Efficiency isn’t effectiveness!

Posted on Wednesday, April 29, 2009, under , ,

Are you truly effective or just efficient?
A lot of popular time management advice is aimed at making you ever more efficient. Perhaps you’re constantly googling for blog enhancements or plug ins that you might be missing out on - thus improving your efficiency. Maybe you reorganize your email or paper filing system each week so that everything is impeccably organised.

But have you ever stopped to ask yourself – Am I being effective, or just being efficient? You can be really efficient, process things really fast and actually be very good at what you do, but are you doing the right things because that is what will make you effective rather than just efficient. So the first thing we need to clarify is the difference between being efficient and being effective.

Being efficient means processing things fast. You get through your to-do list quickly and, in any given task, you eliminate time-wasters.

Being effective means doing the right things. You eliminate time-wasting activities or “busy work” from your day.

So you could rephrase the question "Am I being effective, or just being efficient" into "Am I doing something that needs to be done, or am I just being busy for the sake of it"?

Another way to look at this is to think of effectiveness as the big picture. If you want to be truly effective, you need to think about what your values are and what you want to achieve in your life. This is hard work – and it’s the sort of work where you don’t get to show off an empty inbox or a neatly filed set of papers at the end of it. But it’s absolutely essential to do this big-picture thinking if you’re ever going to accomplish anything meaningful.

Your efficiency comes after this. Because, frankly, however efficient your system for organizing your MP3 collection, it’s unlikely to be particularly effective in contributing to your wider goals. You want to concentrate on being efficient at the tasks which really are significant. This might mean, for example, coming up with a system that saves you time and wasted energy when you take on a new project.

Increasing Your Effectiveness
So if being effective is more important than being efficient, how can you go about improving your effectiveness?

One way to start is to write down a list of all the commitments that you have in your life. Try dividing them into categories like your work, your relationships with family and friends, your community, and your education (if appropriate).

If you’re anything like most of us you might be surprised and even horrified to find out how much you’ve taken on. Do you really have the time and attention to carry out each of these commitments effectively? And which of these commitments is effective for you – do they add to your life, or just take up your time?

It’s never easy to say “no” to people, or to quit an activity that you’re currently engaged in. Sometimes, though, you’ll realize that to become more effective, you can’t simply keep ramping up your efficiency – you have to let something go and aim to become more effective.

Another great approach is to look at your values. What matters to you most in life? (You might want to list several things.) It could be your family, your health, your career, your bank balance, your free time, your education, a particular cause or all sorts of other things. There are no “right” values – everyone’s will be slightly different.

This blog is based on an article by Ali Hale, for which I thank her and to which I have added some of my own thoughts…

1 Reply to "Efficiency isn’t effectiveness!"

  • Anonymous on 29 April 2009 at 09:50

    Great post - there's some useful stuff in there and realising the difference between efficiency and effectiveness is a real 'light bulb' moment!

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