My clients and I talk about goals. A lot. As an entrepreneurial coach, it’s just something I ask about all the time.
While most of the goals I hear about from clients are great, there is one that stands out to me as not so great. I hear it all the time, yet it’s so very wrong: “I want to become more efficient in my work.”
Chances are, you’ve even said this yourself once or twice. And hey, even I used to say it myself!
But here’s the truth: being efficient should be written out of goal lists forever. The real goal should be to aim for effectiveness, not efficiency.
But aren’t effectiveness and efficiency the same thing?
Well, not exactly. What many people don’t realize is there’s actually a significant difference between the two words. But unfortunately, many entrepreneurs still talk about them as if they were synonyms.
And mixing these words up as synonyms can actually have a pretty big impact. Big enough that it can sabotage day-to-day productivity and full business potential.
Let me explain.
In simple terms, effectiveness is about people and efficiency is about systems and processes.
Being effective is a matter of engagement.
In other words, it’s doing work that has an impact, makes a difference, and gets a result. For example, a great way to be effective is to create an outline or a mind map of where you want to take your business, and then break down the steps you actually need to follow.
This is NOT what being efficient means.
Being efficient is a matter of trying to do things better, faster, and cheaper. In other words, efficiency is not actually about creating anything that moves you or your business forward in an appreciable way, but instead streamlining the process of what has already been created.
For example, after I’ve created that outline or mind map above, being efficient could mean using a VA system to help me outsource many of those steps I need to follow.
Here is where most people fall short: they begin with efficiency (like working with a VA) and then backtrack to effectiveness (like developing a business outline or mind map). Usually, this happens when they realize the efficiency side of things isn’t really getting them anywhere.
After all, what’s the use of starting to work with a VA if you haven’t yet figured out what set up an outline or mind map to define the result you want?
To keep yourself from this unnecessary frustration and backtracking, here’s the Golden Rule of Effectiveness & Efficiency to follow:
1) First, make it work (AKA: be effective)
2) Then, make it work better (AKA: be even more effective )
3) Finally, make it work faster (AKA: be efficient)
As you can see, being effective should always come before being efficient. While efficiency is of course important for continued growth, working on it before working on effectiveness is a serious mistake.
To know if you’re ready to work on efficiency, here’s a good question to ask yourself: “have I been effective enough to start focusing on efficiency?”
Here’s another way to look at it –
Effectiveness is about “doing the right things.” Efficiency is about “doing things right.”
Which do you prefer?
Hopefully, you said, “doing the right things” (like most of my entrepreneurial clients do).
If you didn’t, let me convince you why you should.
Even if you don’t do things efficiently, you still want to do the right things. If you are not doing the right things, you might be doing the wrong things.
Yes, you might be doing these wrong things very efficiently (AKA: quickly, smoothly, and cheaply), but they are still the wrong things and probably won’t help you hit your business goals.
A past client of mine illustrates this point perfectly. He was producing a lot of content for his blog posts and had nailed down a sequence that allowed him to get these posts up very efficiently and quickly.
However, while my client was “doing things right,” I could quickly tell he was not “doing the right thing.”
His posts were random and disorganized – meaning they were pretty useless in helping him reach his goal of getting more leads. By moving our focus back to effectiveness, we were able to develop a strategical blog post campaign that brought his marketing in the right direction and actually achieved the result he wanted.
It’s amazing how the distinction between these two simple words has the power to change your entire productivity mindset.
If you think about what we do in terms of efficiency, you may fall into the trap of trying to do things better, faster, and cheaper instead of trying to be more effective and do high-quality tasks that have a greater impact on yourself and your business.