Let’s be honest. Sometimes, we just don’t really feel like working. But, to look the part of a responsible employee, we try our best to appear like we are working dedicatedly. Four years ago, I worked in a job that totally sucked. I was an ad executive working for a digital agency. While that sounds interesting, I never got to work on campaigns in active roles. I was often asked to organise data dumps (any data entry operator will know how hard that actually is). The job was monotonous and not what I had signed up for. There would be days when I worked and days when I just couldn’t take it. So, I would often leave a MS Excel spreadsheet open to look like I was working, but stealthily watch videos or play card games.

No matter what your profession is – writer, engineer or rocket scientist – there are bound to be good “let’s get a lot of work done” days and bad “really very slow” days. In this article, I offer a list of things that you can do when you’re not in the mood to work but have to pretend that you are very busy at it.

First Things First, Look Busy

I’m often reminded of this classic scene from Seinfeld where George Costanza pretends to look annoyed all the time in order to fool his supervisors into thinking that he’s working really hard. The video above perfectly sums up this point.

Type Furiously

This one is a gem. You can look annoyed but to do it while typing furiously is perhaps one of the best ways to look like you’re really busy. Just open an existing Notepad file or MS Document or any text-based file and start typing randomly. Some people type out lyrics to their favourite songs, some type movie dialogues. I simply type nonsense like this “jwrfwof sjdjqpdk pqepe, ifpwrowlfl” and it works every time.

Watch YouTube Videos in Taskbar Preview

I love watching comedy videos on YouTube. It turns any bad day around. But, it’s very hard to open the website and watch videos when others are working around you. So, I started doing this instead. This trick works on Windows 7 and later versions and will work if you are pretending look busy reading something important on the internet.

Open Google Chrome (or any browser) and hover over its icon on the task bar. You’ll see a small thumbnail preview of the webpage which looks something like this.

Taskbar Preview - 1

And if you have two or more windows of Chrome open, the preview will look like this.

Taskbar Preview 2

Now open YouTube on any of the windows and click on any video you want to watch. Then, click on the preview and go back to the blog post or article that you are ‘ardently’ reading. Now, simply click on the Chrome icon and move your mouse away. The preview will stay and the video will be playing. If someone passes by, click anywhere on the webpage you are supposed to be reading and the preview will go away. Make sure you don’t minimise the YouTube window as it will freeze the video in the preview (although the sound will still play).

Make Dental Clicks

What’s a dental click? It’s a simple “tsk! tsk!” or even a “tut! tut!” sound you make when you’re unhappy with something. Below is a sound byte of “tsk! tsk!”

Dental clicks are very commonly used by us when we realise that an error has been made. Mostly, we follow up the dental click with a sigh of frustration. Doing this is very much similar to looking annoyed. Your colleagues will think that you’re overworked.

Listen and Pretend

If your company allows you to listen to music – which in my opinion, it definitely should – plug in your earphones and pretend like you’re working. The best way to get this right is to transfer a set of favourite songs to your work computer and creating different playlist. The secret to creating a playlist is not in the songs you choose, but the total duration of your list. My playlists are no lesser than 2 hours because the songs keep me engaged for a longer time. While listening to music, you can either do random typing or look busy.

Massage Your Head

Put your elbows on the table and massage your head. Start from the temples and then go to the forehead. Finally, clasp your hands around the back of your head and hold your eyes tightly shut (but not for too long). This little trick will make concerned colleagues and supervisors think that you’ve probably got a headache or migraine. Do this once every 20-30 minutes, but not more than 4 times. You don’t want to look like you’re faking a headache.

Do Random Calculations

I love using the calculator mainly because I’m not that great with manual mathematics. So, the calculator program is also one of my most used programs. If I was working on MS Excel, I’d often fire up the calculator and do random math solutions. I try out weird formulas or sometimes I just calculate percentages. Random math isn’t for everyone but it definitely gives the impression that you are busy.

Carry Something While Walking

A book, a sheet of paper, your laptop or even a pen, carry something in your hand. It gives off the impression that you’re onto something. My colleague always carried a notebook everywhere, not because she took notes but because she liked looking at the front and back cover (the notebook had a space theme). She was surprised when the General Manager commended her for her dedication to work. That really happened!

Write In A Notebook

I’ve found that if you’re seen writing in a notebook or scribble pad, you’re considered to be a workhorse. While notebooks and scribble pads have been largely replaced by computer programs like Notepad and Evernote, it still has a charm of its own. So, always keep a book and pen handy and write almost anything in an illegible handwriting. I often write shortened versions of words so that others won’t understand that it’s complete gibberish while I know what exactly I wrote.

Clutter And Declutter Your Workspace

This used to be one of my favourite things to do. I used to bring a backpack with a lot of office stationery and interesting books. I would lay them out on my desk, even if I had no use for them, and after sometime, put them back in my bag. It was a nonsensical thing to do. But, people would often tell me to not be stressed at work. That’s when I began to notice that I was incidentally cluttering and decluttering my workspace – which a lot of people consider to be a sign of stress.