Effective or Efficient?

It has been said that efficiency is doing things right while effectiveness is doing the right things. Getting many things done quickly (efficiency) may seem desirable, but if they are not the important things, you haven’t really made much progress. You can be very efficient in following directions on a map, but if the map is for Atlanta and you’re in Greenville . . . you just get lost faster.

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effective or efficient

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Pareto Principle, or “80 / 20 rule”? This principle states that 80% of results come from 20% of effort. This means that 20% of your customers provide 80% of your revenue, while the remaining 80% provide 20% of your revenue. Twenty percent of the things you do at work provide 80% of the results you achieve. Or look at your “To Do” list — 20% of the things on your list will take 80% of the time necessary to accomplish the entire list.

Of course, the 80 / 20 ratio isn’t a hard and fast dividing line. Sometimes it may be 75 / 25 or even 60 / 40. The important thing to concentrate on is the small percentage of effort that drives the majority of your results. The law of diminishing returns tells us that, at a certain point, it takes more and more effort to achieve the same results. This is not effective.

How can you use the Pareto Principle to your advantage? How can you be effective and not just efficient?

The obvious answer is to identify those things that yield the majority of your results, spend more time in doing those things and less time on the things that bring fewer results.

Develop and use your strengths. The Values In Action (VIA) Survey is a good place to start. This 30 – 40 minute survey identifies your top 5 strengths — your Signature Strengths. Once you’ve identified them, begin to find ways to incorporate your strengths into your daily life at work and at home.

Don’t expend time or energy on your weaknesses. Find ways to compensate.

Ask yourself these questions:

What am I doing that someone else could do as well or better? Delegate those things.
What am I doing that doesn’t need to be done at all? Drop those from your list.
What am I doing that only I can do? Concentrate your efforts and your strengths on these.

Of course, this means you have to think about what you are doing. No more going about your life on autopilot. But, when you are playing to your strengths, you may find your passion. And that is embracing the Excelerated Life™!


Discovering and using your Signature Strengths is one step in creating your Excelerated Life™, a life of flourishing and well-being, and a life of meaning, purpose, and service.

Read more about the Excelerated Life™.

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