See-saw plus or minusWhen discussing time management the topics of efficiency and effectiveness often arise. Frequently there is the vague feeling that these are similar concepts, until we pick it apart a little. We discuss that efficiency often has a focus on the way that resources are used in a process and usually people focus on the use of time, while effectiveness is about clarity with respect to the outcome we desire.

At this stage I often ask the question, “Should we aim to be more efficient or more effective?” and wait to see what answers emerge from the group. The room frequently breaks into nervous laughter as several people speak up simultaneously: “Efficient!” “Effective!” “Both!”. It’s rare for one answer to dominate over the others.

As in so many situations, the “right answer” depends on what you want to achieve in that particular situation.

I recall an incident on a recreational pitch-and-putt golf course several years ago. Most of the people wandering the course were simply there for fun. We paid our fee, collected our ball, the standard issue number 7 golf club and putter and off we went cheerfully chipping our way from hole to hole.

Two people on the course stood out as being different – they had brought their own full set of golf clubs with them and were engaged in a much more competitive game… When tee-ing off, these serious golfers walked back behind the tee for many meters to deliberately make the hole longer, more difficult and yes, they hit their brightly coloured golf balls with a greater degree of strength and pace. There was no denying that they could hit the ball further than most other people on the course.

However, the skills they had in strength and speed were not matched by an equal skill in accuracy so their wild shots were far from the mark and they spent a very long time looking for lost balls in the rough and maybe took more shorts to get to the green.

My observations on the outside might suggest these two golfers were neither efficient nor effective in their golfing style – but what would I know? Maybe their goal in the situation was to spend as long as possible walking around a beautiful golf course and of course, they were achieving that aim, intended or not!

So what are you aiming for today? Would it help if you were more efficient or do you need to be more effective right now?