Don't Confuse Efficient with Effective

You’ll find that there is an abundance of material available, both online and offline, trying to teach you how you can be more productive and more efficient. They’ll tell you about developing a work ethic and how you can use tools like to-do lists to maximize your productivity at work. What these tips and guides fail to tell you, however, is that efficiency is not enough. Efficiency should not be the goal. You want to be effective instead.

These are two very different concepts. Efficiency relates to getting as much of the work done as quickly as possible. If you put that cute cat above in front of a computer keyboard, it’s very well possible that she will be able to type out over 100 words per minute. That’s efficient. However, it’s very likely that the vast majority of those words (if not all of them) will be completely gibberish and useless. Effectiveness, on the other hand, relates to getting the right work done. You could have someone who doesn’t type quite so quickly, but every word produced is meaningful, accurate, and interesting.

Getting Out of the Forest

This kind of philosophy can also be explained by what happens when you get lost. If you have the wrong map, it doesn’t matter how quickly you run in every which direction, trying to find your bearings again, because you are still lost. Yes, you are running faster than anyone else, but that doesn’t mean necessarily that you are getting anywhere. That’s efficient, but not effective.

On the other hand, if you get lost in a forest and take the time to climb the highest tree, getting an overall perspective of the whole area, you can then learn which way is the right way out of the woods and back to safety. You can walk slowly in that right direction, but you are being effective insofar that you are going in the right direction.

The Importance of Work Ethic

Naturally, it is still vital that you have a proper work ethic and that you are motivated to get something done in the first place. Just because you are sitting in front of the computer doesn’t mean that you are working. At the same time, participating in mindless busywork doesn’t help your cause very much either, because that just consumes your time without producing anything of value.

Work ethic relates to your inherent motivation to get things done rather than to sit there and do nothing. You need to put your plans in action and you need to want to do that. However, before you are able to do any of this, you need to clearly define your values and your goals. How can you possibly head in the right direction if you don’t know where your destination is? You might walk right past your end goal and not even know it.

Staying on Track

When you have an “efficient” mindset, it is far too easy to get lost in the details. It is far too easy to get led astray, participating in the aforementioned mindless busywork to maintain the appearance of a hard worker. Just looking like you’re doing something doesn’t really help anyone.

Instead, shift your brain over to an “effective” mindset. Work to reach your goals in a manner where each step taken is in the right direction, where each task contributes back to your goal and relates back to your core values. Only then can you be truly effective in what you do.