Efficient is not always Effective.
Know the difference:
Efficiency is using minimal time and effort to reach an objective. The tool for efficiency is a stopwatch, and the threat of efficiency is possible loss of long-term effectiveness.
Effectiveness is achieving an objective so that it meets today’s needs and makes it easier to do it again. The tools for effectiveness are planning and communicating, and the threat of effectiveness is getting put in charge since you do it so well.
To organize a messy desk, efficiency could be pushing everything into the trash. Effectiveness would be filing everything as it comes in so that the desk doesn’t get messy.
Deciding to be effective can be a slippery target, but you can hit that target with consistent attention to little habits. If you’re a team member with aspirations for higher productivity, here are five habits that are building blocks of your effectiveness.
1. Plan your priorities
It’s exhausting to work hard dealing with myriad details and little emergencies, and not be sure what you’ve accomplished at the end of the day! Begin by knowing the three or four key actions that you can take that have guaranteed positive results, and then make sure you put those actions at the top of your To-Do list. Keep that list with your appointment calendar, and literally schedule your important tasks. It’s important to make conscious decisions ahead of time about what tasks absolutely must be done today, and what tasks don’t necessarily need to be done today – if at all! It’s the height of ineffectiveness to get to the end of the day, and realize that a must-do task wasn’t. An unprioritized To-Do list is a way of fooling yourself that you’ve got things under control.
2. Plan ahead
Decide tomorrow’s top priority before leaving at the end of your day. That #1 top priority must be in place before you walk in the door in the morning. That’s the only way it will survive the onslaught of unplanned ‘urgencies’ that will try to interrupt your day. Note that urgencies demanding your attention are almost always somebody else’s urgent needs. It’s easier to evaluate just how urgent they really are and to calmly spend your energy in the right direction when you have your top priorities clearly defined, and in a prominent place to be completed.
3. Keep your boss informed
Many time-consuming efforts go unrewarded because the boss either didn’t consider it an effective use of your time or didn’t realize that’s how you were spending your time. By telling your boss two things you plan to spend time on in the coming week, you make sure you get credit for your accomplishments and ensure that you aren’t wasting time doing unappreciated tasks.
4. Follow-up on agreements
When you make an agreement to do something, clarify exactly what’s expected, make progress reports, and ask for help when you need it. It enhances your reputation for reliability when people hear from you before they have to come check up on you. When somebody else makes an agreement with you to do something, check back to make sure they’ve really got it under way and under control. “Any questions?” or “Need any help?” give your colleague an opening to ask for help if needed, but they are weak because they are closed-ended questions that allow the person answering to ‘escape’ by just saying “Yes” or “No” to end the conversation. A content-filled question that requires a thoughtful answer is a better follow-up because you have a better idea where they are on the agreement and they have a better idea that you’re really expecting the agreed-upon results.
5. Recognize energy patterns
Take advantage high energy peaks and low energy valleys when scheduling tasks. The accomplishment that may be the most challenging or that will give you’re the greatest positive benefit goes in that high-energy slot. Doing difficult tasks during low-energy times creates a false memory of just how difficult it was, and may leave you less effective in the future on that type of task. Routine tasks – cleaning, filing, filling out reports – are good bridges to get across low-energy times. And jobs that you assign to your normal energy times? Those are ideal for building teamwork – help somebody with their task and get help with yours. Synergy will make them go faster.
Implementing these tips will improve your internal satisfaction and external profile. People will see you as influential and effective because you exhibit good planning and communication habits. And you’ll go home with more energy and satisfaction because you’ve gotten the right jobs done.