If a project gave me difficulty, or I was just having a particularly unproductive day, I’d adjust my hours accordingly.
Though I no longer have to enter my time and match it up with billing codes at the end of the day, the mindset has served me exceptionally well. I’ve found that it’s incredibly helpful in any workplace -- even in the nonprofit sector, where making money isn’t even part of the objective. The hours of the day are finite and intrinsically valuable, and the most successful managers and entrepreneurs are those who not only properly manage their own time, but the time of others.
I’ve since left the world of public relations firms, but I continue to assign a dollar amount to my hours, and I recommend that anyone else who regularly juggles tasks do the same. If you look at the first hour of the day as, say, $100 instead of 9 to 10 a.m. on your calendar, it becomes easier to prioritize important tasks by planning your hours, days and weeks around major objectives. It can also help you cut back on time-sucking activities that you might have thought were worth your time, but in a new light, simply aren’t worth the money.
As a manager, it’s equally important to place a value on the time of your colleagues and employees. My time is worth more than my staff’s, and their time is worth more than an intern’s. Everyone understands this dynamic and plans accordingly. It helps them to decide whether a task is better left to an intern or if it might be better to manage up and ask me to take something off their plate. By determining the relative importance -- and time-sensitivity -- of tasks, it makes it much easier to assign and complete them in the most productive manner possible.
Assigning monetary value to both tasks and employees helps clear schedules of time-sucking activities that drag on production. An hour-long, 20-person meeting where only 10 people really need to be in attendance translates to more than a full workday’s worth of wasted time.
For workplace veterans, this line of thinking may be second nature, but for young professionals, the value of an hour wasted doesn’t always ring true. Regardless of whether the billable hour is on its way out as a billing mechanism, it’s a valuable mental model to apply to almost any career. If we all treated our minutes a little more like dollars, there might be less time spent on Facebook and fantasy football and more spent moving our organizations forward.