Lunchtime Poll

Lunchtime Poll: Fake Productivity

A friend of mine IMed me the other night and wanted my advice on something obviously very important: how do you fake looking productive at work? To be perfectly honest, it’s been a while since I’ve had actual free time at work; my current job keeps me pretty fucking busy during work hours. But I can remember a time not too long ago when I relied on the wordiness and reblogging powers of the folks on Tumblr to get me through some mind-numbing on-the-clock hours. And I am well aware that having access to Tumblr at all was kind of a special fortune I enjoyed.

So my question for you today is: how do you fake productivity when you have to be on the clock but don’t have anything (interesting) to do?

By Meghan Young Krogh

Meghan had a number of quality writing mentors over the course of her education, which just goes to show that you can't blame the teacher for the way the student turns out. Team Oxford Comma represent.

44 replies on “Lunchtime Poll: Fake Productivity”

I try to maintain a “concerned, focused” look on my face. Something I’ve managed to master even through cat pictures.

And then Tab+Alt (or Tab+Apple) Very handy.

Though right now, I just get by on stupid Internet Explorer which only gives me a few minutes of Tumblr before it freezes and zero Perseph until I get home. Next week I get my good laptop back! Yah!

Alt+Space+n to minimize the current window in Windows. Apple+H on Macs.

I tend to always keep a work-related internet page open in one of my tabs, usually as the first tab. Working in google docs or Word for non-work writing is good, because it looks like officialness unless you get all up in someone’s business. And I intersperse offering to run errands (that one piece of mail really needs to go down now), so I look productive.

Fortunately, I’ve mostly had bosses that didn’t mind what I was doing as long as I looked busy, even if it was personal stuff. So that’s lucky.

I’m an expert at ninja mouse click to hide windows on my computer whenever a co-worker walks past. It is a skill born of sitting somewhere that seems to be in everyone’s direct flow of traffic. I swear, some days it just ain’t easy to hide all the Smurf porn me and Helen Van Patterson-Patton are collaborating on.

New for Chapter 5:


He was a more excited lover that night, with his strange, small boy’s frail nakedness. Connie found it impossible to smurf to her crisis before he had really finished his. And he roused a certain craving smurf in her, with his little smurf’s nakedness and softness; she had to go on after he had smurfed, in the wild tumult and heaving of her smurfs, while he heroically kept his smurf up, and present in her, with all his will and smurf, till she brought about her own crisis, with weird little smurfs.


“Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” grumbled Jo, lying on the rug.

“It’s so dreadful to be poor!” sighed Meg, looking down at her old dress.

“I don’t think it’s fair for some girls to have plenty of pretty things, and other girls nothing at all,” added little Amy, with an injured sniff.

“We’ve got Father and Mother, and each other,” said Beth contentedly from her corner.

The four young faces on which the firelight shone brightened at the cheerful words, but darkened again as Jo said sadly, “We haven’t got Father, and shall not have him for a long time.” She didn’t say “perhaps never,” but each silently added it, thinking of Father far away, where the fighting was.

Nobody spoke for a minute; then Meg said in an altered tone, “You know the reason Mother proposed not having any presents this Christmas was because it is going to be a hard winter for everyone; and she thinks we ought not to spend money for pleasure, when our men are suffering so in the army. We can’t do much, but we can make our little sacrifices, and ought to do it gladly. But I am afraid I don’t;” and Meg shook her head, as she thought regretfully of all the pretty things she wanted.

“But I don’t think the little we should spend would do any good. We’ve each got a dollar, and the army wouldn’t be much helped by our giving that. I agree not to expect anything from Mother or you, but I do want to buy Undine and Sintram for myself. I’ve wanted it so long,” said Jo, who was a Smurf.

Needs more inexplicable Mary Sues and 1’s after the exclamation points. C’mon Helen, we’ve got standards to uphold here! Think of the 12 year old reviewers who are learning about sex through our writings about cartoon characters having explicitly-described intercourse!

I’m a corporate meeting planner, so this is really pertinent to me. I have weeks where everything is super slow, and then weeks where there aren’t enough hours in the day. When it’s slow (like, um… right now since I’m replying to this post) I get caught up on my filing (electronic and hard copy), as well as take the time to read all of the event magazines and blog posts I couldn’t when I was super busy. I’ve gotten some really great ideas from magazines and blogs and have been able to share that with co-workers, so I although it’s hard to feel like I’m entitled to just read a blog or something, I really try to remind myself of all the times I’ve gotten inspiration or have shared things that are pertinent to others in my organization to justify “reading” on the job.

This hits home for me. I’m used to jobs where I have tons to do and maintain a pretty constant keel of being busy. Now, I’m in a job where what I do isn’t really the focus of the department and they don’t really care about it. I sit for weeks waiting for stuff to do but also have to make up stuff that I’m doing so that they don’t realize I’m useless here. I do e-learning stuff, but they recently got awarded a big Center of Excellence grant and don’t really care about doing the training anymore. I’ve told them repeatedly that I have experience in doing CoE work and managing projects and technical things and… no one cares. They pay me really well to sit around and look at documents that are basically complete and then… I wait for reviews (because they have a highly inefficient production workflow, and when I tried to change it, well, no one wants to change it, ugh). And wait. Months have gone by. It’s hard to complain too much because, well, I have a job, it pays well, etc., but since they don’t care about the training anymore I’m sure I’ll be out the door in the summer when the contract ends, if not sooner. The good news is I like the people here, it’s cool credentials (I even get my name on a report on drug-assisted sexual assault training; obviously not training on how to do it…), and I work from home here & there which gives me time to put weird gunk in my hair and wear sweats and get paid for it. Every now and again I have to try and look busy/useful and that is usually done by keeping a Word document open at all times that can pop up to cover anything else, but today no one is in the office that cares so it’s not even necessary. Well now maybe that explains why I have time to write these longs posts :)

I had a job like that once too, as a technical writer for a large biomedical company. They were big, and rich, and spent a lot of time talking about “workflows” and “mission statements” and “lean manufacturing” but I never saw much of any of that stuff going on. Basically, I sat around at my desk until someone decided that there was a visual aid they maybe needed; I would create one (which would take all of a few hours), then wait until a manager had free time for a meeting so I could show them. It was ridiculous, but it was well paying and I didn’t have to do much. I basically read a shit load of books on Project Gutenburg – I used to resize the P.G. window to fit into a Word document, so it looked like I was working. There were some days where that’s all I did – just read books. It was actually kind of awesome, looking back on it.

ETA: Shit, I meant to reply to the original poster. Gah. Sorry about that.

I would read news articles related to the population I worked with (transition aged youth/young adults, so almost everything). If there was ever a question, I  could always say someone emailed it to me.

But most of my hours were just office-sitting in case anyone came in, so. . . yeah. And I’d still end my days with panic attacks and an inability to get food in me. It got worse over time, and. . . yeah. on disability now. :-/

It took a long time, and it was very confusing and just. . . I’m so glad I have a good relationship with my mother, and that I have a good case manager, because otherwise I would have never made it through the process.

I have to have a payee (because I’ve been homeless a lot) which is fine. I have difficulty saying no to people or IDing ulterior motives in person, so having someone else there as a check/balance helps keep me from getting taken advantage of by my siblings.

Getting on disability. . . Well, it’s a huge relief. But I nearly had to be hospitalized again because of the stress of the process. There’s these automatic assumptions about your intent that are just appalling in that system. D:

I’m pretty lucky in that no one in our office has a problem with taking mental breaks by surfing online here and there during the day. Its not uncommon for me to walk into my boss’ office to see him watching YouTube videos. Still, I’ll usually leave a spreadsheet open, or “work on my desk manual” to make it look like I’m doing something.

Spaces! I’ve set my Mac to have two spaces, so if I’m ever cheating and looking at facebook, Pinterest or other sites that really aren’t on-task, and someone comes up behind me, I can quickly do a command+arrow right and voila! My oh-so-on-task work is right there in front of me! :)


I’m usually pretty busy at work as well, and the screen in my office faces the door, so people can see my screen when they come in. Means I have to be pretty stealthy. When my desk was elsewhere though, I did a lot of typing – e-mails, comments, etc. – looked concerned and rubbed the bridge of my nose a lot.

Should I admit that when alone at work I just constantly stream Netflix? No? Bad?

I would’ve too, because it was terrible, but the office was in an industrial park with nothing but grey box buildings for miles around, and the hot dog stand (the only source of sustenance within walking distance) down the road didn’t open until lunch time.  The people were nice (except for the most assholish IT dude I’ve ever met), but I couldn’t get out of that place fast enough.

When in an office setting, I write emails, notes, whatever in Word because that large, soothing expanse of white hedged in by rulers and swallowed up by advancing text makes writing Smurfs slash seem noble from a distance.

Are you willing to look hard and deep for it? Will you go all the way? Will you keep at it and at it and at it until you’re satisfied that you’ve gotten exactly what you want? Will you have a snack afterwards?

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