When you fall asleep at night, do you ever think to yourself “Today I accomplished way too much in far too short a time span?” Don’t be embarrassed: the Internet’s made us all alarmingly productive. It can be frightening at times.
Did you know, however, that the Internet can also make you alarmingly unproductive? It’s true! It may be hard to believe, but constant access to all the world’s information – from the average flight velocity of an African swallow to what the girl you had a crush on in college is doing right at this moment – causes some people to get less work done instead of more.
If you’d like to become less productive, you’re off to a great start. Reading random blog posts about productivity instead of actually working is a great way to get less done. But there’s so much more to doing next to nothing than simply not working; it’s an art. Do it well and you’ll still feel burnt out after an entire day of slacking.
Curious? Keep reading. I’ll outline everything you need to know to accomplish practically nothing.
If you really want to be unproductive, it’s imperative that you don’t focus on any one task for longer than a couple of minutes. Switching from doing one thing to another constantly can help ensure that you effectively get nothing done over the course of an entire day.
Start the day by creating a to-do list no human being could ever hope to accomplish. Then switch from one task to the other every minute or so, all the while reflecting on how busy you are and how you’re never going to get any of these tasks done. For best results set up multiple monitors, each containing a different task. This will increase your awareness of the sheer amount of work you need to get done, and how unlikely it is that you will ever complete any of it.
Be sure to take a fifteen minute break every five minutes.
Multitasking becomes particularly unproductive if some of “tasks” you’re switching to are unrelated to work – Facebook, Twitter, and Reddit are all great choices. Even better is to find something related to work, yet still endlessly distracting – email, for example. Every time you check your email it feels like you’re working, even if you’re mostly not getting anything done at all. That feeling is the true key to being unproductive, because it burns you out without the rewarding feeling of accomplishment that comes when you actually do something.
Try as you may, however, sometimes a useful task may seem so compelling that you sit down for an hour and do nothing else, producing quality work that you’re proud of. Don’t fall into this common productivity trap: use notifications to automatically break any focus you might accidentally muster.
Set up your computer with plenty of popups, reminding you that stuff is happening on the Internet. Used properly, these notifications can help ensure you never focus on work long enough to actually get anything done. Fortunately, all of the major social networks derive their revenue from advertising, meaning they all want you to spend as much time looking at their site as possible. Google even added Plus notifications to almost all of their products, ensuring you’ll never miss a meaningless tidbit of information from someone you sort of know.
Basically: read this article about turning off notifications. Do the opposite of what it says. Then download every program with notifications you can get your hands on.
For best results, also set up push notifications for email and all of your social networks on your phone. This will keep you in the habit of constantly responding to notifications, even when you’re away from your computer. This Pavlovian programming can be remarkably effective in training you to ignore the task at hand and quickly give in to impulses.
3. Undeserved Rewards!
The best way to ensure a child is a complete and total brat isn’t to give that child everything he could possibly want: it’s to tell the child he needs to do something in order to get a reward – clean his room, take out the trash or not rub butter into the carpet – and give him the reward regardless of whether the task is completed or not. This total lack of consequence will teach a child that what you do in life does not matter: things will always be awesome, no matter what.
You can apply this same basic principle to becoming unproductive. Think of a small reward for yourself – a coffee break, a walk outside, a chocolate bar or some time to watch an online video. Tell yourself you’ll only earn that reward by getting your work done. Then look at your email and social networks for an hour or two, getting nothing done, and – this is the real trick – give yourself the reward anyway. This will get you in the habit of not doing anything, ensuring you remain unproductive.
When you give yourself your reward, tell yourself you’ll make up for time lost by working late into the night. Then, when time comes to work late into the night, continue fruitlessly attempting to multitask and dwelling on how you will never get anything done, because you are too busy, all the while immediately responding to every notification from your email and social networks.
When midnight comes you can go to bed, knowing that you’ve accomplished next to nothing yet still feel exhausted. A few weeks of this and you’ll completely burn yourself out, helping ensure you never have another productive day in your life.
Have any other tips for becoming completely unproductive? Leave them in the comments below.
Note: leaving angry comments on blog posts is a another great way to burn yourself out whilst avoiding actual work.