Working hard, or hardly working? Around here, we like to keep our noses to the grindstone, but understand that sometimes looking like you’re working is just as much work as actually working. In this episode of 352 Noodles & Doodles, founding partner Peter VanRysdam walks us through the delicate art of Maximizing Inefficiency, something he knows about from a purely academic perspective.

Sure, we just took a crack at Groupon for trying to be cute with its marketing, but sometimes you just have to be silly. For bonus points, we included an obvious typo. Because, sure, you want to look like you’re working…just not too hard.

Transcript below.

[Peter VanRysdam]: Hi, I’m Peter VanRysdam, one of founding partners here at 352, and thank you for joining us today for Noodles & Doodles. If you’ve watched in the past, you’ve seen us teach you about everything from web design and search engine optimization, how to be a Scrum Master and work in teams – a lot of great things like that.
You might recognize me from the Nerf Gun episode, but today I’m going to talk about something really important, and something that you can put into use at your job today assuming you don’t work at 352, and that is Maximizing Inefficiency.
I should point out, it’s something that I do at 352; I’m a very hard, committed worker, and it’s something more that I would use at a job, say it’s a dead-end job that you’re not really into, and say you’re learning those other skills so you can come over to a company like 352 in the future. This is how you can look really busy and impress your coworkers.
So there’s two main elements of Maximizing Inefficiency. The first is Getting Out Things, and we’re gonna talk about that. The second, of course, is Looking Busy. So how to, when you have that free time from getting out of things, how you can actually fill that time and look busy.
Let’s talk about Getting Out of Things. The first thing you want to do is: Don’t Be a Hero, okay.
What’s going to happen in a lot of cases, someone’s going to send out an email, the boss is going to send out something, “Hey, can someone give me a hand with this, can someone go to this event?” And all you gotta do is just sit back and wait. If you give it 5-10 minutes, one of those eager go-getters is going to go ahead and email, and say, “I’ll do it, I really want to help.”
And then all you have to do is have your email ready, so immediately after that email goes out, send yours saying, “Oh, I was gonna do it, but I see that John has already volunteered – let me know if I can help.” Obviously John is not going to ask for your help.
So don’t be a hero. Someone else is going to step in.
Another way to get out of things is to boost other people’s egos. So let’s say you wait 5-10 minutes and no one else replies. You gotta say something, they know you’re in the office. So what you’re gonna want to do is say, “You know, I’d do it, but I really think Mary is really good at that, so maybe she should do it.”
And so you’re gonna boost Mary’s ego, she’s gonna be happy about that and eager to step in and do it. Again, you’ve gotten out of it. Offer to help, she’s not gonna take you up on it either.
So now that you’ve got all this free time, you want to look busy. There’s a lot of different ways to do that.
The first way, and really my favorite – from my mentor, I would say – George Constanza summed it up best in Seinfeld where he talks about how looking annoyed will help people assume that you’re busy. And let’s just take a real quick look at that clip.
[Seinfeld clip]
So obviously as you can see, George looked busy, no one’s gonna mess with him. We all know George didn’t actually do anything at work: my hero.
One of the next things you can do is set up some automatic emails. I’m not talking about out of office replies, instead you want people to think you’re busy so you can actually time emails to go out in the middle of the night, 3am, on a Saturday or Sunday, holidays. And so people will assume you’re working hard. You can do it in Outlook very easily in the options tab, you can schedule an email. There’s a plugin called Boomerang for Gmail where you can schedule things to go out whenever you want. Another great way to make people think you’re very busy.
Costanza’s Car. We already George here and look annoyed. George had another great plan that he stumbled into accidentally. He locked his keys in his car when he was working for the Yankees. George Steinbrenner sees the car is still there when he leaves at night and sees it’s there when he returns in the morning. He assumes George is the last one out and the first one in, and really praises him for his hard work.
Now, didn’t work out in the end. They thought George was dead. You want to make sure you clean off the car if you’re going to do something like that, so you don’t get all the Chinese food menus like George did on the car that shows that you’re not actually using it like George. But something like that, you can utilize public transportation or don’t come in for a few days, but people will think you’re still there.
Also kind of the same way about sending out the auto emails to show people that you’ve been working really hard at off hours, you can set off the alarm at the office
so what I’ll do, or I’m sorry what I’ve heard done is you’ll come in some time on a Saturday for 5 or 10 minutes, set off the alarm in the building, the security alarm, and in our office what happens is the CEO gets a phone call from the security company he’ll call the office then and you’ll answer and you’ll say.” I’m so sorry my brain is just so frazzled, looking at the computer screen all day and. I set off the alarm.”
They’ll assume you were there all day working hard. You can do this at all hour s f the night. Just one thing to be careful of, our office has a keycard system and it tracks when they come in and out. So just make sure if you’re going to do that, come in earlier in the day then sneak out and come back later and do the alarm thing.
When someone actually comes to your desk and wants to see that you’re working, that can be pretty dicey when you have Facebook up and things like that. is a great site for this, especially for coders, designers and programmers and people like that. Basically you can just kind of hit the keyboard and it’s just putting up code on the page and it looks like you’re writing that code.  You can just be hammering away as quickly as you want, it’s putting up fake code and anyone who is looking over your shoulder, unless they really get close and read that code and understand it, they’re going to think you’re hard at work.
Last tip works really well in our office is a headset, you have a headset with a mic and we se Skype for a lot of different call. So, someone comes up with papers in their hand, they’re going to ask you to do something and all you do is point to the headset and say something like “yeah, no I’m sorry I’m stil
l here.” And they will assume
 You’re on a call or doing something important.
Along those lines, you always want to have excuses ready when people come up to you because they might see you with your feet up or with different things on your screen. So let’s talk about a couple of different things that work in our office.
Your code is compiling – if you’re a programmer that’s something you’re definitely used to. Code is compiling you have 10-15 minutes to kill while you’re waiting to work on that code. So code compiling is a great one, but again always have some code up on the screen that you can point to.
The server is rebooting – You can’t do any work when the server is down. Or your computer is rebooting you can have the kill switch ready to go to reboot it.
Let’s say you get caught watching a YouTube video. This is a great opportunity to show how tight you are with your clients. “Oh my client sent me this video I just have to write them and say how good it was before I get back to work.” Always have that one ready.
Another great one that was suggested is, you want to move around a bit in the office see some new places. Go into a conference line and just turn the phone on speaker. And when someone walks by and asks “what are you doing?” say “oh I’m just waiting for the client to call in.” so you can just be sitting there at the conference table, that will probably get you a few hours in the day.
These are some good excuses to have ready, I’m sure you can think of some of your own that work for your industry as these couple work well in our business
Just as an example I took 3 days to put this together so and even better I could have drawn this whole thing but I said to Jennifer who is one of our Scrum Masters, I said “you know you’re really good at drawing, maybe you should do it.” And I just walk into here after three days and it’s all set to go. So I hope you’ve learned something and can use it in your job: how to maximize inefficiency.


352 is an innovation and growth firm. Leading companies hire us to find billion-dollar opportunities, build killer new products and create hockey-stick growth. We bring grit and new-fashioned thinking to innovation, digital development and growth marketing.