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How Productive is Michael Scott?

How Productive is Michael Scott?
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    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 21, 2021

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

    The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
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    No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

    Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

    Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

    A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

    Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

    In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

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    From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

    A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

    For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

    This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

    The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

    That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

    Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

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    The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

    Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

    But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

    The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

    The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

    A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

    For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

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    But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

    If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

    For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

    These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

    For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

    How to Make a Reminder Works for You

    Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

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    Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

    Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

    My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

    Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

    I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

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    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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    Reference

    [1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

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