Well, for starters, you should probably stop reading blogs while on the clock, but hey, who I am I to judge? Theoretically, this is a career advice blog, so, under the ruse that this little jewel will make you look better in the eyes of your boss, let’s just say you can keep reading. After all, if you follow my lead, you should have him thoroughly convinced that you are, right now, in deep, deep thought about the analytical data behind a marketing scheme that’s destined to make his name known ‘round the globe in the next 8 months. You’re such a star employee!
1) Write “stuff” down.
So, here’s the first thing you need to look busy: you need to get yourself a sharp looking notepad. I don’t really care about the color nor whether or not it’s 25% recycled, just get a classy lookin’ notepad and a pen. And write stuff down all the time. Whenever it occurs to you. Whether you’re actually making an ongoing grocery list or a new song comes through on Pandora that you want to take note of, yeah, write that down! It looks really good to be the constant note taker. You’re obviously coming up with important numbers and ideas and figures that are so crucial they cannot risked being entrusted to the human mind and must be put on paper. Of course, you always need to keep one sheet full of actually useful stuff. That way whenever anyone walks by, you can conveniently flip to the “real” page.
2) Always look “slightly frazzled.”
Someone with an impeccably neat desk who sits calmly and has a graceful aura just isn’t someone properly busy. Try to keep at least two projects spread out on your desk. Don’t line up your stapler and tape dispenser perfectly. Not tacky, just appropriately stating: “I’m kinda swamped here, in case you didn’t notice.”
3) Prepare your “screen” in advance.
Open up various “important” screens you use in a normal day, Word, Excel, Google Analytics, etc., take a screen shot and save it. This way you can throw it up in an instant when caught unprepared doing nothing better than IMing Steve over in Marketing.
4) Schedule “meetings” in the conference room.
Do this whenever possible. Totally okay if it’s with Steve from marketing. It looks like you’re discussing strategy, that’s what counts. And, it looks like you have loads of meetings. Got a potential client? Bring him in for a face-to-face. Employers never see you on the phone, and if they do, they probably correctly guess it’s the boyfriend/girlfriend calling to see what should be next on the Netflix queue. Meetings in the conference room, those get noticed. Side note: take personal calls in the conference room as well. Oh, and take lots of notes while you’re discussing potential dinner ideas on the phone in the conference room. It just looks good. And important.
You’ve gotta capitalize on the ability to mention projects (big, small, tiny) to as many people as possible. I’m not saying be obnoxious, just mention whenever you possibly can that you’re “kinda” involved in various projects. At the water fountain, in the break room, etc. Word gets around. “Oh, really, I heard he was working on ____, he’s working on _____ too?” Wow, that guy is BUSY! Bingo.
6) Ask for a new program or software.
So, odds are really good you won’t get it. But, that’s not what matters at all. What matters is that you’re showing that you’re so busy and making such leaps and bounds that this new, awesome-amazing software for the pros is needed for THIS company! Who doesn’t want to go home and brag that “We’ve come so far, we need the big-gun stuff now!”? (Even if we can’t afford it.)
7) Occasionally, do some work from home.
Okay, maybe once or twice. Every now and then, send your boss an e-mail from home, or post something at an odd hour that will catch their attention. Like, update the numbers at 11:20 p.m. Even if you did nothing at work all day, they’ll see that and think you were so busy at work that now you’re burning the midnight oil too. Magic.
8) Carry props.
Everywhere you go, take a folder, a notebook or a calendar with you. The bigger stack of stuff you carry, the better. Oh, and keep a quick pace when you’re walking anywhere. People in a hurry are always busy. Eat or pretend to eat lots of fruit and veggies. Busy people always seem to be eating healthy too. Weird.
9) Ask for a meeting with your boss, weeks in advance.
Got nothing on your calendar for the next month? Who cares! Tell your boss you’d like to discuss goals with him (for that matter, go ahead and toss the word “goals” into conversations whenever possible”) and ask for two week lead time. Busy busy. Also, for the record, you do need to have something to discuss. But don’t worry, you’ve got two weeks to come up with it.
10) Just be busy.
When all else fails, heck, just go ahead and try being busy. Maybe you’ll find it’s not so bad after all. Maybe. Or you can also learn how to waste time from an expert.