The 5 Barriers to Personal Growth on Company Time – Part 3: Let Details Tell The Story

Let the details tell the story

Photo by lesec 

So far we’ve established that you need to look after number one and discussed the importance of not working too fast.

In this post, I’ll be talking about the perception of being busy and how it’s all in the details.

“Why do the Yankees always win? The other team can’t stop looking at the pinstripes.”

Frank Abegnale

Having read the previous two posts, you may be thinking; it’s all very good to say we should spend half our time working on personal growth and pursing our own interests on the company clock but what happens if I get caught?

A very valid question. Obviously the methods for actually achieving this need to be given considerable thought because being caught could have serious potential consequences.

While I still very much personally believe the risk is worth the benefits this is something that everyone must decide for themselves. It may be worth considering the following questions:

What will happen if I get caught? For me personally I am not too worried about this. Precautions can be taken to minimise the damage and simple techniques that I’ll discuss later such as having a cover story can deflect a lot of heat.

Can I afford to lose my job?If you’re smart it shouldn’t come to this, however as the old cliché goes ‘if you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen’. I’ve never been fired before and I don’t plan on it happening in the future, however, I fully understand that my writing this blog is not part of the company objectives and that directors and management wouldn’t look too kindly on the amount of time I spend reading and studying personal interests. Always remember; at the end of the day would it really be that hard for you to find another job?

Can I actually get away with it? Now I’ve worked lots of jobs, from stacking shelves, building PCs, pushing trolleys, delivering pizzas, answering phones, baking bread and training people in customer service and in my observation the richest opportunity for productive slacking is in office jobs. Particularly if you have a PC. However if you’re not in this boat don’t despair, you may just need to be a little more creative.

If you want to be perceived as busy then you need to study busy. Consider the following techniques

Have a cover story– when you’re asked ‘what are you upto?’ – and you will be – having a plausible story will be the difference between small talk and arousing suspicion. Spend time thinking about what you are going to say you’re doing and make sure you don’t sound nervous

Have trappings that are congruent with your story – Do you work in a call centre and are supposed to be listening to calls? Well you best be carrying your headset around with you. Are you supposed to be updating procedural documents? If so do you have them with you? They key here is not to go out of your way to show people you have these things with you but to give them the opportunity to observe it for themselves. A conclusion that someone comes up with by themselves will be much more powerful then one you tell them.

Blend your deceit with slivers of truth – don’t dig yourself into a massive hole. If you say you’re doing something, make sure it’s something that you can present some sort of evidence for
No Internet? Then print documents – reading is a great pastime at work; unfortunately very few jobs will let you get away with just openly reading a book. Instead, print off an ebook – in batches of 50 pages – and always have a work document for at least the top page. Sitting at a desk with a stack of pages and a notepad looks like you’re being productive. And you are, just not in the way everyone expects.

Use an RSS reader to read websites– while a lot of sites have fantastic design in the office they just scream ‘I’m surfing’. I use google reader because it has a nice white background and looks much more work-related

Ebooks– ebooks are great because they are usually PDF, word or txt documents, all of which are commonly used in office environments. A few pointers;

  • rename the file to something boring such as terms_and_conditions.txt, this will change reads up in the top blue bar
  • copy some actual work pages to the top of the document, if someone is looking over your should you can begin scrolling (so they can’t read it) and eventually stop at the top which will be a legitimate work document to someone watching
  • scroll past pictures – these will just draw unwanted attention to you when you want to be flying under the radar

Productive Slacking requires a bit of thought and preparation. By taking the time to establish a game plan you are investing in your own future and making your work life much more productive and fun.

Continue to Part 4: Deflect Envy

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4 thoughts on “The 5 Barriers to Personal Growth on Company Time – Part 3: Let Details Tell The Story

  1. Pingback: The 5 Barriers to Personal Growth on Company Time - Part 2: Don’t Work Too Fast

  2. Wow renaming and adding work related text to the top of a PDF is a very good idea, will have to use that in the future!!

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