How to Be Inefficient

1. Move to another country.

2. Rent a flat with a small refrigerator, so you can’t stock up and constantly have to go to Tesco. When you get to Tesco, wander the aisles confusedly, bumping into as many small children as possible, before finally finding each item and discovering they come in (at largest) a “Serves 2” size, so you have to keep going back to Tesco. Purchase items at the "quick and easy" self-serve checkout. Spend ages trying to separate a single plastic bag from the rack of stuck-together bags, while people behind you make a show of checking their watches. Succeed! Then accidentally stick hand through bottom of bag. Repeat. Scan first item. Scan item again. Get told by a plummy mechanical voice, “Please wait for assistance.” Wait for assistance. Wait for salesperson to scan card and type in password. Repeat scanning of items and placing in bagging area. Realize there’s no more room in the bagging area the size of an iPad, so move one of the bags back to the basket. Get told by machine, “Item has been removed from bagging area. Please return it.” Return it. Scan wine. Get told by machine to wait for assistance. Wait for assistance. Wait for salesperson to scan card, type in password, and affirm you are of age. When ready to pay, stick a chip-and-pin-less American credit card into the chip-and-pin machine. “Wait for assistance.” Wait for salesperson to scan card, type in password, print out receipt, and verify signature. Have conversation about bizarreness of signature. Leave. Realize only after you’ve walked home that you forgot to buy the one thing you went in there for: laundry detergent.

3. Re-buy all toiletries you bought in the previous country but could not put into suitcase at last minute due to weight restrictions, plus a hair straightener with a British plug. Circle the aisles looking for every item, trying and failing to find favorite brands, and marking yourself in the process as an easy target for a sales pitch. Spend the next half hour trying to extract yourself from the lady with the a) makeup/skin tone matcher machine or b) Dead Sea salt scrub. When searching for hand soap, open and sniff every bottle. Choose one, then realize that just to the left is a whole rack of soaps for only 69 pence! Repeat. Realize a few days later that your hair won’t air dry enough to put into the new British hair straightener, so a British hair dryer is also necessary. Repeat.

4. On your way anywhere, stop into any store that catches your eye and buy only one item, like a wastepaper bin or feta cheese, even though you could purchase other items there too. Always reason, “Well, I’ll just get the rest at Tesco.” (See #2.)

5. When traveling on the London Underground, always ensure you haven’t put enough money on your Oyster card, thereby necessitating waiting in line behind confused tourists who don’t speak English before getting trapped in a narrow hallway behind goth-sloth teens shuffling four abreast. In this way, you will inevitably miss your tube and not be able to go on the guided walk you scheduled but will instead have to turn around and go to Tesco (see #2).

6. Never coordinate food purchases. For example, when composing a salad of chickpeas, tomatoes, mint, and feta, imagine how much the dish would benefit from olives. A few days later, buy olives. A few days after that, while contemplating a nearly empty fridge, imagine how much those olives would benefit from chickpeas, tomatoes, mint, and feta. Return to Tesco.

7. Launch a freelance writing career from another country where you have no connections. Set up connections with companies in the previous country at the last minute, ensuring that when you arrive in the new country, only then will the companies ask you to scan documents you didn’t bring on the scanner you no longer have.

8. Borrow someone else’s scanner, but only if the power button needs to be pressed 27 times and the plugs jiggered thrice before it turns on and proceeds to eat your document, requiring you to open it up and yank out each individual shred. Repeat.

9. Have high standards when you write, spending hours researching extensively to deliver more snappy, detailed information to readers than readers have ever gotten. But be sure to exceed your word limit by 30 percent so you have to spend hours deleting the snappy, detailed information that readers will apparently never get.

10. When you wake up to a sunny morning, spend so long planning the ideal sunny day itinerary that by the time you commit to it, it is raining. Switch gears and plan for a rainy day. Decide it is now lunch and you may as well cook something before going on an early afternoon guided walk. Wolf down lunch before rushing off to tube. Congratulate yourself you'll make it on time. See #5. Return home. Decide since it is raining you may as well do some laundry. Except you forgot to buy laundry detergent. Return to Tesco.

11. Do not take showers – only baths. To prevent temptation, rent a flat where the bathroom ceiling is too low to stand up in. Ideally, the bath will take 15 minutes to fill up lukewarm even though you’ve only turned on the hot tap, then after you’ve shampooed, shaved, conditioned and are ready to rinse, scalding water will suddenly gush over your head, seducing you into refilling the bath to enjoy the warm soak you’d been denied. If you’re really lucky, when you emerge from the bath, the room will be so cold you will break into goosebumps that instantly regrow the hair on your legs, negating the time you spent shaving. To achieve pure, undiluted inefficiency, canceling out any rare accomplishment is paramount.

Follow these simple instructions, and you will guarantee you’ll spend most of your life in the Tesco.

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