While they are commonly used interchangeably, efficiency and effectiveness are actually different things.
Management education expert Peter Drucker once said, "Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things." For any given task or project, a person can be effective but not efficient and vice versa.
This concept can be illustrated with the following example:
Two students are working in their college mail room. Each is given a stack of 500 individual class schedules that are to be sorted and placed in the mailboxes of the undergraduate students. They are told that when they are done, they will be given another job.
The first student is meticulous and carefully checks that each class schedule goes to the right recipient. She completes the job in 4.5 hours. The second student is less careful about accuracy and makes several errors by putting the wrong schedule in the wrong box. However, he completes his work in 3 hours.
The first student was effective because the task was to get the right schedule to the right student. The second student was more efficient, if efficiency is measured in the number of schedules dispensed per hour.
Productivity: Skill Reflect
One way to be more effective and efficient when communicating, collaborating, and meeting with others in your professional life is to develop a sound time management system that includes listing tasks that need to be accomplished and prioritizing and assigning deadlines to those tasks.
A critical takeoff point to more effectively manage your time would be to ask the following question: "Where has the time gone?" How often have we asked ourselves or heard others pose this question, and how often are we unable to answer it?
Until you have a solid idea of how time is spent, it is impossible to manage time effectively. It is comparable to beginning a journey to a location without knowing the exact starting point.
2a. Create and Analyze an Activity Log
An excellent way of knowing how time is spent is to use an activity log. An activity log involves writing down every task and activity a person is involved with during a day. It also requires noting when these activities occurred during the day and how long they took to be completed.
It would be very useful to also comment on your emotional state and energy level while performing these tasks and activities. The log should be maintained for a period of time— generally one or two weeks. At the end of this period, analyze how time was spent.
This analysis should look for some common threads:
2b. Identify and Prioritize Tasks
After identifying workflow patterns, you can seriously begin planning for time management. The first stage of this process involves identifying the required tasks to be performed across various time horizons, such as the upcoming year, month, week, or day.
The next step is to prioritize these tasks. Some tasks are clearly more important than others.
EXAMPLESecuring a major sale would have a much higher priority than selecting the appropriate stationery for a business.
Determine or estimate how much time and what resources will be required to complete the tasks. Use these estimates of time to generate a to-do list specifying the completion date for the tasks and the activities. Plan on working within realistic blocks of time.
2c. Find a Daily System That Works
In addition to the above, learn to use some form of daily time-management system: a paper-and-pencil system such as a day planner, a computer-based system, or a system that works on a smartphone or an iPad.
Depending on your needs, you may find a hybrid system, such as one that combines an electronic calendar with a written to-do list, useful. Some workplaces expect the use of a particular system, such as Microsoft Outlook to track calendars and schedule meetings.
Some time management tools, including Outlook and Microsoft Teams, also incorporate collaboration tools to help you more effectively communicate with your colleagues while you manage your schedule and work responsibilities.
It is one thing to create a prioritized time schedule; it is something entirely different to successfully follow such a schedule. Time management involves learning how to consistently carry out these tasks while avoiding the many time-robbing traps that exist in all of our lives.
The following are some dos and don’ts of time management.
3a. Learn to "Chunk"
Chunking is a process by which similar activities are grouped into common blocks of time.
EXAMPLEYou might schedule several activities associated with the financial operations of a business - such as paying bills, tallying receipts, and so forth - together during a specific time period.
A common complaint leveled at entrepreneurs and small business owners is their propensity to be involved in every aspect of the business. The effective use of one’s time will involve recognizing that one person cannot do everything.
It is important to learn how to delegate a particular task to subordinates. The challenge is to properly supervise the subordinates so that the task is carried out as desired.
3c. Learn to Say "No"
It is often said that the most important word for a manager to learn is the word "no." Time management involves discipline. It means that at times we must stop activities that would become time-robbers.
EXAMPLEWhat about the colleague who drifts into your work space and asks, "Do you have a few minutes?" When we know that this colleague will be talking more about their own personal life than work-related activities, then we must have the courage to say, "Sorry, but I do not have the time right now."
In periods of time pressure, we must even find strength to forgo some enjoyable activities, such as going out to lunch.
3d. Don’t Procrastinate
For many of us, managing the urge to procrastinate is a substantial challenge. It is best dealt with by maintaining a clear focus on the required tasks. This is why a to-do list of tasks tied with prioritization is so important.
One way to deal with procrastination is to concentrate on one task and stay with that task until it is complete. You may find it helpful to work on easier tasks first, or you may work better when you get the most challenging task out of the way first.
3e. Manage Email
One of the biggest sources of time-wasting is the improper management of email. The ping announcing a new email message often lures you away from productive work to read the message.
Plan set blocks of time during the day to handle email. Outside these blocks, avoid opening emails.
3f. Find Private Time
It is vital that an individual find time to be alone with their own thoughts and work in isolation without interruptions.
Time to think allows you to reflect on the "big picture." As with email, be prepared to demand no interruptions.
Source: This content has been adapted from Lumen Learning's "Personal Efficiency and Effectiveness" tutorial.