5 minutes that will increase your productivity

“I was very effective yesterday”

“That was an efficient meeting”

“I’m being productive 

You’ve probably heard these terms being used interchangeably. Though these terms sound similar, they have quite different meanings and are not interchangeable at all.

Let’s Start With Definitions


The degree to which something is successful in producing a desired result; success


Performing or functioning in the best possible manner with the least waste of time and effort


A measure of how efficiently a process runs and how effectively it uses resources

While the term “effective” focuses on a desired result, the term “efficient” focuses on its process. To add to the mix, the term “productive” focuses on the optimal combination of both effectiveness and efficiency.

High Level SummaryTable 1: Focus of definitions

In this article I’ll delve into the differences between these terms and highlight examples of how you can use them to convey clarity in daily communication.

Simple Example

Jim is a truck driver delivering cargo containing cat T-shirts. Jim is instructed by his employer that the shipment is urgent, and must be delivered quickly.

  • Delivering the shipment to the correct location makes Jim an effective truck driver
  • Delivering the shipment as quickly as possible makes Jim an efficient truck driver

Jim can maximize his efficiency by driving as fast as possible using the most direct route. However, if he drives too fast and ends up in an accident, he would not make it to the location thus compromising his effectiveness.

Productivity constitutes a balance between and combination of effectiveness (achieving the desired result) and efficiency (the process which achieves the result with minimal waste of resources).

Effective Efficient Comparison


Table 2: Differences between effective and efficient

1. Always start with effectiveness

Start by defining a desired outcome or goal. Once the desired outcome is defined, it will be easier to decide which tasks are, and which tasks aren’t contributing towards attaining the goal.

Ask yourself the following question, before working on any task:

  • Is this task helping me achieve desired results?

Effectiveness can be expressed as: Actual Outputs/ Desired Outputs

3 simple steps to increase your effectiveness

1. Build up your mental library

Think of reading as the rapid acquisition of condensed knowledge. Experts, who have worked a long time in your field of interest, have written books with relevant information that you might find useful. Reading ritualistically will help you form new ideas and connections in your mind, and you’ll start to piece information together.

2. Hold yourself accountable

Actions speak louder than words. Saying you’re going to do something is infinitely easier than actually putting in the work and getting it done. Hold yourself accountable by tracking your progress, or you can even ask a friend to help keep you on track.

3. Model successful people’s behaviors

Study people who are currently living the lifestyle you desire. It will be difficult to replicate their lifestyle, but it will be easier to model your behaviors after them. Determine which behaviors of successful people are likely to help you achieve your desired outcome, and start modeling those behaviors.

Click here for more details on these 3 tips.

2. Enter efficiency

Efficiency allows you to determine how well you’re executing any task. Compared to effectiveness, efficiency is quantifiable.

Ask yourself the following questions, before working on any given task:

  • Is this the best way to get this task done?
  • Can I get this task done using less time, money and/or resources?

Efficiency can be expressed as: Actual Outputs/ Actual Inputs

3 simple steps to increase your efficiency

1. Think critically about your routines

Take a moment to think whether your routines can use some improvement. If so, search for new methods or techniques that that can help you build routines that execute tasks better than you currently do.

2. Work in short bursts

Working 10 hours straight sounds impressive, but in reality would be taxing on one’s mental energy. Short breaks in between continuous computer-mediated work can increase your efficiency.

3. Minimize distractions and avoid multi-tasking

Since time is the most valuable resource, make use of your time wisely by minimizing distractions and focusing on one task at a time.

Click here for more details on these 3 tips.

3. Finally, slap on some productivity

Productivity is the final piece of the puzzle that ties everything together. Productivity is the combination of effectiveness and efficiency.

Productivity (overall value) = Effectiveness (quality) x Efficiency (quantity per unit resource)

To maximize productivity, both components of quality and quantity must be utilized, with consideration for the amount of resources used to achieve results. It is worth noting that productivity is not to be confused with production. While production is simply the measure of the quantity of output, productivity is the quotient of output / input.

Putting it all together

Effective vs. Efficient simple

Table 3: Putting it together

Table 3 illustrates in simple terms the different combinations of effectiveness and efficiency. Productivity combines effectiveness and efficiency to “do the rights things right”.

Click here for a detailed example

As employees, employers, and everybody in between, we should aspire to maintain a balance between effectiveness and efficiency to achieve maximal productivity in all aspects of our lives. To be truly productive, aim to find the balance between being effective and efficient by focusing on both the desired outcome and the process to achieve said result.

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