Effectiveness vs Efficiency – what’s your poison?


As you know (if you didn’t before, you know it now), I call myself a word mangler. As a word mangler, I take words very seriously and ponder on some small intricacies of the oh so logical english language (more on that next week). So, recently, I have been looking at the words effectiveness and efficiency.

I’ve come to realize that efficiency means doing the tasks that need to be done right away, the ones that are right in front of me and not necessarily the ones that require the most thought or inspiration. Like email, I can be really efficient by getting to inbox zero but am I being effective in my use of time? The efficiency of completing a task well is definitely not something to overlook, but doing work just for the sake of doing work (and thereby doing it well) is not necessarily the place I want to be for the better part of my “work” time.


Effectiveness, on the other hand, refers to looking at my current state and choosing what I want to do with the time, energy and focus that I have available. As implied by the word, it also means that I will be having an effect on something, hopefully moving forward a project that requires more than just mindless tasks that might seem to make me be more productive (another word I have an issue with), but are actually masquerading as efficiency. Being effective gives me the chance to look at the larger picture and start taking the small steps to move in the general direction I want to go. It’s the simple act of choosing the correct thing (yes, just one!) to focus on at this particular time. For example, I’m writing this blog post early (well, early for me) in the morning before I check my email. Two things I do on a somewhat regular basis. But why did I choose to do this? I know that in the larger scheme of things, I would like to use the morning time, when I’ve found myself to be more creative and inspired, to write or work on longer term plans and projects and I know that if I check email, or Facebook or Twitter that will just get me distracted and I’ll end up responding to a mention, a post or an email that someone else has written and thus be responding rather than sponding (shouldn’t that be a word?). I’ll be working on someone else’s agenda rather than my own.


Ideally, I’ll be efficient and effective but if I had to pick, effective would be my poison of choice. Efficiency is something that can be built over time and takes less effort to cultivate. Effectiveness is something that takes a lot more effort to work on, to schedule and to avoid the oh so many distractions that we have in our lives. I’m sure that this was different 20 or 30 years ago, but with the distractions of the many screens that we have in our lives, it’s becoming harder and harder to focus on the larger more distant and hazy picture. During lower energy times, I’d just rather jump on twitter and interact with my oh so awesome PLN (personal learning network!) and hopefully gain some inspiration to get myself together for my next venture.

So, what are you thoughts on this? Do you struggle with finding ways to be effective? Or efficient?

Adnan Iftekhar


  1. Enjoyed your post, Adnan — I agree, as emails proliferate and the Twitterverse expands, it is a challenge to remain effective. Setting aside time to reflect is key. (If it’s possible to be both effective and efficient, what would that word mangle be – Effecteffish? 🙂

  2. My new word that you might enjoy is CHAROW, a combination of change and growth, the first 3 letters of “change” and the 2nd, 3rd and 4th letters of “growth.” Premise is that we have to change in order to grow and deciding what kinds of both we want (or need) is the first order of business.