The Difference Between Efficiency & Effectiveness

business mastery mindfulness wisdom Oct 11, 2021
Dr. Tim teaching at his ranch in Atlanta, TX.

Susie was called into her supervisors office.  She knew what the conversation would be and dreaded going in there, but also wanted to get it over with.  Her supervisor said, “Susie, your productivity is not where it needs to be.” 

Susie had seen her performance numbers so she was not surprised but she also felt like she was working as hard as anyone else.   “I feel like I am working my ass off, maybe the numbers are wrong or the expectations are too stringent.”

This is a conversation that happens everyday in business.  What’s the real problem?  

Many people judge themselves or others on their intent instead of their results.  They say things like “I feel like we are working really hard” or “I think we are doing the best we can.”  

People often confuse being efficient with being effective.  But they really aren’t the same thing.  Being efficient means that you are capable of executing a task with proficiency in a timely manner.  This definition is devoid of one critical factor.  The most important factor: relevance.

How many people do you know who say, “I spend a lot of time putting out fires at work?”  These people are confusing efficient and effective.  

Show me a workplace firefighter, and I’ll show you an arsonist. 

While hard work and commitment are valuable traits, without relevance, they may fail to accomplish anything.  It is not important how you “feel” you are performing, it is only important how you are actually performing.

Have you ever had a day where you felt like you were busy all day long and then at the end, you didn’t feel like you accomplished anything?  That’s because you were “busy” but not on the most important things.  If you spend all day going through emails, social media or executing mundane tasks rather than creating or working on a priority project and you feel empty when you are done, you may have been efficient but not effective at producing your desired outcome.  You’re one heck of a firefighter.

As a business leader and supervisor, I am not impressed by how busy you are. I am obsessed with whether you accomplish the desired outcome.  I’m impressed by you getting the right work done in an impactful way, not by how busy you are fighting distractions or by the number of emails you send.   Effectiveness comes from prioritizing.  It doesn’t matter if you are climbing the ladder if the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.   

Think about a time you spent a day working on a project or goal in a purposeful and focused sort of way.  Time also may have flown by as you got “in the zone” but unlike the aforementioned example, you probably felt way more accomplished.  This is because your efforts are aligned with the right purpose and you are not feeling the stress of priority inequity.

Here are a five ways you can eliminate the efficiency vs. effectiveness dilemma:

1.  Talk with your supervisor and team leadership about their expectations.  If you are your own boss, reflect on your goals and set your own expectations.  Develop specific measurables that quantify your level of effectiveness.  Key Performance Indicators (KPI) are a great way to do this.  Each KPI should be a predictive metric that drives how your results will attain the larger goal. 

2. Start your day reviewing the priorities and KPIs you established in Step One. Determine how you are going to budget your time each day based on those priorities and stick to the plan.  Don’t be distracted by urgent issues that are ultimately unimportant.

3. Take a few minutes each day and evaluate how you are spending your time.  Preferably at the end of each day.  Look at your weight of effort, count up your minutes and see if your timelines and effort lines up with you and your organization’s priorities.

4. Turn off unimportant notifications on your phone.  Social media, instant messaging, news and updates can all wait.  I even recommend blocking your time for answering emails, texts and phone calls that aren’t priorities or emergencies.

5. Privacy Sign. Put a sign up on your door or at your desk asking for co-workers to give you some space or privacy until a specified time.  Don’t indulge flyby conversations or drop ins.  Set boundaries and enforce them.

Try turning these strategies into habits by committing to them for 30 days and watch your workplace effectiveness soar.

Living Every Minute,

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