The modern office presents a unique problem. The same technology you use to do work is the same technology you use to have fun: a computer with high-speed Internet access.
Back when office equipment consisted of a typewriter and a mimeograph machine, there weren't as many temptations. But now, from the comfort of your cubicle you can instant message with buddies, check sports scores, shop for new shoes, watch silly videos on YouTube, read The New York Times from cover to cover, play videogames and e-mail your grandma.
What's a cubicle slave to do? You have to learn the time-honored techniques for keeping your online procrastination a secret. The most important trick is to hide any chat windows or Web browser windows that contain non-work-related activities at the first hint that your boss is approaching.
Here are three simple ways to keep your screen to yourself.
1: Direct to Desktop
The easiest way to get any suspicious windows off your screen (and fast!) is to go straight to the desktop. On Windows PCs, the shortcut is "Windows Key" + D. On a Mac running OS X, just press the F11 key. Now, the only drawback here is that your boss might be wondering why you're just sitting there staring at your desktop. Pretend you're looking for a folder, or pick up the phone and start randomly dialing.
2: The Old Switcheroo
If you're going to be chatting or surfing non-work sites, make sure that you keep at least a couple of other work-related programs and applications open. This way you can quickly switch back to an open Word document or Excel spreadsheet when the boss's head suddenly pops over the cube wall. The best way to quickly toggle between open application windows on a PC is by holding down the Alt + Tab keys. On a Mac, it's the "Open Apple" + Tab keys.
3: The Boss Button
Believe it or not, there are several programs available for download that'll instantly hide all of your open browser or application windows. These programs -- sometimes called a Boss Button -- can be configured to activate when the user presses certain keys or drags his cursor into a certain corner of the screen. What's nice about some of these programs is that you can tell them which applications to close and which to leave open in the event of an emergency. For example, if your boss walks up, you can leave open Excel and PowerPoint, but close AOL Instant Messenger, Limewire, iTunes and Second Life.
At the end of the day, of course, you're not really tricking anybody. If your boss suspects you of fooling around during work hours, all he has to do is ask your systems administrator to open a log of all your online activities. So if you're going to spend half the day tinkering with your fantasy baseball lineup, at least get your work done first. And who knows, your boss might have a boss button, too.
For lots more information about work-related topics, check out the links on the next page.