The Look of Busy

In honor of Labor Day, I thought only it fitting to share a story from my days of being a civil cervant.

The toil of working hard at not working.

While riding the train home from the University, I noticed an ad up for Diana Krall’s CD – “Look of Love“. She was displaying the look of love while posing for the picture.

I don’t have this look.

When I rise out of bed like she was, I have the look of frumpled

  • Frumpled – (fuh-rum-pull-duh) This look is a hybrid between frumpy and crumpled and most often comes from a ponytail battling a pillow for eight hours straight. It is also possible makeup was worn to bed and was an unfortunate victim in the good fight of sleep.

Since I don’t have the “Look of Love”, I pondered on what looks I do have;  one popped into my mind right away. While working for the government, I had to develop and hone the “Look of Busy”.

The “Look of Busy” is a necessary evil while working for the government.

During my first few months at the government, I kept asking for more work, completing things way before they were due always let people know that I had more time, a lot more time, to do much more work. My inquiries for more work were met with scorn and disdain.

I quickly came to realize that the government enjoyed moving slower than a water buffalo in wet cement. I swallowed my protests and started to meet the expectation of not getting much done. It was completely counterintuitive to me, but it was the only way to make it.

Survival of the bureaucrat. 

If you ask for more work, complete your projects on time, or *GASP* before they are due, people start to think you are slightly dull and quite possibly mentally challenged. After all, the work is just “so hard and complex!”. Obviously, the only reason I was finishing on time or early was because I wasn’t doing it correctly and I am dumb.

In a sheer act of self preservation, I developed the “Look of Busy”.

The “Look of Busy” is complex and takes years to perfect.

Stage 1 – Furrow your brow when people talk to you or give you work to complete.

Stage 2 – Bring 5 inch binders packed full of useless documents printed from the internet to all meetings. Make sure to shuffle through them constantly. Intermitted muttering and copious note taking at the meetings should also be introduced during this stage. Some people have found loud, mournful sighing helpful.

Stage 3 – Create a disarray of papers, file folders, and reports on your desk that have no use whatsoever. People will steer clear of your desk because you are already working so hard.

Stage 4 – When management gives you new things to do, give extended project deadlines.

Well, that would take a non-busy person about 3 weeks to complete. Today is February 12….taking my workload into consideration *SIGH* I could probably get it to you by September 21. It’s literally the best I can do.

Stage 5 – Create fake meetings to fill up your calendar so that when people go to book a meeting with you your schedule is completely full. Put the most unimportant, benign things you do in your calendar. Those that hold a PhD in the “Look of Busy” have calendars like this:

8:30 – 9:00 – Arrive at work (late)
9:00 – 10:00 – Fill water bottle from water cooler on opposite side of the floor and see how everyone is doing on the way back.
10:00 – 10:30 – Coffee break
10:30 – 12:00 – Check email, make personal phone calls to relatives in different countries and pay bills.
12:00 – 1:30 – Extended lunch
1:30 – 3:00 – Print off useless documents from the internet and shuffle papers
3:00 – 3:30 – Another coffee break
3:30 – 4:15 – Do a few moments of actual work and turn it in late due to the ‘hectic schedule” of all government employees.
4:15 – 4:30 – Leave work (early)

I only made it to Stage 3, but I still nearly died in a slow, non productive way.

Now all I can do is feel sorry for them as they work diligently at not working. It feels great to be able to work hard and reap the benefits of it all.

In fact, owning my own business doesn’t even feel like work to me.

  • Do what you love, love what you do.

Have you ever had to use the ‘Look of Busy?

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  1. Yes, I can relate to this – but in a very different way! At my last job I would often be so busy that it would make me physically sick. Any time I managed to actually clear my to-do list, I knew more work would imminently be dumped upon me. I would do anything to look desparately busy to hold off the onslaught for an hour or two.

    As a random aside, a guy I knew once serenedaded me with the Look of Love. I was in a group of girlfriends and he sung the whole thing to me, complete with a musician in the background! It was very sweet but also embarrassing haha!

  2. This is something I can definitely elate to…Im happy to say I moved positions where work is valued and twiddling thumbs is not!

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