Timesheets, billing rates, and chargeable goals still piss me off. I haven't tracked my time for three years, but thinking about it is like thinking about that time I ate some bad salami. I'm probably not going to puke now, but I probably did back then.
I hated working under the billable hour. I became a "trusted advisor" because when I called a client to see if they needed advice, they trusted me to bill them for it, even if they didn't need any advice.
CPA firms are white-collar sweat shops1. As a profession, we've forgotten that a normal work week is 40 hours long. That's why in your head you just said, "Forty hours? Somebody's a slacker."
We've also developed an unhealthy fixation on tracking our time in all situations and for all reasons. You know you've done it. The guy at the DMV makes you wait three hours for no reason, so you think to yourself, "You're welcome for the $345, asshole." If the babysitter was supposed to arrive at 6:00, but she showed up at 6:25, she was $47.92 late2.
This was driven home by an excerpt from an internal email sent out by a Big 4 firm immediately after Hurricane Sandy:
We know that these challenges dealing with personal and family issues related to the storm, as well as connectivity and transportation, may impact some of our people's ability to work. To record time that you are unable to work due to Hurricane Sandy, please use the "Excused Leave" code, available [...] under the non-chargeable engagement type [...] to account for your time missed from work due to the storm. When selecting this code, please write in the description "Hurricane Sandy."
In other words, "We understand that you're having a hard time finding clean water to drink, but it's very important that we know how much of our time you wasted providing basic necessities for your family."
What's weird is how not weird this is to us. The behavior has been reinforced over time. You want to book the time that was lost to the storm, too, because it will be a great excuse if you don't meet your chargeable goals. You still want to win the game because you barely even realize that it's just a game. We have the accounting profession's version of the Stockholm syndrome3; we sympathize with our captors and help them exploit us.
We're part of a highly-mobile workforce. Everything we do can be done remotely, and it's not uncommon for us to work upwards of 60 hours per week. So where do you draw the line for what hours must be accounted for on your timesheet? When taken to its logical extreme, you should also code time to "sleep," "commuting," and "sex4."
You can't justify tracking non-billable time by saying it's to keep track of CPE hours. If a CPA loses his license because he doesn't have time and billing software, he doesn't deserve to be a CPA.
And don't tell me that they need to track time lost to Sandy to substantiate a business interruption insurance claim. Most companies don't bill by the hour, still qualify for business interruption insurance, and somehow manage to figure out how much revenue was lost.
Try this out. Record only your billable time for an entire month. If you're hitting your chargeable goals, no one's going to bust your balls because you don't have enough "Miscellaneous Administrative."
1 Without the joy of being surrounded by athletic shoes.
2 Please tell me you just calculated the billing rate for these examples, compared it to your rate at work, and feel sad/smug compared to the stories I just made up.
3 It's called the "Seidman Syndrome" (the BDO is silent).
4 It's less than you think.