Advertising

Last Updated on December 4, 2020

Productivity vs Efficiency: Which One Matters More and Why?

Productivity vs Efficiency: Which One Matters More and Why?
Advertising

In this article you will discover the key difference between productivity and efficiency, and which one will help you achieve your goals.

Productivity vs efficiency is a discussion between quantity and quality. A productive person is known as someone who gets things done. Although their accomplishments may be short-lived if they did not build their strategy for the long-haul. In most of our lives, productivity and efficiency are at odds with each other.

When you are focusing on productivity, your efficiency is the first thing to suffer. Likewise, when you are confirming your plans are thoughtful and well-crafted, you run the risk of burying your goal in months of red tape.

How to Measure Productivity In Life?

Measuring productivity tends to be straightforward, so it is usually where people place their focus. People usually calculate productivity by measuring a person’s output during two similar time periods. For example, if you read two books in January and four books in February, you were more productive in February.

Businesses will calculate productivity by comparing employees, departments, and locations. For instance, the California office of a firm generated $60,000 in March, while the Florida office generated $50,000 in the same month, making the California office more productive.

Productivity’s Blind Spot

Because most people measure productivity by calculating output, you have probably felt at least once in your life that productivity was capturing the complete picture.

If your supervisor asks you for a report by end of day, they are thinking it is a reasonable request. While it is true the report only takes 30 minutes to create, that is not the only thing you are working on today.

If the report was your only task, you agree you should have it completed by the end of the day. However, your department added a new employee and you agreed to train them on all the processes.

Depending on the complexity of your role and the engagement of the trainee, it could take you an entire day to walk step-by-step through your work. You also have a few additional time sensitive matters that you accepted last week and they have the same deadline.

As you are starting to see, when you only capture someone’s output to determine if they are being productive, you are lacking key information.

Advertising

You open yourself up to the possibility of thinking someone had a less productive week, when they were more productive than last week.

Efficiency, the Other Half of the Productivity Coin

If productivity focuses on your output, then efficiency emphasizes the quality of your work, which usually focuses on saving time or conserving resources.

Think of your productivity as the revenue you generated from a sale, and think of your efficiency as the money you get to take home after you pay your expenses.

Using the business example from before, while the California office generated $60,000 in sales, they spent $20,000 in related seminar and travel expenses. The Florida office generated their sales by using an inexpensive online-webinar platform, so the Florida office was more efficient and generated larger profits.

Efficiency also accounts for quality in relation to time.

For example, Autumn and Alek work in a call-center where their job was to survey 100 customers per day. Autumn reached her number after she called 150 customers and Alek reached her number after calling 300 customers.

While they both achieved their productivity milestone, Autumn was more efficient because she only had to call an extra 50 people, while Alek had to call an additional 200 people.

Is There Such a Thing as Being Too Efficient?

Like productivity, focusing solely on efficiency can lead to unintended consequences. You do not want to complete your work hastily, but you also do not want to set the unreasonable expectation that you can achieve perfection.

Challenges, missteps, and failure are a part of growth and achieving results.

Whenever you focus too much on quality, you will find yourself coping with self-doubt, anxiety, and procrastination. If you are in a leadership position, your team may be too scared to produce anything because they are so worried about making a mistake.

Advertising

Out of fear, everyone remains in the analysis phase as they continue to plan for every possible outcome. Even though it is tempting to celebrate successful perfectionists like Steve Jobs and others, there are studies that confirm most successful people in any given field are less likely to be perfectionist.

Perfectionism keeps most people from making decisions because the anxiety about making mistakes holds them back.[1]

Striking a Balance Between Productivity and Efficiency

When trying to decide whether productivity or efficiency is more important, it is important to understand you need both. Accomplishing your goals and keeping your resolutions provide a great feeling, but you are going to want to measure the cost.

You need to monitor the amount of time and resources you invested into achieving your goal. There is a point of diminishing returns where you are producing at such a high output, your work is full of errors and requires additional attention.

The same diminishing returns exist if you are concerned about quality to the point you are teetering on perfectionism — as perfectionists have an unhealthy fear of failure that keeps them from producing anywhere near optimum levels.

3 Strategies to Maximize Your Results

1. Be Intentional with Your Time and Resources

Start by attempting to maintain your current level of production while lowering the resources you use.

This strategy requires you to be intentional with your goals. For example, if you oversaw the marketing budget for a multi-billion-dollar company, you may be reaching your results, but only because of you are flooding the market with ads.

If you wanted to increase your efficiency without impacting your productivity, what would you do?

One simple strategy is to conduct a review of all your marketing campaigns. Once you have completed the review, you can rank your campaigns based on their return on investment.

You can then increase your productivity and efficiency by reallocating the money you spent on the bottom 10% of ads and moving them to your top 10% of ads.

Advertising

2. Reduce Waste

Another strategy that will provide an immediate impact is for you to focus on reducing your waste. Again, we are going to implement techniques that will positively impact your efficiency and productivity.

Start reducing waste by finding less expensive alternatives that will accomplish the same tasks you are currently producing.

As was the case with our business example where the California office spent significantly more money that the Florida office. Are there more cost effective, but reputable options that you have not explored yet?

It is a great idea to review your expenses annually to see if there are places you can improve. If you are not sure, shop around to see if your prices are in line with the market.

You can even employ this technique with your own personal finances.

Have you ever wondered why every car insurance commercial promises they can help you save 40%+ on car insurance? It is because most people do not update their auto coverage on a regular basis. Since automobiles are a depreciating asset, your car is losing value every year.

If you bought your vehicle for $20,000, then it may only be worth $15,000 after the first year. However, if you are still paying insurance based on a $20,000 value, you are naturally going to be paying more if you received insurance based on a $15,000 value.

Therefore, when you call the new insurance company, they are going to offer you insurance based on the vehicle’s current value of $15,000.

The reason car insurance companies are so confident they can save you money is because they know you are paying for insurance on a $20,000 car when your car may be worth half or a third of that.

3. Prioritize Your Goals

The third approach to help you balance productivity and efficiency is to prioritize your goals. If you want to avoid falling into the perfectionism trap, you are going to have to admit you cannot have everything exactly the way you want.

Advertising

You are going to need to decide what matters to you most and be willing to sacrifice other less important goals to ensure you achieve your top priority.

For instance, the truck driving industry is extremely competitive and as a result, truck drivers must focus on keeping costs down and operating higher efficiency. To manage their costs, truck drivers like to make sure they are never driving an empty truck. If they have a delivery in Miami, they want to make sure they have a pickup in Miami to cover the drive back.

Anytime a truck driver is unable to find cargo for their drive back, they are wasting time and resources. Imagine if your next pickup was in Atlanta. Without cargo, that entire drive would be an uncovered expense and those can add up quickly.

To ensure they have their costs under control, truck drivers will prioritize ensuring they are not driving empty over all other goals and objectives.

Sometimes the driver is unable to find a pickup at their drop-off location at the same rate they hauled the cargo down. However, since they have prioritized “not driving empty,” they do not have an issue offering reduced pricing when they find themselves in this situation.

If they did not prioritize their goals, they would be waiting in Miami for a back-haul that would cover their drive to Atlanta. Perfectionism tells you that you must accomplish all your goals or none of them.

When You Cannot Have It All

When you find yourself faced with difficult decisions, take a moment, and determine what matters to you most. If you can only accomplish one or two goals, which one will provide the greatest impact?

Then, take the time to understand and account for the necessary shift you will need to make to your productivity or efficiency levels. In the case of the truck driver, they sacrificed their productivity by taking a lower rate for their back-haul. Yet, they increased their efficiency because they covered their costs and made a small profit with their lowered rate.

What it ultimately means is the truck driver increased his productivity because the choice was not between their normal rate or a reduced rate, it was between an empty haul and a reduced rate haul.

Conclusion

By being intentional with your time and resources, reducing waste, and prioritizing your goals, you can increase your overall efficiency and productivity.

Advertising

No matter the goal you have set for yourself in your life, there will always be a benefit to working more efficiently and balancing that with increased productivity.

More Productivity Tips

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Undre Griggs

Coaching To Help Professionals And Organizations Change Their Beliefs So They Can Get Results.

Why You Think You’re Not Good Enough and How To Believe in Yourself 7 Reasons to Dare to Dream Big 6 Natural Ways To Increase Dopamine And Boost Mental Energy How To Create An Effective Schedule For Time Management How to Conquer Your Fear of Change and Transform Your Life

Trending in Productivity

1 7 Effective Ways To Motivate Employees in 2021 2 How a Project Management Mindset Boosts Your Productivity 3 5 Values of an Effective Leader 4 How to Motivate People Around You and Inspire Them 5 The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

Read Next

Advertising
Advertising

Last Updated on July 21, 2021

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)

The Importance of Reminders (And How to Make a Reminder Work)
Advertising

No matter how well you set up your todo list and calendar, you aren’t going to get things done unless you have a reliable way of reminding yourself to actually do them.

Anyone who’s spent an hour writing up the perfect grocery list only to realize at the store that they forgot to bring the list understands the importance of reminders.

Reminders of some sort or another are what turn a collection of paper goods or web services into what David Allen calls a “trusted system.”[1]

A lot of people resist getting better organized. No matter what kind of chaotic mess, their lives are on a day-to-day basis because they know themselves well enough to know that there’s after all that work they’ll probably forget to take their lists with them when it matters most.

Fortunately, there are ways to make sure we remember to check our lists — and to remember to do the things we need to do, whether they’re on a list or not.

In most cases, we need a lot of pushing at first, for example by making a reminder, but eventually we build up enough momentum that doing what needs doing becomes a habit — not an exception.

Advertising

From Creating Reminders to Building Habits

A habit is any act we engage in automatically without thinking about it.

For example, when you brush your teeth, you don’t have to think about every single step from start to finish; once you stagger up to the sink, habit takes over (and, really, habit got you to the sink in the first place) and you find yourself putting toothpaste on your toothbrush, putting the toothbrush in your mouth (and never your ear!), spitting, rinsing, and so on without any conscious effort at all.

This is a good thing because if you’re anything like me, you’re not even capable of conscious thought when you’re brushing your teeth.

The good news is you already have a whole set of productivity habits you’ve built up over the course of your life. The bad news is, a lot of them aren’t very good habits.

That quick game Frogger to “loosen you up” before you get working, that always ends up being 6 hours of Frogger –– that’s a habit. And as you know, habits like that can be hard to break — which is one of the reasons why habits are so important in the first place.

Once you’ve replaced an unproductive habit with a more productive one, the new habit will be just as hard to break as the old one was. Getting there, though, can be a chore!

Advertising

The old saw about anything you do for 21 days becoming a habit has been pretty much discredited, but there is a kernel of truth there — anything you do long enough becomes an ingrained behavior, a habit. Some people pick up habits quickly, others over a longer time span, but eventually, the behaviors become automatic.

Building productive habits, then, is a matter of repeating a desired behavior over a long enough period of time that you start doing it without thinking.

But how do you remember to do that? And what about the things that don’t need to be habits — the one-off events, like taking your paycheck stubs to your mortgage banker or making a particular phone call?

The trick to reminding yourself often enough for something to become a habit, or just that one time that you need to do something, is to interrupt yourself in some way in a way that triggers the desired behavior.

The Wonderful Thing About Triggers — Reminders

A trigger is anything that you put “in your way” to remind you to do something. The best triggers are related in some way to the behavior you want to produce.

For instance, if you want to remember to take something to work that you wouldn’t normally take, you might place it in front of the door so you have to pick it up to get out of your house.

Advertising

But anything that catches your attention and reminds you to do something can be a trigger. An alarm clock or kitchen timer is a perfect example — when the bell rings, you know to wake up or take the quiche out of the oven. (Hopefully you remember which trigger goes with which behavior!)

If you want to instill a habit, the thing to do is to place a trigger in your path to remind you to do whatever it is you’re trying to make into a habit — and keep it there until you realize that you’ve already done the thing it’s supposed to remind you of.

For instance, a post-it saying “count your calories” placed on the refrigerator door (or maybe on your favorite sugary snack itself)  can help you remember that you’re supposed to be cutting back — until one day you realize that you don’t need to be reminded anymore.

These triggers all require a lot of forethought, though — you have to remember that you need to remember something in the first place.

For a lot of tasks, the best reminder is one that’s completely automated — you set it up and then forget about it, trusting the trigger to pop up when you need it.

How to Make a Reminder Works for You

Computers and ubiquity of mobile Internet-connected devices make it possible to set up automatic triggers for just about anything.

Advertising

Desktop software like Outlook will pop up reminders on your desktop screen, and most online services go an extra step and send reminders via email or SMS text message — just the thing to keep you on track. Sandy, for example, just does automatic reminders.

Automated reminders can help you build habits — but it can also help you remember things that are too important to be trusted even to habit. Diabetics who need to take their insulin, HIV patients whose medication must be taken at an exact time in a precise order, phone calls that have to be made exactly on time, and other crucial events require triggers even when the habit is already in place.

My advice is to set reminders for just about everything — have them sent to your mobile phone in some way (either through a built-in calendar or an online service that sends updates) so you never have to think about it — and never have to worry about forgetting.

Your weekly review is a good time to enter new reminders for the coming weeks or months. I simply don’t want to think about what I’m supposed to be doing; I want to be reminded so I can think just about actually doing it.

I tend to use my calendar for reminders, mostly, though I do like Sandy quite a bit.

More on Building Habits

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Advertising

Reference

[1] Getting Things Done: Trusted System

Read Next