HK-101: Slacking Techniques for Programmers

HK (Haram khori) is any man’s basic right. You can’t expect someone to remain on his seat during the complete hours of his work day. He might need to stretch out or to share gossips with the coworkers (all these activities are considered slacking). You may have many reasons to slack while at work. You might not have enough work to do, or you are perhaps overworked and need a change in atmosphere. Or may be you despise your job. In either case, slacking can be considered an art that requires skills, luck as well as an attitude to do what YOU please rather than what your boss wants you to do.

Although these techniques that may sometimes pertain to programmers, but these can be generalized to a wider audience. You know better!

NOTE: The text below is just for fun. I take no responsibility in whatever the outcome of these activities may be.

Know the window closing shortcuts

We all love to use or work computers for doing things we are not allowed to do at work. Every now and then your personal or corporate email would display a popup where some friend has send you some flash game (embedded in excel or word document) or some email quiz or some interesting facts… or even pictures of lolcats, or perhaps the latest gossip from the movie world…. and its natural that we stop all our work and look at these mails on priority basis. But what we need to keep in mind is that these managers have some kind of sixth sense and they tend to know whenever the labor force is trying to have some fun. So whenever we try to enjoy our selves, an alarm sounds in the manager’s room and he strolls around to take a look. In such situations, all we need to know is what short cuts our operating system presents to hide the obvious stuff.

In windows, the most important of these keys are:

ALT + F4 (This key combination closes the active window)

ALT + TAB (This key combination toggles between active windows)

WIN + D (Minimizes any open windows and shows the desktop)

WIN + L (Locks the computer so that you can pretend that you are getting up from your seat and headed to wash room)

Usually the programmers know these shortcuts, but if you dont, learn them by heart and keep practicing.

Reading stories disguised as code

We love to read online stories. They could be news articles, stuff from wikipedia, or may be ranting from parez hilton. But the graphics on these sites may not mean much to us but they catch sudden attention of unwanted people in our rooms (read: managers). So, here is an effective technique that i have employed over the years. I copy the news article from the website and paste it in my source code editor (IDE). I usually keep a separate code file for this purpose where i paste this news story and convert it into comments (by applying /*    — */ tags).
So, your gossip story about A’s secret affair with B is now a green colored boring looking monotype text that on the first glance looks like a block of code. So you can avoid a sudden assault from your manager.

WARNING: Once you have done reading the story, remove the text. Ideally you would like to keep the text in a file that is not the part of the compile-able project, because you would certainly not like somebody in the QA or security auditor to know that why Avatar is such a good movie because your ‘code’ said so.

Keep your project in the middle of some operation

While you want to slack off by reading gossips or playing games, better keep your project in some intermediate state. I prefer to keep set a break point and run the code till it reaches there and breaks execution, so i hover my mouse over objects and their watch windows appear. I keep my IDE in that way and start reading my goodies. ;) Once we have an intruder alert, we restore our IDE and all boss sees is serious debugging in progress.

Keep your boss engaged in discussion

Ping your boss on periodic basis by asking clever or stupid questions. Dont mind if he makes fun of you occasionally when you ask dumb questions coz from deep within you know that its you who is gonna have the final laugh (at least on a short term basis). Asking questions keep bosses under the impression that the guy is working thats why he is making things clear for himself. So before he asks you about the status, you can say something like ‘I was doing this thing but i was wondering if doing it that way is possible… blah blah blah’

Pretend to look effed up!

Look grim, grip your head and hair in fury, bring a look of concern on your face…. and stare at the screen like this. This would give the impression that the work is really kicking your butt and would ensure that that no extra tasks are assigned to you until you are finished with the current ones.

My Code is Compiling!

Perhaps this XKCD comic best describes what i intend to say:

from XKCD

Compile the code on your slow machine, and you get to go out for a cup of coffee for a quarter of an hour!

Learn to Say “NO”

If you got a boss like mine, he is gonna accept any ‘challenge’ and then ask his programmers to do it… hey!!! what kind of a challenge is that? huh?  that YOU accept it and ask OTHERS to do it? Anyways, its my bad luck and its me who’s gonna cope with it but you should know when to say NO. and you should say NO the way that it doesn’t sound offensive to the other parties who are requesting you to do some favor for them. Remember, “Don’t volunteer yourself for anything”

Secondly, if you cant say NO outright, be good enough in what you do so that you dont accept the tasks whose either requirements are missing or the task assigning person has asked you to provide further information later. remember, this later never comes and once you agree to do something, You Will have to do it!
So, be good enough in your things so that you punch the ambiguous documents and requirements back in the face of the person imposing his crap on you.

Decorate your cubicle with Flowcharts/Project Schedules

If you are one of the pondering types, you should decorate your cubicle with flowcharts and calendars and other important things that are related to your work. Remember, to print these things on company stationary using company printers. So you can pretend to stare at the charts while you actually ponder on how to score that hot chick that recently moved in across the street.

Skipping work for personal tasks during office hours

Make a list of all the activities that you need to do and can’t be done after office hours… you wanted to renew your driver’s license? or wanted to visit your bank for an important task? or may be an appointment with the doctor etc.
You can do these activities during office hours only. Although it can sometimes be troublesome to get permission to get these things done, but your boss is a human himself and understands that you need to finish these or else your wife will beat you up!

A word of advice is that you can schedule these trips and appointments in the second half of the day. If your work finishes at 5:00 PM, then you can schedule these appointments at 3:30 or 4:00 PM so that you get to skip half an hour earlier before the appointment… and who returns back to work after 5:00?

Initiate meeting Requests

ah yes, another one of the legitimate excuses to stay away from work. send meeting requests to business teams, other technical teams or just among your like minded slackers to meet on a ‘brainstorming’ session… and do nothing much productive in the meeting but discuss a couple of points, have tea and talk about some upcoming movie or a game of soccer. If you are forced to attend a meeting where management people are talking routine bullshit, keep a writing pad with you and practice with your doodling skills. One of my favorite activity is to draw different types of pirates, demons and devils to keep myself busy when they are discussing project’s upcoming release strategy.

Keeping your belongings on desk

So, you want to skip work without letting your peers or boss know? Keep your pen, writing pad on your seat and skip the work. If someone is looking for you, they’ll think you’re at a meeting or in the bathroom and might not check back on you again as they have more important things to do.

Keeping your computer turned on (locked)

While skipping work, dont shut down your PC. people tend to see the blinking lights on one’s computer to determine whether he is around or not. I myself see someone’s PC to do the same. just lock your terminal and keep your stuff placed randomly on the desk and disappear.

Keeping a ciggy handy

Do you smoke? If yes, then you may be luckier than others. I noticed that this trick was adapted by one of my managers from yesteryears to skip work. First of all, a cigarette will give you legitimate reason to leave your seat and go to some other special place to smoke. Where a smoker can easily find another smoker and thus starts some chitter chatter that may persist for some extra minutes. Now coming to the trick that was followed by one of my managers… That guy used to get up around 5:30 with a cigarette in his hands. This was a decoy to let his manager know that he is leaving for a smoke. Sometimes that guy would never return from this smoking trip.

Avoid Jackets/Coats:

Do not wear a jacket.  If a jacket is absolutely necessary, try to hang it at a place where it is less noticeable. Wearing a jacket gives the impression that “I am done for today and am headed for home”. The absence of a jacket relieves some of the anxiety involved in leaving work early. And yeah, keep a ‘decoy’ jacket that you can hang near your seat so that it gives a false impression that you are ‘still’ available. (Similar to keeping your belongings on the desk and keeping your computer logged on)

Time Delayed emails:

Usually the email clients we use at work (Outlook etc) have this feature to send emails at a particular time of the day. You can create an email and keep it in your client till 7:00 PM and then instruct your mail client software to send it at that time. Attaching emails (or replying to existing emails) mean that you have been doing ‘real’ work. If you have email access from remote location (e.g. from home via VPN or web access), you can send an email from home at an awkward time and keep the higher management in cc list to let them know that you have been working hard.

Maintain a positive image:

You would never want to maintain an image of a ‘slacker’ among your bosses and peers. You do your work honestly, deliver on time and keep an innocent look on your face but when the time is right, *bam* and skip the work without giving it a second thought. The more you are in good books, the less the party will think that you have skipped from work without notifying.


Following are the one line points that may help you in achieving the slacker’s role. and some general guidelines for being the best HK around:

  • Always search for alternate escape routes.  Most buildings have multiple exit paths
  • An effective slacker always delivers on time, usually because they had it done days ago and made sure no one else was aware.
  • Always send emails when making a request to another employee
  • Never inform people that you finish things early
  • Never skip lunch or eat lunch at your desk. Infact turn off your cellphone while at lunch.
  • Keep your eyes away from the clock, it makes time move at least twice as slowly
  • Learn to crack your knuckles, neck, and back — It keeps you feeling alive
  • Keep a pack of biscuits on your desk.. and keep them away from the prying eyes and hands of your coworkers.
  • Learn to doodle – It helps you in meetings when the management is talking their routine bullshit

With this piece of advice, i wish you best of luck in your HK activities.

P.S: I am sure there are a lot more. But at this moment, i can’t remember them…. if something important comes up then i will add them as comments.

This entry was posted on Friday, February 5th, 2010 at 2:00 am and is filed under Uncategorized. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

7 Responses to “HK-101: Slacking Techniques for Programmers”

Sue Massey February 5th, 2010 at 2:03 am

Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days.

Sipey February 5th, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Your concepts in this article have certainly made it simpler for, bless you

zulfi February 5th, 2010 at 3:01 pm

ohh boy…u just wrote my stuff up there :p
…i m proud to be one of the best HK’s :D

Burhan February 6th, 2010 at 10:47 pm

@Zulfi, its everbody’s stuff :D

Asad Malik February 8th, 2010 at 10:00 pm

Is the awful or awesome, whatever in both cases its great… :P

Burhan Ahmad » Blog Archive » The best of 2010 December 31st, 2010 at 10:20 pm

[...] HK-101: Slacking Techniques For Programmers [...]

The best of 2010 « Burhan A. Farooqi December 31st, 2010 at 10:23 pm

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