Project Practitioners > Who Else is Pretending?

Who Else is Pretending?

By Chris Cook, PMP

READ TIME: 5 minutes


Pretending to work while at work. Life’s ultimate quandary.


You have eight hours between those four walls and only two hours of work. How do you spend the other six? Some of you may have guessed how these articles are written.


That’s right. Under the guise of me emailing. Typing is typing. It looks the same from the outside, so I take advantage.


It is not as if this time could be used to schedule vendors or purchase materials because those tasks are completed. This ‘wait and see’ stage is when I put fingers to keys and start spewing information. When a new work order comes in, I promptly divert my attention towards it to take care of it.


Until then, you are reading the product of me pretending to work. It got me thinking ‘Am I the only one who pretends to work while accomplishing other tasks unrelated?’ I assume not but am curious to find out.


In these down times, people have many options for pretending while still accomplishing. This balance of life and work is adulting at its finest.


Let’s explore a few ways to pretend while watching the clock approach quitting time.



  1. Learn

Language is my favorite downtime learning activity. German, for my heritage, and Portuguese, for jiu jitsu, are the two I am slowly but surely racking my brain in all directions.


Duolingo, a language learning application, is downloaded on my work phone. It appears as if I am communicating with a vendor or subcontractor when I am really expanding my knowledge base.


The work phone becomes a distraction for the wandering eyes of senior management. Work phone equals work; otherwise, why would it be called a work phone?


Interspersed between lessons I will answer an email or text that comes through on the work phone just to have a backup case when eventually those wandering eyes see some unrelated work activities. Again, this game of cat and mouse should be understood, but some bosses just do not seem to understand it.


  1. Read

Staring at your computer screen is a requirement of the best of the nonworking activities. What better way to stare at something than to read it? Be it the latest sports scores or celebrity gossip, reading helps.


You see an interesting article that catches your eye. Take some time to read it, so you have something to talk about other than the latest project drama or vendor conflict. One of the worst scenarios to be stuck in is the work lunch where everyone is talking about work.


Isn’t lunch supposed to be a time away from work where you can collect your thoughts and recharge? Instead, people start to bring work to nonwork functions. If only they took the five minutes to read about the latest scandal or silly meme going around they might be more interesting to talk to.


  1. Write

Journaling helps to clear your mind of the many different directions it wants to take you. Does not have to be work-related, but again, the appearance of work is important.


This article is being written on company time with company equipment while toeing the line of realistic production. Creative minds get bogged down with mundane office tasks. To keep creatives interested, you must let them spread their wings.


Giving a creative type 15 minutes to write uninterrupted is all that person needs to give you two crucial hours in the afternoon. If you continue to bog someone down with peering eyes and grade school tasks, these individuals become frustrated and quit.


Let them write or draw or color or any other creative outlet that keeps them sane. Not everyone loves their job. Do not be another reason to dread the morning commute.


  1. Fun

The fun must include staring at the computer screen or work phone. If an important sporting event is on during the day, I usually have a tab open with it playing in the background.


NCAA March Madness is coming to an end but that first weekend of games should be a national holiday. No one works. They are scoreboard watching and bracket tending. They want to see how their bracket compares to their co-workers.


Play into that fact. If a boss really thinks work is being accomplished, it shows an out of touch individual. That goes for any major event or say Friday afternoons. People pretend to work most on Friday afternoons. The countdown begins after lunch and does not stop until the vehicle is heading out of the parking lot.


Rather than play boss and require individuals to stick around until the bitter end, have an early release every once in a while. Reward talent for being productive. Do not hold your team hostage because that is what the clock says to do.




Let’s stop pretending we are busy at all times of the day with our heads spinning constantly. There is always downtime. Some choose to be silent to get their minds right. Others need to check in on gossip or scores.


Pretending to work is a modern day talent. If you think all of your team members are dedicated to the project all of the time, here is your wake up call. They are definitely posting on social media and checking in with their friends.


Being a strict boss who forbids these activities is only encouraging adults to look for more creative ways to kill time. You restrict NCAA bracket sites so people cannot check them? Someone converts the bracket to an Excel file, and they do it anyways.


You do not want people on social media? Cool, they use their personal phones to check statuses and update profiles. Embrace the technology that exists. Pay for production rather than time.


Let’s hear some of your favorite ‘pretending to work’ activities!

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