Effective vs. Efficient
A word to the wise:
You may think that being effective and efficient is the same thing, however, there is a small difference that is very important to understand. To maximize your productivity, your goal should be to become effective with your work and while also being efficient at it. Do the right thing and do it the right way!
Productivity is one of my favourite topics. The reason being that there are so many options and possibilities for improving. Our productivity can be affected by the tools we use, our health and fitness habits, psychological factors, habits, and etc. However, with all these variables there are two factors that stand out when considering how to be more productive. Those factors are being effective and efficient.
So, what are the differences between the two? The differences are subtle, but I believe that Merriam-Webster’s dictionary does a good job of defining the terms:
Definition of effective (adj.)
producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.
Definition of efficient (adj.)
productive of desired effects; especially: productive without waste.
Although these definitions help, I believe there is a simpler way to put it. Effectiveness is choosing and doing the right things, while Efficiency is doing those things right.
The 80/20 rule is a great example of being effective. If you choose the 80% of the tasks that are not important for your overall goals, you are not being effective. To be effective you must look at your goals and decipher which ones are within the 20% that have the greatest impact and results. That is being effective.
Now that we have taken the necessary steps to be effective, we must become efficient. Recently I have been using SMART goals as a way to achieve my goals and become more productive with my work. Once we have identified what is required to be effective, we must be efficient producing the results. To do this we will work on what is important, we will reduce waste (time and effort) and work without distraction.
Let’s look at the example below:
You’ve just started your 1st year at Hogwarts and are required to take a total of seven subjects.
- History of Magic
- Defence Against the Dark Arts
- and Herbology
You’ve been informed that to get the job you want after school you need to focus on; Transfiguration, Potions, Charms and Defence Against the Dark Arts. That means to be effective we need to put the most effort and time into those four classes.
By recognizing what must be done and deciding on the outcome of our actions we are being effective. On the other hand, if we did not prioritize the four required classes and instead spread our focus to all classes, we would become less effective. That is not to say we should not focus at all on the other classes, but rather, we prioritize the important ones.
To break it down further let’s look deeper into each class. Each class is a full school year with 5 assignments total:
- Assignment 1 = 20%
- Assignment 2 = 10%
- Assignment 3 = 10%
- Assignment 4 = 50%
- Assignment 5 = 10%
In an ideal world we would try to achieve 100% in each of our classes, but in reality, school is tough and requires a lot of work. Sometimes we just don’t have enough time to complete everything we would like to.
To pass our first year at Hogwarts we need achieve at least 60% in each of our classes.
If we complete assignments 1, 2, 3 and 5 we know that we have the potential to earn up to 50% combined. But if we focus on assignment 4 we can get 50% on only the one assignment! It’s easy to let projects slide or leave them to the last minute but knowing that we can’t afford to do a poor job on assignment 4 means that we must be effective by prioritizing that assignment.
Now you might be saying “James, I want to focus on all my assignments with the same intensity!”. I would agree with you. But considering this…
The above example is only the assignments from Potions class. Transfiguration class also has its assignments at the exact same time, however, each assignment is weighted differently:
- Assignment 1 = 10%
- Assignment 2 = 50%
- Assignment 3 = 10%
- Assignment 4 = 10%
- Assignment 5 = 20%
Do you see the difference? Let’s say assignment 2 for both Potions and Transfiguration are due October 30th. Potions is worth 10% and Transfiguration is worth 50%. Because 50% is greater than 10%, choosing to focus on the 50% is effective.
Now that we have effectively chosen our priority classes, it’s time to become efficient with our time working on these projects.
We will use the same two classes above for this example. Let’s say we have 30 hours total to work on Assignments 1 in both of these classes. To be efficient we would need to recognize that Assignment 1 in Potions is worth twice the amount. It would be logical to assume that because of this, we should put twice as much time into the Potions assignment.
We would allow ourselves only 10 hours total to work on Assignment 1 (10%) in Transfiguration class. This leaves us 20 hours total for Assignment 1 (20%) in Potions class.
To break it down even further, lets assume that 26 percent of the designated time frame will be used for research. That means we will complete 2.5 hours of research of Transfiguration Class and 5 hours of research for Potions Class.
This same rule applies for any of the other classes. If you have an assignment worth 50% and another project worth 10%, you would spend 1 hour for ever 5 hours you spend on the first project.
How to be Effective:
- Get organized
- identify the priorities
- Set your goals and milestones
- Identify the end results
- Eliminate unimportant tasks
- plan ahead
How to be Efficient
- Do not multitask
- Time your work and activities
- Work on critical tasks first
- Delegate when possible
- Use downtime properly
- Avoid time wasting activities