It’s October and people are going to start getting sick. If you aren’t already familiar with The Four Hour Rule from the manifesto, here’s a primer. The basic idea behind the Rule is that you can have your cake and eat it too. Here’s the deal: early in the morning you make a call or email to your boss letting them know you won’t be in today. If you aren’t feeling well, say so. Otherwise either say you’re taking a personal day or simply say "I won’t be in today." By building the expectation that you won’t be in at all that day, you’ve created a small undercurrent of anxiety within the office.
Now, enjoy four hours of personal time and then go into the office at noon. People will be slightly relieved and impressed to see you. Since they weren’t expecting to see you at all, when you show up you will have relieved the underlying anxiety. Also, since they weren’t expecting you at all, they’ll be super-impressed by your work ethic! The key here is to create the expectation of complete absence. If you say that maybe you’ll be in later, then you’ll diminish the overall effect.
Speaking of the overall effect, don’t reverse the order of events with The Four Hour Rule. The Rule only works in one direction. If you do it right, people will think you’re a superhero. If you reverse the order, and go to work, but then leave early, people will just think you’re wimping out by leaving early. Even if you’re demonstrably sick, in the backs of their minds, people still wonder why you couldn’t just stick it out. The whole trick is the expectation you’re creating. If you show up to work on time, you’ve created the expectation that you’ll be there all day long. By leaving early, you’re breaking the expectation and people will wonder what your problem is. If you create the expectation early on that you won’t be in the office at all, then when you break the expectation by showing up, people will think you’re amazing.
Once you’re back at work, hunker down and crank out some good work. Don’t chit-chat. Chit-chat can mess with your plan, since people may begin asking questions about how you’re feeling, what was wrong, why did you stay home, etc. If you do get asked about the earlier part of your day, just say that it was personal and you’re glad you’re able to get in at least a little work today. If you look super-busy, people will be much more reluctant to bother you. Plus, they figure that since you’re so committed to work, you’re trying to get caught up from the four hours you were gone.
This is a powerful tactic. Don’t abuse it. Pull it out of the toolkit only when you really need a little extra time in the morning.