1. Always walk around the office with a sense of urgency.
It doesn’t matter where you’re going: a meeting, the bathroom, the vending machine or on some random stroll around the office. When you walk the halls, keep a brisk pace. If someone tries to stop you for a chat, give that person a quick hello or wave without missing a step. You’re too busy to talk and can’t waste one second lollygagging around.
2. Always keep a stack of paper or binders in your hand while away from your desk.
The papers can be blank, or the binder empty. It doesn’t matter. No one will know. Better yet, stuff the papers into the binder. Either way, it will look like work. This is especially important when hanging out at a coworker’s cubicle or workstation. An armful of paper makes it looks like you’re talking about work when you’re really just talking about how wrong America was for not choosing your favorite person to win the Voice.
3. While at your desk, run the tape on your adding machine with random calculations (if applicable).
Not only does it make you look busy, it makes you sound busy. Rip the tape off and sigh loudly every few minutes to make it seem like you’re working diligently to solve some major problem.
4. Stare intently at your computer screen.
Keep your hand on the mouse and click three quick times. Then feverishly type on your keyboard. Repeat. To be even more convincing, open an email draft and start typing stuff. Create a shopping list or something.
5. Constantly write things on Post-it notes.
This is clutch if you don’t use an adding machine or computer at work. You can use them to jot down that shopping list or a playlist you want to create on your iPod. Perhaps you want to practice your signature or come up with a list of potential names for the kids you plan to have one day. Or, maybe you just want to doodle. Whatever you do, keep that pen moving. Make sure at the end of the day to collect all your notes. You don’t want any evidence of your busy work laying around for prying eyes.
6. Do the ol’ shuffle-some-random-papers–on-your-desk routine.
Pick up that trusty blank stack and rearrange them. Then, straighten the stack by tapping it loudly on your desk. Follow that by stapling a few pages together and tearing them apart. Finally, crumple up a page or two and discard them by shooting them into your wastebasket thus allowing you to both look busy and practice that terrible jumper of yours. This is key since busy people are great at multitasking and finding new ways to improve.
7. Always keep a coffee cup (empty or full) on your desk.
You’re working hard, after all, and you constantly need that energy boost to get you through your ridiculously busy day. From time to time, pick up that cup and slowly sip from it while you stare at your computer screen.
8. Wear your glasses.
Even if they’re just for reading, keep them on. Always. And if you don’t need them, buy a fake pair. Busy people wear glasses.
9. Don’t talk. Don’t say a peep.
If a coworker calls your name, ignore her. When she comes to your desk, pop your head up from your pad of post its, computer monitor, or adding machine with a surprised look on your face. Apologize and explain how all this work has made you completely oblivious to world.
10. Use your cell phone to call your desk phone.
Answer it and carry on a fake conversation. Keep it brief and throw in a “right, yes, and ok” every few words or so. End the conversation with “I’ll get right on it”, and clumsily hang up the phone. Throw in one of those loud sighs for good measure. It seems the boss has just assigned you with yet another project that is sure to keep you busy for the rest of the day.