Eg: Assume a task has been estimated to take 8 hours working time, for 1 person to complete. Supposing that person takes a break of 15 mins every 2 hours. Obviously the task will take 1 hour extra and, assuming an 8-hour working day, will now be completed only the next day.

1. Should breaks also be entered into the plan, during the Tracking phase?

2. Should these breaks be entered using the “split task” tool (on MS-Project). Alternatively how can a break be represented in MS-Project?

3. If breaks aren’t entered, planned completion dates of tasks would be inaccurate.

4. Would the resource involved really be interested in exposing breaks while tracking the Project Plan? How should this motivational issue be handled?

5. On MS-Project (an older version), beyond a certain number of splits in a task, the task is inaccurately represented on the Gantt chart.

Regarding, representing breaks while tracking the plan, I quote the following SE post >

"The best practice as far as I'm concerned is to measure down to approx 15-30 minutes what time you've been spending on what project. This time is not just coding or design time, but any bathroom breaks or office chit-chat that occurs. If you do this, it will tell you more than just estimates and billing. It allows you, the programmer, to track your own performance" ... Mike Cellini

  • 2
    This site might be a better fit
    – Robbie Dee
    May 24, 2018 at 10:01
  • 1
    You and Mike (whose answer received exactly 0 votes) are out of your minds. If you plan on tracking bathroom breaks, good luck retaining any decent engineers.
    – John Wu
    May 24, 2018 at 10:03
  • There are no hard and fast rules (too many variables) but I've seen values of between 10-25% for non-productive time. So tally up the work, add the extra and get started on the Gantt chart.
    – Robbie Dee
    May 24, 2018 at 10:06
  • But I'd agree with Mike - don't try and track anything below 15 minutes at a task level.
    – Robbie Dee
    May 24, 2018 at 10:22
  • @JohnWu I read Mike his answer as not tracking bathroom breaks as separate activiteit, but just consider them part of task you're working on. I agree with this view: the time needed for task X is everything you do while working on it, including getting coffee, going to the bathroom, etc. Something like lunch should probably not be counted as "time spent on X" though. May 24, 2018 at 11:20

1 Answer 1


Estimates for work should include small breaks like this as part of the estimate. Longer breaks, like lunch, are typically not. If I say it'll take me 6 hours to do something, I should get it done in exactly 1 workday*.

The reasoning is twofold. First, who really wants to track their bathroom breaks, coffee breaks, refilling water, stretching your legs, etc? Most of these are less than 5 minutes and would be too tedious to track. In addition, would you estimate those breaks are certain times? What if my bladder isn't full when your schedule says it should be?

Second, and more importantly, those "breaks" are vital to the software engineering process, to give your brain time to think, process, design, etc. When you're getting coffee or taking a smoke break, your brain does not turn off. You're constantly thinking about the problems you're trying to solve, and that is a very important part of producing software. Writing code is a lot of it, yes, but not all of it.

How many times have you been on your way to grab a coffee, ran into a co-worker, started chatting, and you wound up solving a problem you (or they) were having? How many times have you been sitting on the toilet and thought of a possible solution to the bug you're trying to fix? For that matter, how many times have you been at home taking a shower and thought of a slick design that would streamline your processing? Should you and your co-worker bill time for that client now, or just you? Should you bill your shower time?

Include those breaks as part of your estimate, and bill your client for them as well. Your employees are working during them, even if it doesn't seem like it.

*When considering estimates and how long a project will take, many will set their "effective workday" at ~25% less than their actual workday, to account for various administrative things, meetings, last-minute fixes for another project, etc. So, if you work an 8 hour day, you could expect to get 6 hours of project-related work done. Again, this includes bathroom breaks and small breaks of that nature.

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