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How Logging Your Day Can Lead To Higher Effectiveness

How Logging Your Day Can Lead To Higher Effectiveness
    From http://www.flickr.com/photos/zak/

    I recently started a job as a Programmer Analyst for a large insurance company and spend most of my days fixing technical issues, programming, and creating solutions with other engineers. It’s an awesome job, yet at the same time can become extremely technical and complicated in nature. Not just because of the technical stuff that I need to remember how to do but because of the inherent business processes that I have to take in and learn on a daily basis.

    After doing a little research online I found that there is the idea of the “Programmer Log”, which is simply a time and dated log of things that you have done in the day, things that you have learned that are related to your job, and even problems to watch out for as you go through your work day. Also

    I started to log my days everyday at work and at home for the past month to see what this logging idea was all about. In this short period of time I have found just how much more effective you can become in work and life if you keep track of the things that you have done and encountered throughout your day.

    The Premise

    Starting to log your day is pretty simple stuff. You just write (or type) the date and time and explain what you have done or even something that you have learned.

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    For instance, I noticed that there was some small differences between a production server that I was working with compared to other development servers at work. I wrote down these differences in my log in detail and then got back to work. Doing this took a whole 20 seconds but what I gained in the long run was input to a document that I created for my entire team on subtleties between environments.

      Another example is logging when you start to work on a task or project and then logging when you stop work on those things. This builds a realistic view of how long something takes to accomplish that you can use to make adjustments as well as estimates on future tasks or projects.

      So, the act of logging is simple; pretty much everything you do write it down with the date and time. Of course, that in itself is the end. You have to use your logs to become more effective.

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      Using and reviewing your logs

      Having a log isn’t enough. You have to go through and review the stuff that you have written down to see if anything needs brought up at a meeting or with other people, a project needs created, another task needs done, or you just want to see how much time it takes to do something.

      In other words, if you are a GTDer, you are looking for potential “inbox items” that are hiding in your logs. Finding these can be a little difficult at first, but after a few days of reviewing your logs you can pull out meaningful content.

      Let’s take my above example about the differences between two servers. At the end of the workday I noticed those differences I pulled them out of my logs and added a project to my project list:

      “Create small document on differences between production and testing environments”

      I then identified some next actions and proceeded to add these actions to my context lists. Pretty standard GTD stuff here. But in reality, this process isn’t “standard” for most people, and because of that potentially meaningful and needed work is missed.

      Something else nice about logs is that if you are speaking to someone about a certain topic that you have been working with you can always go back and review what you have done (or even what you haven’t done) with this topic. Being able to present the things that you have done in a current team project or personal project, you can then see where to go next.

      Becoming more effective

      The definition of effective is:

      “Successful in producing a desired or intended result.”

      Keeping a detailed log helps you produce intended results in projects by tracking what you have done, the time that it took to do it, and anything that came up in the process. Being able to look at these logs when you approach a project gives you the data you need to make decisions on next actions as well as how long something will take.

      In personal projects it may not be as important to decide how long something will take to complete, but if you work for “the man” or even your own business, having realistic outlooks on the time a project will take to complete is invaluable and one of the only ways to produce the intended result.

      So, readers, I challenge you take a log of you day for an entire week to see the things that you may miss that are project or action related that you wouldn’t have tracked otherwise. For me, it was an eye-opening experience to track my work for the last month; something that I will continue to do because of the boost in my effectiveness. Give it a try and see how it fits.

      More by this author

      CM Smith

      A technologist and writer who shares advice on personal productivity, creativity and how to use technology to get 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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