Why Being Effective is Better Than Efficient

These days it seems everyone is obsessed with efficiency.

Everyone wants to squeeze more out of their limited 24-hour day. But what they really want is to be more productive – and productivity is more a function of being effective than being efficient.

Defining Effectiveness and Efficiency

Examine the definitions of effective and efficient:

Effective: successful in producing a desired or intended result.

Efficient: achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.

Now ask yourself, would you rather be efficient but ineffective – or effective and inefficient?

I’ll take the latter any day.

Don’t Fall Into The “Efficiency Trap”

Given the modern-day obsession with efficiency, productivity, life-hacking, and the like, it’s easy to fall into the “Efficiency Trap.”

The Efficiency Trap is where you focus mostly on efficiency at the expense of effectiveness. You wake up early, follow a strict schedule, drink extra coffee, and follow every trick in the book to squeeze more juice out of your orange.

Contrast this with being effective, which is like having a larger orange from which to squeeze. Even with a weak half-assed squeeze, you end up with more juice. You don’t need that extra drop or two from the smaller orange, because you’re growing an orange grove with larger, juicier oranges.

Clearly being effective is better. Why, then, are we so easily led astray by productivity hacks?

Being Efficient Makes Us Feel Better

Being effective is where bottom-line results are created, but being efficient makes us feel better. We are relieved of guilt if we follow the perfect schedule, keep our homes and office spaces spick and span, and grind ourselves to the point of 100% productivity. It gives us a sense of order and progress.

But in fact,  being efficient is often a procrastination mechanism. This looks something like, “Hey, look how hard I’m working! I’m doing my best and couldn’t possibly fit anything else in…”

This is little more than a clever self-deception, and a distraction that takes away your strategic focus from being effective.

Work On Your Business, Not In It

When you’re being effective, you are working on your business – not in it.

When you’re working on your business, you are in a state of proactive control.

When you are working in your business, you get lost in a chain of continuously reactive decisions.

Think of it this way: being effective is the result of calm, focused, and strategic thought. In your mind, you are separating yourself from the business and looking in from the outside, asking questions like “What needs to happen next?”

This is critical to long-term success, because you are always reorienting your mind towards the bottom line. By contrast, efficiency seems like a bottom-line task, but is really just effectiveness’ helpful assistant.

Efficiency matters, but only if you have something worth making efficient.

Remember to Be Effective

In summary, it’s best to make sure you’re being effective before you worry about efficiency. Otherwise, you might just become increasingly quick at producing no results.

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