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Your brain counts the tasks like this: 1, 2, 3, 4, lots. If you don't store information outside of your head in any visual form, you will quickly get lost. I once talked to a highly stressed person who stated she had "a lot to do". When we wrote down this "a lot", it turned out that she could perform most of the tasks within one evening! It is a great surprise to many when they write down their tasks, events, meetings and thoughts on a sheet of paper.
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Avoiding prioritization is a great handy hint for being completely unproductive. With every phone call, email, talk, task within multiple projects, or meeting request, you simply task switch and completely lose focus because you can't decide. When you are aware of your priorities you can immediately postpone some things for later. And you really should!
Another great way to become unproductive is to open Twitter, a few Facebook and Google+ tabs, your email account, put your phone in front of you, use Outlook desktop alert – any blinking thing you can think of and any other way of distracting you that is possible. You need several minutes to focus completely on your task, get into the "flow" and be really efficient, and this way you will be distracted every few seconds and you will never reach that state.
Fun and emotions are what keep you engaged in an activity much longer than you think. You have greater energy, passion, and think more creatively. If you get rid of emotions from your activities, you simply have a boring list of tasks to accomplish. Just look what fun can bring to your life:
There is some great art coming out of the Mercedes Benz "Left Brain – Right Brain" advertising campaign, which (according to researchers) isn't completely relevant, but shows a great truth: if you don't use colors, sounds and everything is flat and black and white, it's like you are using only half of your brain. If you don't want to be unproductive, turn on colors in your email inbox, calendar and task list. Make it fun!
This is great way to become unproductive when used together with previous hints. With every email and request coming from your boss, colleagues and family, you simply say "yes" and take it on. This way you never know your limits, your task list is ever growing, you become unreliable, and put yourself into a victim mindset. The most surprising moment for many people is when they say "no" and it doesn't break the relationship (as it shouldn't!), in many cases they also find they become perceived as more reliable. Assertiveness is hard, but it is key.
You know what is different about the people that excel from the rest? The greatest people focus on their strengths and they build on top of them. That gives them energy to fight their weaknesses. You simply can't do the opposite. Think about Michael Jordan or Tiger Woods – they would get better and better at things they were already great at! If you want to be unproductive, focus on your weaknesses all the time, it will drain all your energy, put you in a bad mood and take your eyes away from your vision for your life.
So, you are the smartest person on the whole planet and you shouldn't delegate anything because you do things best. Another great way to be completely unproductive! You can be really effective in doing some things, but not all. When you do things alone, you are losing the spirit of teamwork, great ideas, and different perspectives.
Einstein said, "If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough." Another great way to become unproductive is to make things more and more complex. Then build complex processes around those complex activities. Then spend hours trying to explain all that to others and handle misunderstandings. Beauty lies in simplicity. Think for a moment about the "I have a dream" speech delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr. It was so simple and powerful that it touched people's hearts and spurred thousands of them to act.
Living and working without any vision is a great way to be completely unproductive. Vision is a fuel for your mind and body. Martin Luther King's speech mentioned above put so much passion in people that many of them were willing to die fighting for this vision. Vision brings order to your activities, refreshes your emotions, reminds you about the real goals. Without it you can be just one more effective task executor.
Experience without reflection on that experience is just data. A great way to be unproductive is to make the same errors over and over again. Thomas Edison said, "I have not failed 700 times. I have not failed once. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work." And Bill Gates said, "It's fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure." The most effective people do not rely purely on luck or coincidence. Every day and every week they reflect on past experiences and take conscious decisions to get closer to reaching their goals.
The final and the quickest way to be unproductive is to try to do two things at the same time. Some people say, "Multitasking is a great way to screw up multiple things at the same time," and it is very true. We need to multitask in the same way as our old CPUs used to do it – a single CPU with single core was able to run a multitasking operating system, which performed very smoothly by just switching the tasks in the right way.