Be Effective, then Efficient



One important Covey lesson one of my mentor’s always points out is, “Be efficient with things, but be effective with people.”

I like the distinction.

Effective is doing the right things for the right results.  Efficient is optimizing.  It’s the least waste of time and effort.

Before you try to be more efficient, first try to be more effective.  There’s no point in optimizing ineffective things.

I think of this as first asking, “What do I want to accomplish?”, then asking, “Where can I optimize?”

For example, I first make sure I have the right things on my To Do list, before I try to optimize them and whenever I’m learning something new, I first focus on the mechanics before I speed up.

In other words, don’t try to shoot the bow faster before you can hit the target using the right technique.

Agile Results includes some simple ways to improve your efficiency and effectiveness.

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  1. Hi JD .. gosh I wish the Nursing Centre could read this .. don’t suggest it .. waste of energy!! I’ve tried. I’ve spent 8 days chasing around for things that I really shouldn’t have to do for my mother – I talk about being planned and ready – they just do .. and everyone picks the pieces up as they go along – & my mother ‘suffers’ – ie it’s not all calm, quiet, efficient and ‘carbon copied’ – from one floor to the other. I’ve spent so much energy over this .. and now 3 years on – I’m exhausted. But I know exactly what you mean – I hate not being efficient, and thus wasting people’s time and energies .. it’d be great if others would learn it .. Thanks for pointing the differences out .. and I like the be efficient with things, and effective with people. – Hilary

  2. @ Hilary

    I know what you mean … it’s so frustrating when a system is ineffective, especially when people’s livelihood is at stake. Whenever I find I’m lost in a chaotic system, I try to escalate as quickly as possible to somebody who can cut through the chaos and get results.

  3. Hi

    Not very good in my English. Don’t mind explain deeper regarding the phrase:
    “Be efficient with things, but be effective with people.”

    I do understand the difference between Efficient and Effective, but why effecient with things and effective with people??

    Can give some examples?

    Thanks =]


  4. @ Bao

    I’m very efficient with “processing” my email or executing my tasks … a least amount of effort, a least amount of time, and good enough results.

    With people, it takes time to build rapport, connect at values, find shared goals, and practice empathic listening … but it’s effective.

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