If you’ve ever worked in an office (the bigger the company the better) then what I’m about to talk about will be perfectly relatable – if you haven’t then you’re about to be introduced to one of the most unexciting productivity hacks ever invented. Sit tight!
As with most jobs, it’s important to be (or at least pretend to be) busy. Yes nothing impresses your boss like those emails sent in the middle of the night, when you should have been on holiday or, even better, recovering from Ebola. Office workers face the unique challenge of pretending to be busy while having no actual work to do. But hold back that sympathy because what office workers lack in a constructive contribution to society they make up in cunning sleight of hand to mislead even the sharpest middle managers.
We’ll cover the more popular tricks and then show you how you can adapt these productivity hacks to your personal life, to really help you go from suburban sloth to after-hours action man!
The circle back
As with much of the jargon you’ll find being thrown around the office, it sounds impressive–almost like you’re doing work–but is essentially no work on your part. To ‘circle back’ is to basically check in on someone later to make sure they’ve done the work.
You’ll start to realise that most of these phrases were invented by middle managers in a desperate bid to save their jobs and convince upper management they were both critical to the success of the company and actually doing actual work. Lies.
Take this offline
When running a meeting and the topic strays to something that you’re not prepared for, don’t want to discuss or just want to put off for some future, undetermined point of time the ‘let’s take it offline’ phrase is your get-out-of-jail-free card. It sounds like you’ve handled it but without anyone else ‘circling back’ to check up on you.
We’re in a holding pattern
Procrastination is a dirty word. Instead let’s say ‘we’re in a holding pattern’. It sounds more like we actually can’t do any work on this, as much as we would desperately love to. Like we’re an airline pilot and we’ve been ordered by control tower to not land because the airport is experiencing a sudden pandemic of Ebola-infected office workers.
It’s the polite way to say: Sorry folks, we’ve been ordered by a higher [unnamed] power to do nothing. Another flat white anyone?
We don’t have the bandwidth
While you’re actually saying you’re too busy for whatever someone is asking you to do, when you phrase it like this you will hardly ever be questioned. It’s like some unwritten law that when you play the bandwidth card it trumps everything else, and it is pretty much illegal to question it.
So there you go, if the bandwidth gods have decided you don’t have the time to work on something then just accept it. And look at them like they should just accept it to. Nothing to see here.
We’re working on the brief
This is one of my favourite lines because it actually sounds like you’re doing work – of course it’s not the work work that’s being done but the thinking about work work – which is not work at all. It’s the quiet contemplation of what work could be achieved if we were to actually do some actual work, which can be strangely satisfying depending on how vivid your imagination is.
We’re working with the agency
Another goodie, with the word ‘work’ slipped in to convey the idea of some solid effort going on here. Nice. Except working with the agency generally means you sent the agency an email and you’re just waiting around for them to complete the job.
It could be awhile but that’s fine because as long as the job’s out you’re considered busy, and then when the work comes back, overdue, overpriced and under par (typical agency stuff), you can present it as your own (unless it’s really under par in which case you blame it squarely on the agency, and drag it out for another couple of weeks while you continue to “work” with the agency to get it right, or “work” to find another agency). Priceless!
Let’s get the low-hanging fruit
I actually don’t mind this one because it has more of a ring of honesty about it than other office jargon. Like the analogy suggests you don’t want to put in a massive amount of effort here, no tree-climbing required – just pick off those proverbial plums without breaking a sweat while you make your way to the coffee machine.
The real work, you’ll tell yourself, is identifying the low-hanging fruit, so while you’re not doing much you’ll feel like it’s a massive contribution. Win win!
Let’s end this wrap-up of office productivity phrases with one that sets us up nicely for the future … because so much can be done in the future – it’s the present where we want to avoid work. So use the expression ‘going forward’ liberally.
It’s the promise of a new day, a new beginning, of even greater productivity and world-shattering achievements.
However, all this talk about work is making me break into a bit of a sweat, so I might just take this unbridled optimism offline and circle back to check we’re all going forward together. Got it?
Making office productivity hacks work at home
Of course, it’s all very well using all this fancy productivity jargon around the office to get work done but what about at home? Can it work just as well? Could this be the miracle cure to never-ending to-do lists and tedious household chores?
The short answer is: of course not. These hacks only work in places where all that is required is the illusion of work. At home you just won’t get away with it but it’s worth a try right?
If your flatmate, spouse or partner asks you to sort out the lawns firstly assure them that you’re on the same page, you’ll pick the low-hanging fruit, you’ll take it offline, write a brief and then circle back to make sure the agency took care of it.
Of course–going forward–you might just find it easier to go out there and mow the damn lawns.