If you're gainfully employed and reading this, odds are you shirk responsibility most of the time and get *maybe* an hours worth of real work done in per day. Congrats! You're pretty awesome.
But there are always those times when you hear someone around the corner....is it your boss? The talkative coworker? The nudge who always complains about not being appreciated? Regardless, you probably don't want them to think you just stare at your screen all day, idly looking at the bottom-right of your screen...begging for 5 pm to roll around so you can go home and probably get right back on your computer and do nothing.
In those instances, I've devised some easy strategies to employ when you think someone is coming by to check on you / talk:
1) Put a pen in your mouth - you're way too busy to have the pen just laying there on your desk! Having a pen in your mouth while typing something on the screen implies that you *will* be writing something shortly. Your boss see the pen and think' "Wow! What a forward thinker and a multi-tasker is what you are!"
2) Reach for a blank sheet of paper and start writing something vigorously - it really doesn't matter what you write (not as if they're going to actually look at your paper)...just scribble something. Draw circles, it doesn't matter. What matters is that it it *appears* as though you actually are doing something productive.
3) While staring at your screen, quickly mumble as though you are proof-reading an email - "Thank you again for your time. I hope to hear from you soon. All the best, ______" should cut it. Then press down on your mouse really hard as though you're sending it. It'll look even better if you hav a pen in your mouth while doing this.
4) Email your boss random, job-related questions every other day - it shows you're staying on top of your job, inflates your bosses ego, and will keep him/her off your back. *Warning* Your boss may follow up with you with regards to some of the questions you send. So be cautious and send innocuous questions and requests like "Do youXXXXXX's contact info," "Are we still on for later?" "I just got the info on XXXXX, please advise how to proceed."
5) At random points throughout the work-week, loudly curse at your computer - You may already do this, but just in case, this is a surefire way to make believe you actually care about what you're doing. After all, why would anyone curse at their computer screen if they were doing nothing? A random "GOD DAMN IT!" or "****!" will likely suffice. When someone pops their head up and asks what's the matter, just say "Sorry, nothing....just gets frustrating sometimes." Vague, involved, emotional. Perfect.
6) Take advantage of that stockpile of Post-Its in your desk - On one, write someone's name and a phone number. On another, the name of a company and their main line. On yet another, in bold print, write out "DO NOT FORGET TO FAX PATTY THE PLANS!!!" Then stick them in random places around your desk / cubicle. You can go in so many different directions with this.
7) Keep a day planner on your desk in front of you - Write random plans throughout the week in different color ink so it would appear as though you wrote them in at different times. Ideas? At 3pm on Wednesday you have a conference call with Jim and Alex from accounting. At 9am on Friday you have to be at 1443 Broadway to meet with a prospective client. Again, use your imagination here.
8) Have a bottle of water nearby - When the bossman rolls by, start chugging. Drinking water implies that you're parched from talking so much. When he/she stops at your desk, say "sorry, wow, been on the phone all morning. <clear your throat> What's up?"
9) Always keep a random article from Yahoo Finance tabbed - For instance: http://finance.yahoo.com/q/op?s=HPQ
. You'll likely need to quickly change screens when people are coming by. If you work for a publicly traded company, boom, you're doing research on your own firm. Way to be on top of current news! You are SUCH a good employee.
10) Have a random gym bags near your desk - Fill it with twinkies, it doesn't matter. People see a gym bag and they assume you're going to the gym. If they assume you're going to the gym, they'll assume you're an active person. If they assume you're an active person, they'll assume you wouldn't waste time futzing around on the computer. So not only do they think you work out, but they also admire you work ethic. Gym bags...they're like nature's way of saying "you're special"
Now get to work and stop working!