Are you effective or efficient? And what makes you think you have to choose?


Sometimes it’s easy to confuse efficiency for effectiveness, and that confusion can really trash your business results. Why?

Because efficiency is the ability to accomplish something with the least waste of time and effort, while effectiveness is the ability to be successful and produce the intended results.

Successful entrepreneurs are both efficient AND effective.The question entrepreneurs sometimes fail to ask is this: “Is what I’m doing so efficiently leading me closer to or further from success?” If the answer is “further away” or “it’s not moving me at all”, then you’re the poster child for management consultant Peter F. Drucker’s painful contention that “there is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.”


But here’s the thing: You don’t need to choose between effectiveness and efficiency, nor should you. Instead, your challenge – should you decide to accept – is to first identify the tasks that deserve your attention, then see that they’re completed as effectively AND efficiently as possible.

So how do you apply these eff-ing attributes wisely? Here are some questions that will enable you to make the best use of your time.

To which business goal does this proposed activity relate? In what way?

If you can’t clearly articulate how an activity is a step toward achieving a business goal, what in the world is it doing on your To Do list in the first place?

Before you spend time on any task, you’ll want to know exactly what you intend it to accomplish. For example, “get me more clients”, while obviously a desirable goal, is too broad-based and vague to be a useful criterion for deciding what to spend time on. On the other hand, “Create a new irresistible free offer that will increase the number of opt-ins to my mailing list, so that I have more people to develop a mutually profitable relationship with” is specific, measurable, and well defined, which means it deserves a place on your list.

Am I the only person who can do this task?

As much as we like to think that we are our businesses, the truth of the matter is that there are often other people who can do a particular task for us; we don’t have to wear all the hats ourselves. In fact, depending on your expertise in a particular area, you might get better results if you hand off a task to someone with more skills in that area. That leads directly to the next question that needs answering:

Am I the best person to do this task?

The smartest and most successful entrepreneurs are the ones who are brave enough to keep their hands on the reins without insisting on doing every single task themselves. They’re willing to out-source and delegate tasks for which they’re ill suited, so that they can spend their time doing what they do best.

Smart entrepreneurs are both efficient AND effective.

A case in point: I’m fairly terrible at organizing events.

Now, I have successfully organized off-site “productivity days” for friends and clients. I can readily find the venue; arrange for meals; offer a mini-workshop on some aspect of effectiveness, mindset, or marketing; and set the tone so people are comfortable taking time away from their offices to do important (but not urgent) tasks they just “don’t get around to” in the normal press of events. Yay, me.

But when it comes to lining up a speaker for a program? Pulling together vendors for an expo? Deciding on a theme for a client appreciation event? It’s like all my energy and creativity just drain right out of me, and I end up flailing like a turtle on her back.

Fortunately, I’ve figured out how to handle this: I simply don’t take on that type of event planning.  I either out-source such events completely, or I have the organizer give me finite assignments which I can handle without my brain exploding. I get to support a fellow small-business owner, event attendees enjoy a great experience, and I get to keep my sanity. Everybody wins.

Do I know how to let my work be “good enough”?

When it comes to creating content, products, or services, you’ll naturally want to offer your clients and prospects high-quality work. However, you’ll get in your own way – big time – if you allow yourself to fall prey to perfectionism.

We’ve probably all seen sloppy work that someone decided was “good enough” when, in reality, it was definitely lacking. But for perfectionists, “good enough” never really is; they always find more to tweak. That endless quest for perfection can result in your work never getting shared with the people who need it most.

Do your perfectionist self a favor:  Remember General George S. Patton’s observation that “a good solution applied with vigor now is better than a perfect solution applied ten minutes later.”

Am I working in my business at the expense of working on it?

Did you go into business for the thrill of optimizing your website for search engines? Unless you’re an SEO geek, the answer is undoubtedly, “Are you kidding?”

One goal of being in business is to make money doing what you love to do. In a perfect You need to be both effective AND, you’d spend all your time wearing what Michael Gerber would call your “technician’s” hat; that is, you’d happily spend your time working in your area of expertise. That’s working in your business, or what I call delivery of services.

But few, if any, entrepreneurs can afford to do that exclusively. It’s also vital to work on your business: to decide what business development activities make sense for your personal and professional goals, then follow through on those activities.

You get to strategically allocate time to both delivery and development activities, to working both in and on your business. You’ll have an easier time with this strategic allocation if you keep in mind the 4 P’s of Business Development™:


Are you realizing that you’re doing a great job of being efficient and effective? Then it’s time to pat yourself vigorously on the back.

Or are you starting to suspect that you too often spend time doing good work on activities that you shouldn’t be doing at all? (Owie.)

If you’re trapped in Efficient But Not Effective Land, we need to talk.

My specialty is showing entrepreneurs how to toss out what doesn’t serve them and focus on what does. We develop action plans for the really important activities, and I hold them accountable for implementation.

While I’m confident I could do that for you, too, I don’t know if we’d suit each other. But there’s an easy way to find out: Grab a spot in my calendar for a no-charge, no-risk, get-acquainted call. By the time we’re done talking with each other, we’ll know whether we should forge ahead or say a pleasant good-bye.

Best of all, I know how to be highly efficient during this call, and the questions I pose will tell us if we’d be effective in working together. So what are you waiting for? You deserve to kick things up a notch or three.

(Thanks to Beth at for her “both/and” image and to Alan Levine for his “efficiency” image.  I found both in the Creative Commons section of Flickr.)

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