As we look ahead to the new year, I want to talk about a topic that I think once we understand it, it will help us make better use of our time. And that is the difference between being effective and being efficient.
I personally believe we have for far too long placed such a high priority on being efficient that we have hindered our effectiveness. Let’s discuss the difference between being effective and being efficient.
Dictionary.com defines effective as “adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result.” Or as I would say in my own words, you actually get something done that is important and worth doing.
The definition of efficient is “performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort.” In other words, it means getting something done in the quickest way possible.
I started thinking about this comparison one day when I realized how often we take shortcuts that really don’t serve us well in light of what we are trying to accomplish. We often sacrifice effectiveness for efficiency.
I’m all about getting things done as quickly as possible. I just don’t want to sacrifice my effectiveness in getting things done quickly.
When I researched this topic to see what others had to say about it, most of the articles I came across were about how multitasking is really not as effective as we think it is. And while I do want to talk a bit about multitasking, that is not my main focus today.
Let’s dive deep into what tasks are we trying to do more efficiently that are causing us to be less effective in the things that matter. Or in other words, where are we really wasting time when we think we’re actually making good use of our time.
A History of Getting Work Done
I believe some of us, especially me, would not survive well if we didn’t have the modern conveniences that are available today.
In the early 1900s, the United States saw the introduction of the vacuum cleaner, iron, refrigerator, dishwasher, garbage disposal, and washer and dryer to our society. I can only imagine what it was like to take care of a home before these appliances were invented.
These appliances are examples of effective ways to be efficient. Because they allow us to clean our dishes and clothes without having to monitor the process, we are able to turn our attention to other tasks.
Fast forward to today, and some of these other appliances have become more able to help us in taking care of our homes. We have vacuum cleaners that are essentially robots we can deploy to clean our floors.
In the early 1970s, we saw the introduction of the microwave to homes. This opened a whole new world of cooking in a shorter amount of time. Just think about all of the appliances now that are supposed to save us time. And for the most part, they do. However, I think sometimes their efficiency still takes away from our effectiveness.
Areas of Life Where We Are Wasting Time
It became clear to me some time ago that some of the short cuts we take in an effort to be efficient actually affect our health in a negative way. Remember when I mentioned that the microwave came on the scene in the early 70s? Well, what do you think came as a result of the introduction of the microwave? Microwavable meals.
And while there are some microwavable meals that are healthy, or so they say, most microwavable meals are made with so many additives and preservatives, that they really are not all that healthy for us. Even the ones that are low in calories are full of salt. So when we think we’re saving time, we’re actually wasting time caring for ourselves in a healthy way.
The same goes for fast food. When fast food options came along, they were so well received. They helped busy wives and moms put food on the table that was good and their family liked. Then as our lives have increasingly become busier, fast food has become a way to save some time yet still feed our families.
I think we all know by now the effects fast food has had on our health. In our effort to be efficient in feeding our families, we’re still wasting time when it comes to our health. I know for me personally, I am dealing with years of effects of eating too much fast food. I’m working on breaking my cravings for it and trying to make healthier choices.
You may be wondering if there is a way we can still take some shortcuts when it comes to food that will actually strengthen us and help us become healthier.
I think there are. For instance, you could take all the time you would normally use in running through to pick up fast food or going out to eat to create several meals at one time that you could freeze for later use.
This doesn’t have to be complicated or difficult. Even just an hour or two every couple of weeks spent browning ground beef, cooking chicken in your crockpot, or assembling meals that you can cook later will go a long way to increasing your health and saving you some time in the kitchen. When you’re ready to cook the meals you can utilize your time-saving appliances such as the microwave, crockpot, Instapot, and programmable oven to help you get a meal on the table quickly.
Yes, it does require some pre-planning and effort. However, the results will be well worth it.
You will hardly ever hear me complain about being able to access technology whenever I want. In fact, it’s more likely I’ll complain if I don’t have a cellular signal or wifi to access my technology.
While technology does save us tons of time, I mean who can argue that it’s so much easier to write a paper on a computer than using technology, right, it can distract us and become a huge time waster.
I remember when the first iPhones came out. I was not all that interested in getting one because I really couldn’t see how it would benefit me. However, one day I realized I was spending lots of time on my desktop computer reading and responding to emails. I learned that if I had an iPhone, I could use it to check my emails and my social media.
My argument to my husband for getting an iPhone was that I could use what I thought was wasted time in the pickup line at school to check my email. Then I could better use my time by being more present with the kids at home instead of being chained to my computer to check my email.
I’m sure you know what happened after I got my first iPhone. I became addicted to it! And it has sometimes been more of a hindrance than a help when it comes to being efficient and effective.
I’ve mentioned in several episodes how I’m trying to put the phone down and only use it when necessary. It’s crazy how quickly we adapt to new technology and let it overtake our lives.
So we’ve got to be careful how we use our technology in the name of being efficient. Evaluate what kinds of technology you use and see if they are really helping you to be effective and efficient.
There are so many things we do to help us manage our time that we think are making us effective and efficient when in reality they are doing just the opposite.
One of those things is multitasking. If you research multitasking you’ll discover it has been widely proven to be an ineffective way to use our time. Every time we switch tasks, we have to refocus and that causes us to lose some time in our day.
Multitasking really does not help us be more efficient and it takes away from our effectiveness. Think about the times you stop working on something to check your email or social media just for a minute. You find yourself 30 minutes later no further along on the task you should have been working on. You’ve literally wasted time.
Instead of multitasking, consider time blocking. I did an episode on time blocking earlier this year. However, just to briefly recap, time blocking is about setting aside periods of time to work on like tasks.
For example, I set aside time to work on social media posts. Then I set another time to work on recording podcasts and another to write blog posts. I don’t try to work on all three of these things at one time.
When I’m in homemaker mode, I set aside time to clean the house. I don’t try to fold the laundry or declutter an area of my home, I just clean. If I tried to work on all three of those things at one time, it would take much longer than it would if I worked on them one at a time.
So evaluate where you might be multitasking and see how it’s affecting your efficiency and effectiveness. Consider focusing on one thing at a time so you can get the most important things done.
Taking care of our home
Often I hear women say they want to get organized. And what usually happens when they try to get organized is they try to organize everything they have without getting rid of a lot of their stuff.
One step that is often overlooked when it comes to organizing is decluttering. When you have more stuff than space, it’s hard to organize all of that. I know, it’s hard to let things go sometimes, but it is important if you want to organize your home so it is more efficient and you are more effective in taking care of it.
Recently I figured out the reason I have a hard time maintaining some areas of my home is that I still have too much stuff in those areas. I have not decluttered enough to give the things I want to keep a proper home. I still find myself searching for different items at times because I can’t remember where I put them.
Reducing what we have to the things we most love, want, or need can go a long way to creating a more peaceful home that is easier to take care of.
What is working for me is that I’ve become more diligent about keeping things picked up and put away. This has helped in the last couple of weeks as I’ve hosted different events in my home for Christmas. I have not had to spend hours picking up things and putting them away or doing emergency decluttering sessions. Most of my time getting ready for these events was spent in actual cleaning and preparation of the food.
So I encourage you to look around your home and see what can and needs to go. This will help you take care of your home in a more effective way.
Again, I’m all about doing things as efficiently as possible as long as it doesn’t hinder my effectiveness. I’ve discovered in the last few years that I am a process girl. I strive to streamline processes and tasks to cut out the unnecessary to do things in the best way possible. So I love to see when a project or process can be done in a better way.
But I always keep in mind what the primary purpose is and its importance. If streamlining a process takes away its effectiveness, then I go back to the drawing board and try something new.
So all efficiency is not bad. It’s something to really work at to help us improve our effectiveness.