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Avoiding The Butterfly Effect, The Supersaurus and Procrastination

Avoiding The Butterfly Effect, The Supersaurus and Procrastination


    In Chaos Theory, “The Butterfly Effect” explains how small changes in conditions can produce results very different from predictions. If good weather is predicted on a day at one side of the world and a butterfly flaps its wings on the other, this could actually cause a storm rather than the good weather as predicted. The flapping of the wings changes the air pressure very slightly causing a weather pattern completely different from the one originally forecast.

    Sometimes one simple action can lead to great results — or avoid catastrophic ones. Have you ever delayed paying a bill, resulting in a fine? The next day you have to leave the office to pay the fine. As a result you miss a meeting, delay handing in your reports and your hair gets wet because you were caught in the rain…and you were supposed to go out for cocktails after work! One simple action could have avoided the storm that followed.

    There may also be a project that you just can’t seem to get started on. You postpone picking it up, make excuses, distract yourself with menial tasks in the hope that it will disappear. Why do we do this?

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    One of the chief reasons we avoid work is fear. We are afraid the task may be too big or too difficult for us.

    Fear – Panic – Dread!

    The task looks enormous. Never mind an elephant — this is a Supersaurus! You see yourself as a tiny dot looking up at the largest dinosaur that ever roamed the earth and think:

    “How in the world am I going to get this done? This is impossible, it scares me so much that I’m now going to pretend that dinosaurs (especially the Supersaurus) never existed and I’m going to start ticking all the nice little tasks that I enjoy off my list. Call Mary, yes I can do that, have a little chat and arrange the social club outing much more pleasant that super lizards…”

    But what happens? The super lizard won’t go away. He plagues your dreams.  You push him back into your subconscious and you pretend there will be no repercussions — but, alas, one day you are reminded.

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    You are called to a meeting. A meeting in which you are reminded that, in fact, the Supersaurus does exist and all of the other people at the meeting know of his existence. You have no choice now but to face him head on…so what do you do?

    Gaining Clarity

    The fear comes from ignorance. Not having defined exactly what that the Supersaurus is, you sit down and open the files, you look at his size, you understand his form and composition, and then you assess its greatness and then break it down.

    What exactly needs to be done? How long is it going to take? When can this be scheduled into the day? Once you are clear about the size of the task then you can begin to break it down into a manageable size — you know, like a cow or a goat rather than a massive dinosaur.

    Taking Action

    The most important part of avoiding procrastination is the “Do Habit”. The planning and the scheduling is important — vital, in fact — for the smooth running of any project. But without actually standing up and doing something about it nothing will ever progress.

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    The Do Habit

    Create a habit of doing. If it’s a project in work or a book you are writing, stop planning and start doing — even if you can only do ten minutes a day. Just do it. After all, ten minutes a day adds up to more than one working day a month. Every little bit helps, so make a plan and create space for the task every day.

    As Bob Marley (and probably someone equally as important person before him) said:

    “Every little action, there’s a Reaction”

    Start the momentum.

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    Don’t allow your wings to flap aimlessly and cause a tornado.

    Start consciously fluttering…and the small little actions may just create amazingly big results.

    (Photo credit: Lesser Gull Butterfly via Shutterstock)

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    Ciara Conlon

    Productivity coach, speaker, blogger and author of Chaos to Control, a Practical Guide to Getting Things Done

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    Last Updated on September 30, 2020

    Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

    Effective vs Efficient: What’s the Difference Regarding Productivity?

    When it comes to being effective vs efficient, there are a lot of similarities, and because of this, they’re often misused and misinterpreted, both in daily use and application.

    Every business should look for new ways to improve employee effectiveness and efficiency to save time and energy in the long term. Just because a company or employee has one, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that the other is equally present.

    Utilizing both an effective and efficient methodology in nearly any capacity of work and life will yield high levels of productivity, while a lack of it will lead to a lack of positive results.

    Before we discuss the various nuances between the word effective and efficient and how they factor into productivity, let’s break things down with a definition of their terms.

    Effective vs Efficient

    Effective is defined as “producing a decided, decisive, or desired effect.” Meanwhile, the word “efficient ” is defined as “capable of producing desired results with little or no waste (as of time or materials).”[1]

    A rather simple way of explaining the differences between the two would be to consider a light bulb. Say that your porch light burned out and you decided that you wanted to replace the incandescent light bulb outside with an LED one. Either light bulb would be effective in accomplishing the goal of providing you with light at night, but the LED one would use less energy and therefore be the more efficient choice.

    Now, if you incorrectly set a timer for the light, and it was turned on throughout the entire day, then you would be wasting energy. While the bulb is still performing the task of creating light in an efficient manner, it’s on during the wrong time of day and therefore not effective.

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    The effective way is focused on accomplishing the goal, while the efficient method is focused on the best way of accomplishing the goal.

    Whether we’re talking about a method, employee, or business, the subject in question can be either effective or efficient, or, in rare instances, they can be both.

    When it comes to effective vs efficient, the goal of achieving maximum productivity is going to be a combination where the subject is effective and as efficient as possible in doing so.

    Effectiveness in Success and Productivity

    Being effective vs efficient is all about doing something that brings about the desired intent or effect[2]. If a pest control company is hired to rid a building’s infestation, and they employ “method A” and successfully completed the job, they’ve been effective at achieving the task.

    The task was performed correctly, to the extent that the pest control company did what they were hired to do. As for how efficient “method A” was in completing the task, that’s another story.

    If the pest control company took longer than expected to complete the job and used more resources than needed, then their efficiency in completing the task wasn’t particularly good. The client may feel that even though the job was completed, the value in the service wasn’t up to par.

    When assessing the effectiveness of any business strategy, it’s wise to ask certain questions before moving forward:

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    • Has a target solution to the problem been identified?
    • What is the ideal response time for achieving the goal?
    • Does the cost balance out with the benefit?

    Looking at these questions, a leader should ask to what extent a method, tool, or resource meets the above criteria and achieve the desired effect. If the subject in question doesn’t hit any of these marks, then productivity will likely suffer.

    Efficiency in Success and Productivity

    Efficiency is going to account for the resources and materials used in relation to the value of achieving the desired effect. Money, people, inventory, and (perhaps most importantly) time, all factor into the equation.

    When it comes to being effective vs efficient, efficiency can be measured in numerous ways[3]. In general, the business that uses fewer materials or that is able to save time is going to be more efficient and have an advantage over the competition. This is assuming that they’re also effective, of course.

    Consider a sales team for example. Let’s say that a company’s sales team is tasked with making 100 calls a week and that the members of that team are hitting their goal each week without any struggle.

    The members on the sales team are effective in hitting their goal. However, the question of efficiency comes into play when management looks at how many of those calls turn into solid connections and closed deals.

    If less than 10 percent of those calls generate a connection, the productivity is relatively low because the efficiency is not adequately balancing out with the effect. Management can either keep the same strategy or take a new approach.

    Perhaps they break up their sales team with certain members handling different parts of the sales process, or they explore a better way of connecting with their customers through a communications company.

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    The goal is ultimately going to be finding the right balance, where they’re being efficient with the resources they have to maximize their sales goals without stretching themselves too thin. Finding this balance is often easier said than done, but it’s incredibly important for any business that is going to thrive.

    Combining Efficiency and Effectiveness to Maximize Productivity

    Being effective vs efficient works best if both are pulled together for the best results.

    If a business is ineffective in accomplishing its overall goal, and the customer doesn’t feel that the service is equated with the cost, then efficiency becomes largely irrelevant. The business may be speedy and use minimal resources, but they struggle to be effective. This may put them at risk of going under.

    It’s for this reason that it’s best to shoot for being effective first, and then work on bringing efficiency into practice.

    Improving productivity starts with taking the initiative to look at how effective a company, employee, or method is through performance reviews. Leaders should make a point to regularly examine performance at all levels on a whole, and take into account the results that are being generated.

    Businesses and employees often succumb to inefficiency because they don’t look for a better way, or they lack the proper tools to be effective in the most efficient manner possible.

    Similar to improving a manager or employee’s level of effectiveness, regularly measuring the resources needed to obtain the desired effect will ensure that efficiency is being accounted for. This involves everything from keeping track of inventory and expenses, to how communication is handled within an organization.

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    By putting in place a baseline value for key metrics and checking them once changes have been made, a company will have a much better idea of the results they’re generating.

    It’s no doubt a step-by-step process. By making concentrated efforts, weakness can be identified and rectified sooner rather than later when the damage is already done.

    Bottom Line

    Understanding the differences between being effective vs efficient is key when it comes to maximizing productivity. It’s simply working smart so that the intended results are achieved in the best way possible. Finding the optimal balance should be the ultimate goal for employees and businesses:

    • Take the steps that result in meeting the solution.
    • Review the process and figure out how to do it better.
    • Repeat the process with what has been learned in a more efficient manner.

    And just like that, effective and efficient productivity is maximized.

    More on How to Improve Productivity

    Featured photo credit: Tim van der Kuip via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Merriam-Webster: effective and efficient
    [2] Mind Tools: Being Effective at Work
    [3] Inc.: 8 Things Really Efficient People Do

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