mod note: this was originally posted on 7/11/12
Everyone’s on vacation. You’ve pretty much done minimal work the last week because you were celebrating your independence. Let's face it, you've probably checked out since memorial day weekend and now begins the long stretch towards labor day weekend and the end of the lazy summer. With most colleagues on vacation, it's pretty difficult to get much done during the summer - but you’re stuck behind a desk anyway. So how do you keep busy and stay underneath the radar, while doing as little as possible?
I'm by no means a pro, but here's a list of tricks I've picked up and have seen others execute masterfully along the way. These tricks are almost as powerful as Ben Bernanke's eyebrows, so please, use wisely or else you'll ruin it for the rest us.
- Always have a few spreadsheets up
This one can be tweaked, depending on your job, but the key here is to always look like to you’re plugging away at some document. You could be working on a personal budget spreadsheet or a comprehensive list of local bars and happy hour list. It doesn't matter, just keep your desktop covered with things that look like work
- Take notes
Take notes furiously. Keep a notebook open and glance up at your spreadsheets and then jot down a few fake notes. Everyone will surely think, "man, they're writing up a storm, better not disturb, I'll come back later"
- Block off some time on your calendar
This is one I use year round. I don’t like Monday morning meetings and I certainly don’t like a meeting on a Friday after 2pm - so I block off some time in outlook. Bingo Bango, no one tries to book those slots. Put a few of those on your calendar - use sparingly and in combination with the next tip.
- Take a walk and
If your’re gonna step away (during aforementioned blocked off timeslots) to take a lap around the floor or the building, for that matter, take a notebook with you. Everyone will think you’re on your way to take notes somewhere. I also like to print random things at the printer fartherest away from my desk - not because I hate the environment, but because I dont have a printer at home. Taking a long walk to the printer and staring really hard at what I just printed in the copy room makes me feel busy.
- Take a walk and leave a prop
When combined with the previous tip, this is a sure-fire way to look like you're really on the move. Leave some food out - a half eaten apple or something next to a spare notebook with a strategically placed pen/highlighter. No one will beleive that you’ll be gone for an hour if you leave a half eaten granola bar at your desk next to notes that you were obviously busy reviewing.
- Walk with a purpose
If you’re walking fast (with notebook in hand) it must mean you really need to be somewhere and have no time to dilly dally around. You've got places to go and people to see. For a dramatic flare, look pissed off.
- Make your desk look like staples threw up on it
I like to have a mix of random notes, notebooks, and slide decks strewn across my desk. Expert tip: Have some the slide decks open and stick some post-its on it so it looks like you read through it and have some items to follow up on when you have the "bandwidth".
- Have a Penske file on hand
Forgive me for the Seinfeld reference, but George really nailed this one. Have a vague project that no one really knows about. Talk to anyone, anywhere, all the time about it. “the Pensky file... can't wait to sink my teeth into that.“ You'll never actually work because you're so busy telling everyone how busy you are.
- E-mails, lots of E-mails
You can send and receive e-mails to yourself. You can schedule your emails to be sent later. The sound of you clammering away at those emails is a sure sign that you really chipping away at that to-do list. Schedule an email to be sent late in the day so it really makes you seem like you're burning the midnight oil. Or schedule it to send before the work day - early bird gets the worm, right?
- Headsets - these are now attached to you
Keep your headset on at all times. Makes it look like you're on back to back calls all day. Combine this with your laps around the floor and those fake meetings you created in outlook and no one's gonna mess with you because you're so busy taking calls and notes - a regular walls street mover and/or shaker
- Do some actual work..but not too much
Use this as a last resort. When all else fails, do a little work. But don't spread yourself too thin! Easy there, tiger. Don't do today what can wait until tomorrow.
We have about 6 more weeks of summer, so what are your suggestions for looking busy during the slow times.