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That Guy’s Tips for Faking It: Research Thoroughly May 1, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Pictures, Tips for Corporate Success, Tips for Faking It, Wasting Time.
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This is the fourth and final entry in “That Guy’s Tips for Faking It”, a week’s worth of useful tricks to get out of working too hard while also looking like you’re worth keeping around. I may do more of these again in the future.

Research Thoroughly

Randall Munroe, artist/author of the webcomic XKCD, explained how to waste time with research via this useful illustration:

Before you start any new project, it’s important to know if any new techniques have come along for you to make it work better, faster, or smarter. It’s also important to do market research; it’s highly likely you’ll still have to do the same job, but imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and, if you believe Stephen King, there are only six themes anyway, so you’re bound to copy one. Obviously, King was talking about writing, but let’s be realistic: how many different ways can you mock up an ad? Or fill out an expense report? Or lay out a website in a way that your boss (and, more importantly, his boss) will say “great idea” instead of “dude, WTF?”

You’ve got the internet at your desk, right? If you don’t, you certainly should. And if you haven’t got a whole folder of bookmarks, then you’re doing something wrong. Before you start, hit the internet. Do your research. Check your Google news keyword catcher. Review your RSS feeds. Look around at what other people are doing. And if you happen to see a link to an unrelated site, don’t avoid it. Click it. Check out that site. Link farther and farther away from your comfort zone until you can’t see it without a telescope.

If your boss happens by, you’re doing research and trying to find new ideas.

See? That was easy. And fun, too! You might even have learned something about William Howard Taft along the way.

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That Guy’s Tips for Faking It: Plan Lunch Carefully April 30, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Tips for Corporate Success, Tips for Faking It, Wasting Time.
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This is the fourth entry in “That Guy’s Tips for Faking It”, a week’s worth of useful tricks to get out of working too hard while also looking like you’re worth keeping around.

Plan Lunch Carefully

While your boss is doing this, you could be surfing the net with impunity. (Photo by Tim Schapker)

While your boss is doing this, you could be surfing the net with impunity. (Photo by Tim Schapker)

When it comes right down to it, you report to one boss. Maybe two. But you’re not a manager. You’re a peon. Managers go out to lunch for more than an hour, pay on their corporate cards, stroll back in, and take half an hour to get back up to speed from all the e-mail accumulated in their inboxes. You, on the other hand, eat at your desk, in the break room, or (if you’re lucky) out on the patio, or you zip out to Wendy’s for a burger that you know you’ll regret later. But if you plan your lunch carefully, you can gain almost a full hour of down-time and still get paid for it.

First and foremost, keep a granola bar or two in your desk; you may end up going to lunch far later than you’d like to pull this off. Don’t forget that.

Now… watch your boss. Watch what time he* leaves for lunch. Watch what time he comes back. Figure out where he goes — is he more likely to eat fast food, medium food, or a real restaurant meal? Does he go by himself, or with the same crew, or with different people each day? Does he go early or late? Notice and record all of these things.

Then start planning.

The key here is to either leave within five minutes of your boss’s return to the office or vice versa. When your boss isn’t around, it becomes exponentially easier to goof off; all you have to do if a co-worker drops by is have a tab with Cute Overload or CNN open and flip to it. If the co-worker asks what you’re doing, show a cute picture of a kitten or a news story about the President**. Other managers probably don’t care as long as you look like you’re working, so as long as there’s not nudity or YouTube on your screen, you should be fine.

One more thing: bosses are known to change things up. Don’t lose track of your boss’s habits, or you could find him over your shoulder when you least expect it, and that defeats the purpose of faking it.

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* Or she, but typing s/he always takes so long. Just go with me here.

** Whether the target is a Republican or Democrat, this will instill confidence in you as a peer that you’re taking an interest in world events. This sometimes works on bosses too. As for the kittens… well, cuteness releases serotonin, and most people in offices need to relax anyway.

That Guy’s Tips for Faking It: Underpromise and Overdeliver April 29, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Tips for Corporate Success, Tips for Faking It, Wasting Time.
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This is the third entry in “That Guy’s Tips for Faking It”, a week’s worth of useful tricks to get out of working too hard while also looking like you’re worth keeping around.

When it Comes to Deadlines, Underpromise and Overdeliver

You’ve probably figured this one out — hell, my boss has made this the watchword of our department — but if you’re not underpromising and overdelivering on your deadlines, then you’re doing it wrong.

See, here’s the thing: you may do great work. You may do fast work. But if you consistently work fast and exceptionally, people are going to set that as the baseline and force you to do even better. You got hired, though, by showing off your very best work. Why should you have to do that all the time? You certainly didn’t do it at your old job.

But you don’t want to do crappy work, either. That’s the fastest way to get canned short of budget cuts or grabbing someone’s ass.

James Doohan as Captain Montgomery Scott

James Doohan as Captain Montgomery Scott

You may remember in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, Scotty says “but you dinna have eight weeks, so I’ll do it for ye in two” and Admiral Kirk says, “Mr. Scott, have you always multiplied your repair estimates by a factor of four?”

The answer?

“How did ye think I kept my reputation as a miracle worker?”

Around CorporateSpeak, I’m known as the resident miracle worker — if it needs to be designed fast or well, I pull it off. If it needs to be something new that still conforms to our existing workflows, I’m your man. But I never deliver too soon, even when we’re at the last minute. I always know when the last minute is — and you should too — so that you can deliver about an hour before that. Not only does it give you the reputation as the person who gets it done right and gets it done on time, but it also gives management less time to make changes. And hey, if they do, it’s not your fault the project was late, right?

Be the miracle worker. It keeps people happy about you being there in the first place.

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That Guy’s Tips for Faking It: Sweat the Small Stuff April 28, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Tips for Corporate Success, Tips for Faking It, Wasting Time.
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This is the second entry in “That Guy’s Tips for Faking It”, a week’s worth of useful tricks to get out of working too hard while also looking like you’re worth keeping around.

Sweat the Small Stuff

CC-licensed photo by Roshan Vyas

CC-licensed photo by Roshan Vyas

One of the tricks to keeping your job isn’t a trick at all: just be so good at what you do that you make it impossible to fire you. But once you pull that off, you’ll realize that you work too fast and have too much down-time. You don’t want your boss to realize that.

So sweat the small stuff.

When you get a project, go through your usual project tasks. Just don’t finish it. Leave one — or, even better, three or four — small, relatively-easy things to fix up or polish, so that when your boss comes by, it looks like you’re actually working on something. It’s even better if it’s visual, so you can be saving, refreshing, checking, changing and so on. Designers in particular benefit from sweating the small stuff because they really do have to work hard on colors, sizes, and placements. Coders can pretend to be testing out new code, come up with an error, and then say “well, I was testing out this new thing, but it didn’t work, so I’m going to do it the way I did that last project”.

Trust me. There are dozens of ways to sweat the small stuff. Just so long as it looks like you’re actually working when your boss — or anyone else — strolls by. That’s the important part.

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That Guy’s Tips for Faking It: Introduction April 27, 2009

Posted by That Guy in Seen Elsewhere, Tips for Corporate Success, Tips for Faking It, Wasting Time.
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It takes a lot of work to fake it in this economy, but rather than actually working harder, it benefits your huge amount of goof-off time to work smarter. SpikeTV has ten tips; here are some of the best:

9. Plan an Escape Route: This is basically straight out of Office Space. When Peter knows Lumbergh is going to ask him to work the weekend, what is the first thing he does? Plan an elaborate exit strategy. Getting out of work quickly and quietly is more important and more complex than an Iraq exit strategy.

This is vital. Know where the exits are, but better, know the way to walk around the office and stay out of sight. Here at CorporateSpeak, behind the content department’s reception desk is a wall of monitors. I can sneak behind them and get out of here without anyone noticing.

6. CC Ceaselessly and With Impunity: Copying your boss on emails is a good way to let him know you’re active. In Sloane Crosley’s essay The Ursula Cookie, she describes the worst boss imaginable. One of the things Ursula constantly says is that she has no idea what her employee does all day. Well if she got 200 copied emails about the minutia of her day, not only would she know, but she’d likely give her a little space.

The real trick is to make sure your boss is included on every decision you might possibly make. That way, instead of starting your project, you can say “well, I didn’t start because I wanted to make sure you were on board with my plan.” That’ll give you at least half an hour of goof-off time if you play your cards right.

The article also suggests you become a smoker so you can take smoke breaks, but with more and more companies instituting penalties for smoking on the job, that’s likely not your best option. Plus it’s unhealthy, and if you have kids, in some states smoking could be construed as a form of child abuse or (especially in our divorce-crazy country) count against you in custody battles.

For the rest of the week, I’m going to present to you “That Guy’s Tips for Faking It”. Every morning you’ll get a useful tip that will help you — if you’re smart about it — keep your job, look busy, and avoid extra work.

Speaking of mornings, here’s one of my favorite parts of the old Dilbert TV show — which I do own on DVD.