Effective VS. Efficient: Which One Are You?

This week marks the beginning of Season 10 of Productivity Paradox, which is all about the idea of “bending time” so that we can stop being busy and start making space in our day to focus on the things that really matter most.

So in that light, I’ve got one question for you: When is enough, enough?

For so many of us, we think that the more that we’re able to cross off of our task list, the more productive we are… but today I want to invite you to stop focusing on the idea of keeping yourself busy in order to do #AllTheThings and start focusing on the idea of being more effective when it comes to tackling your tasks, goals, and big dreams.

Today, we’re going to take a look at a few of the key differences between being effective versus being efficient so that you can determine where your productivity mindset lies, and start making changes to your daily routine so that you can stop trying to do #AllTheThings and start doing the things that matter most instead!

Ready to get started?


Effective VS. Efficient: 3 Key Differences


1. Quality VS. Quantity–

If you’re someone that looks at the words effective and efficient as being interchangeable, then I have a hard truth to share with you: they’re actually opposites!

When it comes to tackling tasks, those of us with an efficiency mindset will look at our list and try to crank through every single task as quickly as possible… because, the faster we’re able to cross things off, the more productive we are, right?

In truth, crossing more items off of our task list, while it certainly does increase the number of things we set out to do in a single day (i.e. it yields more quantitative results), more often than not, it leaves much to be desired within the realm of the quality of the work that we do.

Think about it this way: Would you rather hustle through cleaning your house, doing everything in half of the time and with half of the effort to boot? Or would you rather take your time, ensuring that things are put away and your house is spotless so that you don’t need to go back and redo everything all over again the next day?

When it comes to tackling items on our list, at home and at work, being productive is not central to doing as much as we possibly can in a single day… Instead, it’s about focusing on a small fraction of that list so that we can make sure that what we’re doing is a reflection of our best work.

It’s like my grandmother used to say when I was younger and would help her with her chores at home… If you’re going to do something, take your time and do it right.


2. Outcome VS. Output–

If efficiency is all about doing as much as possible in the shortest amount of time, then I bet you can guess where this next difference is heading…

Where efficiency is focused on increasing our output, being effective is all about setting ourselves up for the best possible outcome.

In other words, those of us that focus on trying to do as much as possible will typically look at our task list and hone in on the idea of cranking out the items on our list as quickly as possible. More items crossed off means an increase in our daily output, right?

On the other hand, effectiveness is all about focusing on the tasks that will yield the best possible outcome — and what’s especially important to remember here is that the tasks we’re talking about are usually in better alignment with our long-term goals.

Let me ask you this: Which is better, to take 100 small steps in a hundred different directions? Or, to make one or two big steps forward in a direction you really want your life to go?

When in doubt, pay close attention to the results you want in the long-term scope of things… and practice being more effective with your time instead!


3. Details Vs. Deadlines–

Each and every one of us has been faced with a deadline at some point in our lives, and chances are… Each and every one of us has grappled with the prospect of being more efficient or being more effective when it comes to our approach!

When it comes to a deadline at home, at work, or even at school, it’s imperative that we understand the difference between being effective versus being efficient.

Let’s look at this from a workplace perspective… When it comes to an approaching deadline, an efficient person will hurry up and get that PowerPoint presentation to their boss by noon, because that’s the deadline.

An efficient person will hurry through the task just to get it checked off of their list, but therein lies the problem: they don’t necessarily think about the consequences if they don’t do a great job with it! Instead, they continue to plug away and try to get it done in less time; they’ll churn and burn focusing on time and time alone, because they’re trying to be efficient.

On the other hand, an effective person will be more conscientious about the presentation. Because they’re goal-focused rather than deadline-focused, they might even try to negotiate a little more time if they think that it will result in a better outcome at the end.

An effective person won’t just crank through the task to meet the deadline, they’ll focus on the quality of their work and the positive consequences of doing a thorough job instead.


So, when it comes to your task list… Which type of worker are you, an efficient worker or an effective worker?

Share your experiences in the comments below, and let me know how you’ll rise to the challenge I discuss in Episode 118 of the podcast over the next week so that you can stop making it a point to try to do #all the things and start focusing on bending your time in a more meaningful way instead!

You Might Also Like

  • Stop Apologizing at Work & Use These 3 Alternatives Instead
  • Stop Holding Yourself Back & Get the Promotion You Deserve
  • Why Your Emotional Intelligence Can Help You Succeed at Work
Tonya Dalton
Tonya Dalton