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Systems for Efficiency and Effectiveness

Systems for Efficiency and Effectiveness

Author: Sophia Tutorial

Determine the impact of various time management systems on efficiency and effectiveness.

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what's covered
In this lesson, you will learn some strategies for maintaining productivity at work. Specifically, this lesson will cover:
  1. Efficiency vs. Effectiveness
  2. Time Management Strategies
    1. Create and Analyze an Activity Log
    2. Identify and Prioritize Tasks
    3. Find a Daily System That Works
  3. Dos and Don'ts of Time Management
    1. Learn to "Chunk"
    2. Delegate
    3. Learn to Say "No"
    4. Don't Procrastinate
    5. Manage Email
    6. Find Private Time

1. Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

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
Having strong productivity skills means you are both efficient and effective. You are able to complete tasks in a timely manner but also complete them accurately. Consider your own skill level. Are you efficient? Effective? Both? What steps can you take to improve in your weaker area?

terms to know
The ability to complete a task or achieve a particular goal without expending a significant amount of extra time, energy, or resources.
The ability to complete a task or achieve a particular goal in the manner desired.

2. Time Management Strategies

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:

  • How much time per day or week is spent on particular activities?
  • When during the day did you feel the most productive?
  • When during the day did you feel the least productive or have the most disruptions to workflow?
  • Which activities involved individuals who created these disruptions to workflow?
  • Which activities seem to provide little or no value?
The goal of this analysis is to identify which task or activity should be eliminated and when, if there is a pattern to productivity, a high-value, challenging task should be scheduled. The activity log should provide useful insights into how you can structure your daily tasks.

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.


Securing 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.

3. Dos and Don'ts of Time Management

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.


You 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.

3b. Delegate

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.


What 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.

In this lesson, you learned some strategies for managing your time in order to optimize your efficiency and effectiveness at work. Recommended time management strategies begin with creating and analyzing an activity log to establish a picture of how you currently spend your time. Once an activity log is created, you can identify and prioritize tasks and find a daily system that works to help you stay on task, such as a written to-do list or a daily planner.

You also learned some dos and don’ts of time management, such as learning to "chunk" related tasks, delegating tasks when possible, learning to say "no" to distractions, avoiding procrastination, managing email, and finding private time to work without interruption.

Best of luck in your learning!

Source: This content has been adapted from Lumen Learning's "Personal Efficiency and Effectiveness" tutorial.

Terms to Know

The ability to complete a task or achieve a particular goal in the manner desired.


The ability to complete a task or achieve a particular goal without expending a significant amount of extra time, energy, or resources.