Thursday, January 29, 2009

How to spend nine hours doing five hours of work

I quite enjoy reading Dr Crazy's lists of things she works on in a day. Maybe it's because I'm nosy, or maybe it gives valuable insight into what it's like to be a real academic. Either way, I thought I'd show you what it's like to be a FAKE academic, in the form of detailing all the crap I did today.

But because I'm long-winded and incapable of not editorializing, you get the uncut version rather than the snappy List of Crazy.

Today I managed to land myself in a situation where I had to was privileged to be working for ALL of my bosses all in the one day. Yet despite beginning work at 9 and leaving reluctantly at 6:30, I only succeeded in getting through five hours of work I can actually bill anyone for. How does this happen? you may very well not actually ask because you aren't interested. But I will tell you anyway. Ha ha!

9:00–9:20: Waiting for one of the people I do research assistant work for (henceforth 'Boss #1'). He asked me to be there at 9am so we could get an early start. Despite not sleeping at all because of the horrible heat-wave we are having in my bedroom lately, I forced myself out of bed in time to make it (but only by skipping breakfast). Boss #1 waltzes in 20 minutes later, saying, "Wow, I just couldn't drag myself out of bed this morning. Must be the heat."

9:20–12 o'clock: I photocopy a 600-page book for Boss #1. It apparently doesn't occur to him that it costs him more to pay me to copy it than it would for him to just buy a copy (or steal the library copy and pay the 'lost book' fine). Nor does he seem concerned by copyright.

10:30–11am (yes, we did just go back in time here): Colleagues persuade me forcefully to come and have morning tea as a break from copying. Since they are all salaried, it does not occur to them that a half-hour break loses me nearly $20. But they are persuasive. There is coffee. And we actually talk about research, so it's not wasted time.

12–1 pm: Usually I take 30 minutes for lunch and/or eat at my desk while working. Today there is free lunch (!!!11!eleventy-one!) in honour of something Asian. Unfortunately the walk there and back, queuing for food, and talking to people there means I use a full hour for lunch. It does not occur to me until later that I could have bought a nicer lunch with the money I would have earned if I had worked that extra half hour instead of using it to seek out free food. Sigh.

1–1:30 pm: Boss #2 sends me to the library to hunt her down a journal article. I start with the online journal, but alas, the one issue I need is the only one since 1984 that they haven't digitised. Fortunately our library has it. Unfortunately it appears to be on the level that is undergoing repairs and I have to send a grumpy librarian into the roped-off depths to fetch it. Even more unfortunately it is not on the shelf and I have to submit an online request for them to look for it. Even more unfortunately, my library card no longer works all of a sudden.

1:30–2 pm: I try to work out what is wrong with my library card. The librarians try to work out what is wrong with my library card. Epic fail. Finally it is discovered that they accidentally overwrote my newer staff profile with the old (supposedly deleted) student profile. I am still weighing up whether I can bill Boss #2 for this period of time, since I wouldn't have had to get my card working if I weren't having to order her journal, but on the other hand, I still would have had to do it eventually.

2pm–3 pm: Ice cream break. I can't handle the heat. Yes, it's a long ice cream break. This is the one period of the day where the lack of productivity is truly and honestly all my own fault.

3pm–3:45 pm: I return to my office and find it writhing with what appears to be panicking ants. Presumably they are panicking because they have accidentally found their way into an OFFICE and there is NO FOOD. This doesn't, however, mean that they return the way they came. I sit down to do some work, but when the ants decide to undertake an epic journey of exploration into my cleavage, I am forced to take action. I spend the next half hour trying to find out who at the university is responsible for pest control. When I reach them, they assure me they will deal with it by next week. Awsumness.

3:45–4:45 pm: Work for Boss #3. This is so excrutiatingly boring I want to tear out my eyeballs, and I long for those good old days (this morning) of endless photocopying. Brief moment of levity thanks to an entry in a (senior!) academic's journal article's bibliography that actually says, "[Surname, First name]. File on my computer. 2009." I change it to "Unpublished manuscript".

4:45–5:45 pm: I suddenly realise that I haven't checked my email all day. Unfortunately doing so catapults me into an unexpected skirmish between Boss #3 and his publisher, who have been sending each other emails all day with increasing levels of hostility, and passive-aggressively CCing me in. I sort things out as best I can, but lose another 30 minutes to replying to emails that I can't, however creatively, bill any of my bosses for.

5:45–6:30 pm: Back to the eyeball-frying job for Boss #3. Eventually I gnaw off my own hands in a bid to get out of having to reformat a LaTeX manuscript into Word, and give up for the day, not having finished what I set out to accomplish.

In summary, the actual paid part of my day was 2.5 hours in the morning for Boss #1, half an hour at the library for Boss #2, and 2 hours 15 minutes in the afternoon for Boss #3. I was present and not-on-an-ice-cream-break for 9 1/2 hours, of which I get paid for 5 1/4.

Quick calculation: earnings for the day: $180 before tax.
If I earned minimum wage at McDonalds, I would have earned $136 (assuming I worked all 9.5 hours, which I guess I might not have, given an unpaid lunch break).
So that's at least a $46 advantage. Plus an ice cream break. Whew!

THIS is why I'm an academic. Good thing I remembered.


Joanna said...

You're still making way more than me. On the other hand, I'm getting paid to go to summer school, learning stuff I mostly already know. I'm spending it checking out the cute boy who sits near me :)

StyleyGeek said...

Yeah, I guess I should have made it clear that it's not the pay rate I'm complaining about - it's (a) the fact that I am doing dead boring work that I am way overqualified for (fine if it's only for a small portion of the day) BUT (b) even though I'm trying to work part time to have time left for my own research etc, "part time" ends up being a full day!

Also, this was by far the most work I've had in ages - last week, for example, I managed a whole 10 hours of paid work, and before that I had had none since late November. When you average it out like that, it kind of sucks.

I know, I know: I'm impossible to please: complaining if I have too much work; complaining about not enough. Just call me Goldilocks :)

shrinkykitten said...

I empathize totally - I too am doing dead boring work for which I am overqualified. It helps me, actually, that you are in the same boat. I'm sorry you are, but it makes me feel less alone in my misery.


dance said...

I can see that 20 minutes waiting is not billable time, but 30 minutes answering emails about Boss #3's business *certainly* ought to be.

Bardiac said...

I laughed at the ants. I'm sorry, but I did. I hope they go away soon!

When I read about your heat wave, I would totally love to come visit. We're hoping to get to freezing sometime in the next couple of weeks. And I hate being cold.

The History Enthusiast said...

I agree with Dance. And, I would also charge for the time you had to spend sorting out the library card situation, since that wasn't your fault and it absolutely needed to be done pronto.

Rebecca said...

I don't see why the 20 minutes is not billable time. You were told to be at work at a certain time and you were. That there was no actual work waiting for you is absolutely not your fault. People with full time jobs in offices often spend the first 20 minutes of each day turning on their computer, getting coffee and just settling wasn't just me, right?

You were there ready to work. Bill it.

StyleyGeek said...

Unfortunately the 5 1/4 hours already includes the 20 minutes waiting time and the 30 minutes emailing about the job.

Shrinky - I'm glad it's useful for something!

liz said...

Bill for the library card adventure.

Lucy said...

If you worked at McDonald's, you'd get half-price ice cream during your unpaid break, and you might get time and a half for the last half hour. Then again, you'd be covered in grease and hate humanity so that's probably still not enough to make up the difference.

Jessi said...

Wow, you get so much done....even if you are only a 'fake' academic. ;-) :P