Friday, December 5, 2008

Efficiency and Effectiveness: Making the Most of the Day

Lately, I have been leaving the normal work day feeling under accomplished and scattered. It feels like a miracle if I can dedicate more than 15 minutes to a single task without being interrupted. Your personality strengths can cast shadows of weakness. Like the shadow cast from an object by the sun, efficiency is a strength and an enemy. Efficiency is not effectiveness. Producing something fast does not mean it is effective. In addition, I thought being efficient would free up more time. Funny thing how the work is never finished. This realization began several months ago and a few thoughts have generated since.

First, effectiveness is when enough of the right things are done right. Are you doing something you could easily delegate to someone else—to someone who is more skilled, better suited, or is spiritually gifted for that particular task? Spend most of your time using your natural talents. I am most effective for the organization when I am doing the tasks that I do best well.

Secondly, learn to say no. Too many people are measuring how effective or important they are by how many tasks they can keep in the air at a given moment. Divorce yourself of the idea that long hours and accomplishment are connected. We all know a computer runs at its slowest when it has too many operations open at once. The same applies to our lives.

Thirdly, there is a clear relationship between how fast you acquire news and how much it costs to discover that news. For example, you can check your email twice a day pretty easily. Once every fifteen minutes has a disruption cost. Ringing your phone every sixty seconds is an extremely expensive efficiency choice. What was initially meant to make me more efficient has produced the inability to focus for more than 15 minutes on a single task. Turn it off.

Finally, if you spend your meeting checking your text messages, sending email, and surfing the internet, then no, you are not productive. However, if you know how and when to use these tools properly, then technology can definitely increase your efficiency.

Anyone who feels frustration and distraction during the work day...I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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