Let's define effectiveness and efficiency simply: effectiveness is doing the right thing, and efficiency is doing the thing right.
With that definition in mind, we can assume that doing the thing wrong or doing it poorly is inefficient. Inefficiency isn't uncommon; it is natural as we transition through the four stages of competence. And with intention and practice, we become less inefficient, working toward more efficiency.
While true, it is not that simple. For instance, many spend their career working toward the single goal of getting to the top, getting the promotions, the titles, the roles, the status and prestige. An absolute effort of efficiency, optimizing their whole life, every minute, decision, and skill. When the goal is achieved, the title is on the office door; there's a sudden emptiness, an existential questioning about whether all that efficiency was right and worth it. Or was it the wrong goal for them?
With the same definition in mind, we know doing the wrong thing is highly ineffective, and it turns out, the most inefficient of all — like a deadly-accurate marksman focused on the wrong target.
Efficiency in the wrong context is the ultimate art of ineffectiveness. It's beautiful, elegant and romantic, yet it gets you no closer to your goal. Software Engineering calls it premature optimization.
It’s like spending your days meticulously crafting the best hammer when what you direly need is a chisel. It doesn’t matter that you are perfecting its balance of weight, agility, and grip and that it can apply maximal force at every swing. What is the point if you never get to use it in the end, or worse, it destroys everything when you do?
Let's think of it as a funnel. Starting at the top, the wide area, we have effectiveness. By making good decisions and applying the proper focus, we can begin the journey down the narrow part of the funnel toward efficiency. It doesn't pay to start at the wrong end.
How do we know? There is a way, but there’s a catch.
To begin to determine if you are ineffectively inefficient, you must first develop your ability to think for yourself, separate from friends, family, co-workers, culture and society. It's easier said than done, but it's a powerful skill. I recommend this great article from Paul Graham to whoever is interested.
Thinking for yourself is the first step in ultimately helping you make decisions that belong to you, devoid of the influence of everyone and anyone. And so, with that, you spend more time focusing on what truly matters to you, and maybe, in the process, you discover how to be more effectively efficient.
Sparknotion – Think Differently.
The paragraph about crafting a hammer when you need a chisel is great.