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How Productive is Michael Scott?

How Productive is Michael Scott?

    Last night marked a milestone in American sitcom history: the beginning of the end for Steve Carell on the NBC comedy “The Office”. Even if you happen to like the British version of this comedy more than its longer-running American counterpart, you have to admit that Carell has carved out his acting niche in the role of Michael Scott, the bumbling boss of a regional paper company in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

    The Michael Scott character is often seen as incompetent by those above him on the corporate ladder (such as Jan Levinson-Gould and CFO David Wallace.) Of course, both of those seemingly more competent people were eventually fired from the company, while bumbling Michael Scott got to stick around for seven seasons.

    The second part of “Goodbye, Michael”, which will be Steve Carell’s last episode of “The Office”, is set to air on April 28th, 2011. As Steve Carell’s final season on “The Office” begins to wind down, we’re compelled to take a look back at the last seven seasons of the show, and answer one burning question. Since Lifehack is all about helping people to boost their productivity, we just have to ask: How productive was Michael Scott, anyway?

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    Real-Life Michael Scotts

    According to an article from U.S. News & World Report, Michael Scott’s wacky antics are actually firmly grounded in reality.

    “Ninety percent of the population deals with a Michael Scott in their lives,” says Aine Donovan, a professor of business ethics at Dartmouth’s Tuck business school.

    The article goes on to add that Kelly Leonard, a New York City publishing executive, recalls early in her career working for a “female Michael Scott type” who, among other things, would invite staffers into her office to watch Lifetime movies on TV. “Other departments thought we were hapless idiots who lucked into our good work results,” she says. “Just like the gang in Scranton.”

    Michael’s Unproductive Behavior

    There is no question that Michael Scott is not an ideal employee. He’s got a serious YouTube addiction, as seen in episodes like “Business Ethics” where he reveals that he didn’t work at all during the first 5 days after he discovered the free video site. As he says, “I viewed ‘Cookie Monster sings Chocolate Rain’ about 1,000 times.” And because this is Michael we’re talking about, it’s likely he’s speaking literally there.

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    In another episode, Jim Halpert makes a pie chart of how Michael spends his time: 80% “distracting others,” 19% “procrastination,” and 1% “critical thinking”, adding that he inflated the “critical thinking” percentage so people could actually see it on the graph.

    And let’s not forget Michael’s penchant for indulging in personal interests as a priority over work, a habit that leads to frequent parties and off-topic seminars in the conference room, usually headed up by alter egos like “Michael Klump” or “Prison Mike”.

    Most damaging of all to his productivity, however, is his constant procrastination. Consider the episode “Initiation”, where Michael’s boss asks Pam to keep a detailed log of how Michael spends every hour that he is at work. Michael then proceeds to spend the day standing in line waiting for a free pretzel. As he explains, “Productivity is important but how can I be productive if I have this one little thing in my brain? That I cannot get out. And that one little thing is a soft pretzel. So I’m just going to have my soft pretzel, then I’ll get to work, and I’ll be super productive.”

    He then eats a giant pretzel covered in cotton candy, chocolate, caramel, and a dozen other types of sugary treats, goes on a rant about productivity during his sugar high, and then crashes spectacularly.

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    Examples of Productive Behavior

    But it turns out that even though he spent most of the day dealing with pretzel-related activities, at the end of the day he nails an impressive sale, and Pam is stunned. Michael Scott is a prime example of a manager working smarter, not harder. He nailed a big new account for the company, doing a single day’s work in less than an hour.

    And this is a trend we see again, in episodes like “The Client” where Michael woos a new client with a single, well-timed sentence over dinner at a Chili’s, and in the episode “The Duel” where Corporate reveals that the Scranton branch is the best-performing company branch. Ultimately, Michael is asked to visit each Dunder-Mifflin branch to share his secrets for productivity and business success. By working in a method that maximizes his personal productivity, he “works” very few hours per day, but still manages to get ahead in business.

    Conclusion

    Andrew Alexander, CEO and executive producer of The Second City comedy troupe adds that Michael also spurs his employees to be very productive…by being insufferable. “This causes his staff to be highly productive, since they would much rather work than have another potentially awkward exchange with him.”

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    “He takes ownership of his flock,” adds Noah Rowles, CEO of Los Angeles software company Iolo Technologies. “The lesson learned is that people would much rather follow someone who is passionate and dedicated than someone who may be perfect on paper but otherwise uncommitted to achieving success as a group.”

    What do you think of Michael Scott’s productivity? Is he someone you’d want to work with? Tell us in the comments below!

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    Tucker Cummings

    Writer and social media professional sharing productivity tips on Lifehack.

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    Last Updated on July 10, 2020

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

    Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

    Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

    The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

    Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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    Program Your Own Algorithms

    Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

    Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

    By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

    How to Form a Ritual

    I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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    Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

    1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
    2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
    3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
    4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

    Ways to Use a Ritual

    Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

    1. Waking Up

    Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

    2. Web Usage

    How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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    3. Reading

    How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

    4. Friendliness

    Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

    5. Working

    One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

    6. Going to the gym

    If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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    7. Exercise

    Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

    8. Sleeping

    Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

    8. Weekly Reviews

    The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

    Final Thoughts

    We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

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    Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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