Help me find something to do while I wait for the work to appear.
April 22, 2004 4:29 AM   Subscribe

How do I goof off at work? (mi)

I would normally just go online, but the firewall is extremely rigid about what I am allowed to visit.

So I have a lot of time on my hands, a lot of nothing going on, and I need something to do to keep me from falling asleep while I wait for the work to come in. I can't keep playing Solitaire...
posted by Katemonkey to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (23 answers total)
Oh, and it's not like I'm slacking off while I'm supposed to be doing work -- I'm just apparently doing things faster than they can produce them. So I'm trying to find something to do while I wait for the work to appear. Any new hobbies I can pick up?
posted by Katemonkey at 4:33 AM on April 22, 2004

Can you use VNC/SSH/etc to tunnel to your home machine to surf? That's what I used to do.
posted by Jairus at 4:34 AM on April 22, 2004

Or try and be productive - learn something new?
posted by snowgoon at 4:40 AM on April 22, 2004

You could knit.
Do you want something that won't be obviously "not work"? Knitting is pretty hard to disguise. You could listen to your local public radio station while knitting, or, if you need to seem like you're working, you could listen to books on tape while you read photocopied magazine articles.
posted by nprigoda at 4:44 AM on April 22, 2004

What I did about one or two years ago when I was working as a PowerBuilder programmer and waiting for analysis from another department was to install Apache on my desktop, and use it as a local webserver to write and test Perl-based dynamic websites. This allowed me to work on my own projects, but not generate any suspicious traffic; while at the same time doing something productive that ultimately helped me improve my programming skills (and therefore, benefitted my employer - at least, more than if I had played FreeCell).
posted by ckemp at 4:54 AM on April 22, 2004

Even if you can't install a webserver, you can mess with HTML and CSS locally. You could create a local database and organize your book/music/DVD collection. You could bring in a few digital pictures and try to learn to really push the limits of Photoshop making holiday/birthday cards or CD cases or signs for the offices. You could design a new font. You could build a menagerie of paperclip animals and then enslave them with post-it men. You could bring in a disk with a few Project Gutenberg Projects books on them and copy-edit for them. You could make a cubicle film... in fact start up an entire pre- and post-production company right at your desk, designing titles, fundraising, editing, sending out advanced copies etc. You could design and build a bunch of James Bond like devices enabling you to store reading and eating and goofing off materials cleverly inside your keyboard and monitor so that when your supervisor shows up with more work you press a button and *poof* there you are in a barren cubby, anxiously awaiting their next installment....
posted by jessamyn at 5:47 AM on April 22, 2004

You could build a menagerie of paperclip animals and then enslave them with post-it men.
I know what I'm doing today at work : >

also, how about writing a book? or your autobiography/journal? or taking freelance writing assignments or something? or designing your own game?
posted by amberglow at 5:54 AM on April 22, 2004

Is your job description one that would conceivably allow you to read any works of nonfiction for the purposes of "functional development training," etc.? Things are pretty slow at my job lately, and I've been going through about 100 pages a day. (Sitting in a chair with my back to the cubicle entrance and a suitable Word document on my computer screen, so that people don't ask too many questions.)

On preview: amberglow also has a good idea. Now may be the time to rediscover the pleasures of writing in longhand, which will impress your superiors with your fierce dedication, as long as they don't know what you're writing. (Also, if your job is like mine, anything you do on their computers is the company's property, and you don't want to deal with that.)
posted by Prospero at 5:58 AM on April 22, 2004

Books on CD? I have several thousand classics on one disc I got from the bargain bin of an Office Max or somesuch. They hurt my eyes, so I often just read paper books...

Or you could always write.
posted by Shane at 6:40 AM on April 22, 2004

learn to play ukulele*? ;)

if you're not too loud and the instrument is not too big, I'd think about learning to play an instrument. or learn a language.

*(loved the post really, thanks again!)
posted by matteo at 7:39 AM on April 22, 2004

Is your job description one that would conceivably allow you to read any works of nonfiction for the purposes of "functional development training," etc.?

Screw that, read whatever you want, just hide it inside a clean white binder if you feel compelled to look busy.

Also, plasticine clay. Sculpt likenesses of your coworkers. They don't have to be good, just mean.
posted by furiousthought at 7:41 AM on April 22, 2004

it depends a lot on what your workspace is like.

writing is easy to conceal, since it just looks and sounds like typing, so it's good for killing time if you're in a cubicle farm or at a reception desk. letters, journals, book reviews, record reviews, rants, whatever, if you're not into writing the Great [insert your country here] Novel.

if you're in a private office, you can do much more (not all of it unseemly, either). you can install foreign language learning software, strap on a phone headset (so it makes sense that you're talking while staring at the screen) and learn a new language! or pick up math textbooks, used, and spread them over your desk and learn something else. or just get novels and read those (use a book stand, so i can angle the book away from the door and so you don't have to mark the place and put it away if someone comes in). in a private office, you could also listen to books on disk.

i wouldn't recommend taking up any sort of craft in the office, as the paraphernalia takes over and you'll get a reputation for slacking. learning, however, seems to be my answer, like jessamyn and snowgoon.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:48 AM on April 22, 2004

Or, the Obvious.

Answering MeFi questions is how I goof off.
posted by milovoo at 7:52 AM on April 22, 2004

Is this question the result of your previous job-searching thread?
posted by fionab at 8:05 AM on April 22, 2004

Write, write, write some more. Write a novel. Write systematic breakdowns of your day. Write florid descriptions of your meals and/or bowel movements. Then write some more again.
posted by cortex at 8:27 AM on April 22, 2004

Write, write, write some more. Write a novel.

Great advice. The only problem is that the workplace, in my case the cubicle ranch, just isn't conducive to creativity. Bad atmosphere, flourescent lights, e-mails and phone calls, too many distractions . . . Then again, sometimes when you get in the groove, none of that really matters.
posted by Shane at 8:50 AM on April 22, 2004

Assuming telnet is enabled on the firewall you can use SLiRP. The downside is you'll need a linux machine running a dynamic DNS client at home. Check out the Firewall Piercing mini-HOWTO for info.
posted by estey at 9:05 AM on April 22, 2004

My most productive work goof-off was building an Excel spreadsheet to teach casino blackjack wagering. I photocopied the necessary charts from several sources, and spent a happy few days inputting data and putting a pretty VBA front-end on it and testing it out. I was at the point of building actual card images and compiling it neatly as an Excel add-in when the work started back up.

(I left the unfinished product as a gift for the cool sysadmin when the job panned out. He e-mailed me months later and said he'd won money on a recent casino trip. I guess my check is still in the mail.)

In the process, I learned tons about VB, and was able to apply it to "real" work.

Also, I thought about lunch a lot. And made grocery lists. And put my cats' vaccination reminders into Outlook. And completely mastered Minesweeper.

I tried to write, but I had the first-desk-outside-the-boss'-office problem, so a screen full of (to him) VBA gibberish was much more passable than a screen of text.

Or you could completely suck the prductivity of the entire work force by masterminding a fantasy sports league.
posted by BitterOldPunk at 11:00 AM on April 22, 2004

You can also get a cheap account on workspot and have remote access to a remotely hosted linux desktop. Surf from there... provided that the site isn't blocked.
posted by pissfactory at 11:34 AM on April 22, 2004

Is it the sort of place where they are aware that you are sitting idle at times, and this is expected? If that is the case, they might be more amenable to you doing things like knitting or cross-stitching. I had a call center job once where we were explicitly told that we could do anything we liked in our cubicles, as long as it was quiet and legal, and we were logged in to the phones to take the next call. However, unless you've gotten definite signs that it's okay to do whatever while you wait, I'd go for some of those "looks like work" distractions.
posted by Shoeburyness at 11:38 AM on April 22, 2004

How about interactive fiction (otherwise known as text adventure games?) They look just like ordinary text, but provide hours of thoughtful fun. You can still find most of the old Infocom games (Zork et al), and many of the newer ones are great, too.
posted by vorfeed at 1:20 PM on April 22, 2004

Thanks for all the spiffy responses. Here's the short answer to all your comments:

It's not a permanent job -- it's a "oh shit, look at the credit card bill, I best get my ass to the temp agency" kind of job.

There is one computer in the entire office. And, actually, it's not an office per se. There's the storefront part where most of my office mates are, and then there's a tiny little room up the stairs where I am. So there's plenty of time where no one's around me.

I'm glad people mentioned reading, because I totally spaced out and forgot Project Gutenberg. Which means that I'll finally get around to reading all those books I meant to read. Unless the firewall from hell prevents me from going there. It stops me from checking my email ("category: web hosting is blocked"), checking amazon ("category: shopping is blocked"), and even looking at the sweet sweet metafilter ("category: news & media is blocked"). Plus, we're on a really shitty dial-up that is also the fax line, so it's not like I can spend all day online.

So, yes. Novels. Classics. Graphic novels from the library across the street (where I can also check my email during my lunch). Writing when I can do it -- the tiny little room isn't exactly inspiring. I just got totally thrown when I finished the backlog I had -- this is the first job I've had where I actually can't just faff around on the internet.

And y'all rock. This is why I love AxMe so much.
posted by Katemonkey at 1:20 PM on April 22, 2004

Thank you vorfeed, I've been looking for Arthur: Quest for Excalibur for years.
posted by headless at 4:26 PM on April 22, 2004

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