Pacing yourself is essential for a long and fruitful career: in a guest post an anonymous solicitor — who writes the must-read Corporate Drone blog — sets out the tricks
1. Medieval kings would build their castles on hills
The location of your desk determines how much effort you will actually need to put into looking busy. Medieval kings would build their castles on hills as the naturally elevated land would allow the easiest defence. You must do the same with your desk. Always look for the high-ground.
The natural desk features to look for are:
Hidden screens. Only you should be able to see your screens — this speaks for itself. Your boss might not appreciate funny cat compilation videos as much as you do.
Secluded location. You do not want to be next to a walkway, a kitchen, a printer or any other area that experiences high footfall. A separate point — if you are stuck next to a printer, not only will you have to endure annoying noise and regular incursions of your territorial waters by nosey colleagues, you will also become the de facto maintenance help-desk for the printer itself. God forbid you become known as the chap who “is good with technology”.
Easy escape and entry points. You want to be able to come and go without your bosses noticing. Being late is a non-issue if you can covertly make it to your desk via a neighbouring emergency stairwell. Ideally, combine this with a tactical knowledge of the building’s back channels; this will allow you easily to escape on a Friday evening without running the risk of bumping into your superiors in the lobby.
Sadly, choice of desk is likely to be completely out of your control, unless your office is embracing a culture of “hot-desking”. In any event, always be prepared to move to a better desk if the opportunity presents itself. Keep personal belongings and clutter to a minimum. Depending the desk competition from your colleagues, it may be an idea to keep a “bug out bag” to hand so you can evacuate your old desk and colonise a new one as efficiently as possible.
2. Have a good poker face
Never say you are not busy. The ears of all partners/bosses within a 50-metre radius will prick up like a pack of Arctic wolves hearing a distant cry of distress from beached seal pup. You won’t be able to escape.
Always be as vague as possible when asked what you’re working on. You never know whether you’re going to be lumbered with a total “hospital pass” of a job or, conversely, given a really fun piece of work.
Being vague with your busyness levels gives you time to carry out some basic reconnaissance to decipher the true intentions of your boss. If you realise the job will be fun, accept it. If you realise it’s going to destroy your soul/kill your evening or weekend, then amp up your busyness façade and the job should filter down to the next sucker who wasn’t as well prepared as you.
3. Master the Inflated Time Estimate
The following approach will allow you to i) look super efficient and/or ii) bag some invaluable chill time.
If you’re asked to give a projected timescale on when you can deliver something:
a) Calculate the average required time for completion of the given task (“Genuine Time Estimate”).
b) Taking into consideration: i) the importance of task, ii) how busy you are, iii) how productive you are feeling and iv) how much you can realistically exaggerate, add 50-200% additional time to the Genuine Time Estimate (“Inflated Time Estimate”).
c) Report and commit to the Inflated Time Estimate with your superiors, clients etc.
d) Under optimal conditions you will complete the task near to the Genuine Time Estimate. You can then chose between: i) looking super productive by beating your time estimate or ii) using your time surplus to sit back, chill, browse tinder, go to the gym or just frankly space out. I’d recommend a combination of both.
4. Invest in a leather bound notepad
Appearance matters. Carrying a pen and paper will give the impression that you’re off to do something of at least mild importance … when actually you could be nipping out to the gym or off to meet a mate at Starbucks. You can stash your pen and paper on your way in and out of the building if necessary. If you’ve opted for a “sawn off” style A5 size notebook then you should be able comfortably to holster this in your jacket.
If you’re serious about deception, invest in your equipment. In the vacuum-like environment of the office, small subtleties can make a big difference. A leather bound notepad (and I’m thinking something along the lines of Tom Riddle’s diary from the Harry Potter movies) will yield better results than an discount value, ring bound, 60gsm notepad.
5. Walk really really fast
Simple but effective. Best combined with tip four above.
Be it to the printer (which, as we’ve already established, shouldn’t be next to your desk) or to meetings (real or fake), your walking speed should be f*cking quick.
Unless you’re creating air turbulence around you, you ain’t going fast enough. Unsecured paper on nearby surfaces should be blown into the air as you pass. But don’t literally run; you don’t want any beef with the overzealous health and safety brigade. One foot must be in connection with the ground at all times.
Your supersonic walking speed will add to the illusion of your busyness and will also decrease the likelihood of you being stopped by one of your bosses mid-walk. You’ll be power walking off over the horizon before their brain’s language centre has had time to formulate words.
Plus if you’re walking at the correct speed, they aren’t going to want to collide with you …
5 bad things about being a City lawyer that nobody tells you about [Legal Cheek]