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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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    Last Updated on August 16, 2018

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

    The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

    How about a unique spin on things?

    These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

    1. Empty your mind.

    It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

    Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

    Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

    Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

    How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

    2. Keep certain days clear.

    Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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    This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

    3. Prioritize your work.

    Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

    Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

    Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

    How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

    4. Chop up your time.

    Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

    5. Have a thinking position.

    Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

    What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

    6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

    To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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    Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

    7. Don’t try to do too much.

    OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

    8. Have a daily action plan.

    Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

    Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

    9. Do your most dreaded project first.

    Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

    10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

    The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

    11. Have a place devoted to work.

    If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

    But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

    Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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    Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

    12. Find your golden hour.

    You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

    Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

    Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

    Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

    13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

    It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

    By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

    Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

    14. Never stop.

    Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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    Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

    There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

    15. Be in tune with your body.

    Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

    16. Try different methods.

    Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

    It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

    Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

    Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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