Don’t just be Effective be Efficient: Do You Know the Difference?

I talk to myself (and the Lord) quite a bit as I put together the material for this website. I spend most of day in a tiny office) working on the computer creating publications, wrestling materials into formats for distribution online. After a training seminar I took yesterday I wondered all last night if mine writings are efficient, effective, or efficiently effective? As I focused on getting things done efficiently I  may be making very quick decisions. I rapidly move through tasks and check things off your To-Do list one, two, and three. I look productive!!! Because there is activity, your list is full of check marks or strikeouts showing completion, and my calendar shows meetings. That To-Do list isn’t too long and overwhelming because I’m on it. The question is:

Are doing the right things? The key to effectiveness is that you’re doing things that lead to results in the realm of your responsibilities. Meanwhile the key to efficiency is getting your things done in a manner that consumes just the appropriate amount of energy and resources. Effective and efficient are very common business/marketing terms. However, most of us tend to mix their meanings and usage occasionally (including myself), and that is why I decided to write on the topic.

First of all if you look for both terms in most dictionaries you’ll find very similar definitions (which make the matter even more confusing). Some dictionaries get it right, however. Here is the definition from, which I like:

Effective (adj.): Adequate to accomplish a purpose; producing the intended or expected result.

Efficient (adj.) Performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of tyme and effort.

If you want an easier way to memorize the difference, remember this sentence: “Being effective is about doing the right things, while being efficient is about doing the things in the right manner.”

Examining efficiency in automobiles: a fuel efficient vehicle gets more miles to the gallon. A car with a mile per gallon (mpg) rating of 50, like a Toyota Prius, is thought to be a mighty efficient car. And it is. However, a Prius wouldn’t always be an effective car. For example, if you had to pull a trailer loaded with your favorite outdoor toy; a camper, a power boat, or a fleet of motorcycles, a Prius probably doesn’t have the horsepower to pull the trailer. It might not even move away from the parking spot. It’s effectiveness in the specific application is low or null.

From its earliest pages, Scripture teaches us people are more important than processes; how we get results is as important as getting them; effectiveness is more important than efficiency. Christians who work must reflect these principles if they are to accurately reflect the character of God to their coworkers. They also must constantly walk a fine line between efficiency and effectiveness. Sometymes the right choices aren’t easily discerned, but often the problem isn’t deciding which is right, but having the courage to make and stand by the right choice.

When it comes to managing our personal tyme, effectiveness almost always trumps efficiency. Consider the story of Martha and Mary. Read Luke 10:38-42. (For more information on these two women, you can also read about them in John 11 and 12.)

Listen to how Paul describes the battle between efficiency and effectiveness.

Therefore, be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your tyme, because the days are evil. So then, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (Ephesians 5:15-17)

As we read about the many individuals Paul lists at the beginning and end of his letters, we get a clear understanding when he says “making the most of our tyme”; he’s referring to God’s view of how we best spend our tyme. While we may start our days earnestly hoping we can be faithful to the Lord, frequently the stuff of life crams itself down our throats, and we fail Him more than we honor Him. Then late at night, when the careening, chaotic pace of the paths of work and relationships relinquish their grips on our conscious actions, our thoughts turn back to God. It can be utterly discouraging in those moments to realize how little we’ve thought of Him in the course of the day.

Then maybe sometyme during the week we finally find tyme to read His Word, and we are ever more astonished at just how holy He demands us to be, and how utterly unfit we are by ourselves for His service. How can we possibly fit this tent of unfaithfulness into the tent-bag of His call on our life?

One of the enemies of faithfulness is pace. Sometymes others dictate pace to us, as in tyrannical bosses, small children, extraordinary circumstances, or the consequences of wrong choices. Often, though, the reckless pace of our lives is our own fault, chasing after the windmill of plenty, prosperity, security, power, or a place of significance. A relentless pace condemns us to a focus on the moment, leaving little tyme for earthly, tangible relationships, let alone God. If the goal of our tyme management system is designed to cram more accomplishment into our day, then our focus is on tasks and not on the relationship that gives meaning to those tasks.

We must each look to the pace in our lives and govern it prudently. It strengthens not only our relationship with God, but with all those God has given us: family, friends and coworkers.

We cannot think of God in the shorter journeys of our life if we fail to consider His place in the longer journeys. Planning those longer journeys—like “where is God working and what’s my place in His wall” and “what do my children need to know about God” and “am I ready to give an answer when my coworker asks me the hard questions of faith”—those journeys require the planning and preparation done in quiet moments which refuse to yield to the world’s demand for activity.

Even as we recognize our continuing unworthiness, though, we must never stop yielding ourselves to obedience. The irony of “more fruit for the kingdom” is often that it demands we be less busy. Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, both of which are found not in action but in relationship, and everything else, including our labors, will become acts that honor Him and matter eternally. As a young Armor bearer I was taught the Pareto Principle by my Spiritual Father, which basically was that Efficiency, is doing the job right. Effectiveness is doing the right job right. My goal as his assistant was that I should be to be effective, and not just efficient.

Vilfredo Pareto was a nineteenth century Italian economist. Studying the distribution of his country’s resources, he determined that 80 percent of the wealth was held by 20 percent of the people.

Researchers have discovered Pareto’s 80/20 rule applies in countless circumstances. For instance, 80 percent of your church’s offerings are likely given by 20 percent of the membership, 80 percent of the leadership provided by 20 percent of the people. And, probably 80 percent of your problems are generated by 20 percent of the congregation.

On your to-do list, 80 percent of your productivity is in the 20 percent of your list designated as As. If you do only the As, the most important 20 percent of your list, you will have accomplished 80 percent of your productivity. But, if you work from the bottom of the list and do eight things, all the Bs and Cs, you do 80 percent of your list but accomplish only 20 percent of your productivity. The 80/20 rule graphically illustrates why it is so important to stick to your priorities, as to being effective, and not just efficient.

As I have been writing, I have received many “Common Sense and Eternal Principles” Revelations:

■ God values relationship over activity.

■ Jesus teaches us people are more important than processes and achievements.

■ The pace of our life is often one of the most serious challenges to our spiritual journey.

■ A hectic pace is also one of the most serious challenges to our earthly relationships.

■ Seeking God’s priorities first (love God, love others, teach others about Him, tend His

Creation—in that order) put our priorities in place.



Photo(s)/ Resource(s): Daniel Scocco, Yvon Prehn



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