Efficient vs Effective

“We may be very busy, we may be very efficient, but we will also be truly effective only when we begin with the end in mind.” –Stephen Covey

Its easy to be “busy” all day long and not accomplish much of anything. It’s possible that we spend our time putting out fires and not doing the most important tasks we have for the day. We also may fall into the trap of being efficient, but not effective.

Being “efficient” means doing something with the  least energy possible. It is the quickest way to do something that costs the least in time and energy. However, just being efficient doesn’t guarantee that we actually accomplish anything. Being “effective” means doing the right and important things efficiently.

I can be really efficient at deleting emails every time I read them, but it is one of the least productive activities that I do. However, scheduling a set time and time limit to respond to my important emails reduces the wasted time of checking in constantly and having to get back into the groove of whatever I was doing before the interruption. It is a task that must be done, it produces a desired result and should be made as efficient as possible. Ironing underwear efficiently, however, would be a task that is neither necessary nor productive, and therefore ineffective.

How do you know if you are being effective or just efficient? Ask yourself the questions:

  • Is there a reason for doing this activity/thing?
  • Can it be eliminated or delegated?
  • Does it produce something, enhance my well-being, serve others, etc or is it busy work?
  • Does this activity help me reach an end?

Every activity in our day could be measured against the ruler of efficiency vs. effectiveness to maximize our effort, reduce wasted time and redirect energy to the things that really count.