5 Ways to Appear Busy When You’re Bored

Azumanga Daioh gets it!

The ability to look busy even when you’re bored beyond comprehension with nothing to do is an enviable talent. If you were born looking bored (even when you’re literally in the middle of working), I understand your struggle because I am the exact same way.

The first piece of advice I got during training was “look busy”. Unfortunately, no one ever told me how exactly to do that. But in a job where 80% of your average workday is downtime, with nothing to do but hang out in the teacher’s room, it’s an important skill to master. I still struggle with looking busy even when I have absolutely nothing to do, but here’s a few ways to make it look like you’re always working:

1. Spend as much time out of the teacher’s room as possible

I’m not saying go home early (but if you can, you definitely should). The next best thing would be to hang out in your English room or another equivalent if that exists. You’re more likely to have one if you teach elementary.

If you struck out on both those, how about wandering the halls of the school, either checking out the layout or popping in for a class? If you want to stay the whole class for a subject that particularly interests you (like cooking or home economics), be sure to get permission from the teacher first. It’s okay to just peek in from the back of the room most of the time and stay for a few minutes unexpectedly. Similarly, you could drop in the health room and hang out with the (pretend) sick kids.

If you’re not comfortable with that, you can find a private area to stay in that doesn’t look too suspicious if someone wanders past (like a stairwell looks kind of suspicious). These rooms would be like the coat room or the copy room. That way, you always look as though you could possibly be doing something. Otherwise, the bathroom is always an option if you don’t mind (and don’t have only squatter toilets).

2. Work slowly

Unfortunately for me, I like to work fast. My handwriting is sloppy because I’m more concerned about the thoughts leaving my head than the legibility. When grading papers, I power through them to finish the stack. However, when you’re trying to look busy, this is only works against you. Basically speaking, the more time you spend on your work, the longer you look busy.

However, this has backfired on me a few times, and I’ve actually fallen asleep multiple times from working so slowly that I’ve actually lost interest. So, it’s definitely a delicate balance!

3. Write everything down

I personally am working on writing and eventually publishing a novel, so I’m in the process of drafting everything up. By hand. I definitely understand that this isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s actually helped with the writing process a lot!

And if you’re not a novelist, you can write other things down. Your budget, a to-do list, meal plans for the week, a letter to your family or students… Anything really! Putting things down on paper helps you organize and look like you’re busy jotting information down. It’s a win-win, honestly.

4. Study (Japanese)

I should just say study, but you’ll probably get bonus points if your teachers see you studying Japanese. It also helps you make conversation with your teachers if you have nothing else to talk about. “How do you read this?” or “Could you show me the stroke order for this kanji?” do wonders in helping you start talking to your coworkers. (Maybe save the more difficult “What’s the difference between ~ and ~?” questions for your JTE or someone who can speak though!)

5. Read

This one may be cheating, because my list was technically how to appear busy and reading a book will definitely do more than make you just appear that way. Unless you’re faking reading, but I can’t think of a reason why you’d do that.

In fact, reading is one of the things they suggest at training to make you appear busy. When I wasn’t allowed computer access, I went through 3-4 books a week. I hit up Book Off almost every weekend in search for new, cheap books. I could’ve used my kindle, but I figured that it wouldn’t be clear enough that I was reading… And that’s the whole point, right? 🙂

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