Personal Productivity

Effectiveness and Efficiency – Why You Need Both to Succeed?

Effectiveness vs. Efficiency
wrote this on August 6, 2012
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“Efficiency”, “Effectiveness”…we’ve all heard these buzz words.  I think business consultants and gurus all around throw these words because they sound right.  One of my other favorites is “Synergy”, another all-time favorite used by the “elite”.

Let’s drill beneath the superficial level – do you know the difference between Efficiency and Effectiveness?

Almost all the explanations I’ve heard fail to describe them properly.  Since they are critical to your success, it’s time to explain them properly.  Many productivity coaches, including David Allen, Stephen Covey, and Anthony Robins explain them in their methodologies.

However, in my opinion, Peter Drucker, the father of modern management, said it best:


“Efficiency is doing things right and Effectiveness is doing the right things.”


Effectiveness and Efficiency – Why You Need Both to Succeed?

Effectiveness is making sure that we are doing the right things at the right time.  Effectiveness is about planning, looking at the bigger picture.  To be effective, you need to think “outside the box” as it demands thinking about your objectives and how you can achieve them.

Let’s focus on David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology.  David’s approach to goal setting and planning provides us with the Runway, 10K, 20K, 30K, 40K, and 50K foot planning models.   As he states, before we start working on actions and projects, and in order to know what our goals are, we need to know what our “work” is.  Many methodologies talk about the same concept but use different terminology.  Ultimately, you goals lie on many levels – your life, 3-5 year, 1-3 years, areas of responsibilities, and, of course, current projects and actions.

Using your clearly stated objectives, you can ensure that time spent on day-to-day activities are effective.  This is the essence of effectiveness – whatever you do is calculated to get you closer to your goals.  The flipside, of course, is that you are not managing your actions properly and are “wasting” energy and resources on actions that are not in line with your objectives.   Remember, every action you take could and should be associated with your goals.

As an example, in the Runway Level, according to GTD, you should decide on your current actions.  I chose this level as an example because it’s often on this level (our day-to-day) that we get side-tracked with actions or tasks that are “waste” our resources, cause us to feel guilty and unproductive.  Personally, I use “The Four-Criteria Model for Choosing Actions in the Moment”.  At the start of any given day, I’ll do a quick daily review of the actions, and decide based on Context, Time, Energy, and Priority which actions to focus on and “DO”.

Efficiency on the other hand is all about the execution.  It is about doing things right.  It starts with formulating a process that works for you.  The ultimate goal when focusing on efficiency is to reduce wasted time, energy, and sometimes even money.  It demands that you adopt a workflow for doing that reduces unnecessary steps.  Once you decide on your workflow, it demands practicing the same steps until it becomes second nature.

Effectiveness and Efficiency on IQTELL

After learning the various productivity methods, you may decide on the one that most suits you.  For me, it was David Allen’s GTD method, but I made modifications to the process that suited my needs.  I reviewed and tested my productivity workflow until it left nothing for question.  It was important that when I started implementing my process, I do not think, I just do it like a habit.  The other half to any workflow or method is the tool.  It was important for me to have a tool that caters to my productivity workflow.  It was critical that all my life’s information is in one place, I did not want to hop between multiple applications.  I funnel my information easily into the right buckets, manage my projects, and do my actions in an effective manner.  Now, when I process all my information, there is hardly any thinking, its second nature.  I no longer improvise my productivity workflow; I use my creative juices when I actually am doing my actions, writing, and helping my organization achieve its goals.

Since we are in the midst of the Olympics, I’ll end with a Phelps analogy.  When Michael swims the 200 Meter butterfly, although it’s a complex movement, you can be sure he is not thinking; he is just swimming.  During his training, he first segmented the butterfly stroke into it basic movements.  Together with his coach, Bob Bowman, they developed his technique for each movement; his butterfly “workflow”, if you will.  He then practiced this ad nauseam until it became not several movements but one fluid motion that he doesn’t think about, he just does. So every time he gets in the pool, he is both Efficient – doing & improving the butterfly workflow that works for him – and Effective – every session whether, training or competition, is tied to his goals.

* GTD® is a registered trademark of the David Allen Company. IQTELL is not affiliated with the David Allen Company.

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