Favor Effectiveness over Efficiency

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 | Connecting the Dots

Laura Vanderkam pointed me towards an article today that came at exactly the right time: Chasing Efficiency? You’re Wasting Your Time

A few choice quotes:

Nobody other than perhaps you really cares how efficient you are, but everyone cares how effective you are.

Sometimes the least efficient thing can lead to the most productive outcome. A great example of this would be carving out time in your already too busy schedule to mentor someone in your organization. Clearly this endeavor will take time, and may not yield immediate results, but the payoff organizationally, relationally, culturally, and in terms of future contribution can be huge.

When you ever so efficiently cross something off your to-do list, has it moved you farther away from, or closer to, putting points on the board?

And finally, my favorite:

If your desk is so clean you don’t have anything to work on then you might be focusing on the wrong thing — it might be time to make a bit of a mess.

That last is SO NOT MY PROBLEM, although I took some time tonight, while my two youngest worked on Valentines in my office, to clear the surface of my desk before they trashed it still further. I could grab any one of half a dozen things within arms reach this minute and begin a post or project—books, like Emily Bazelon’s Sticks and Stones, Emily Rapp’s The Still Point of the Turning World, Glennon Doyle Melton’s Carry On, Warrior and Scary Mommy Jill Smokler’s Motherhood Comes Naturally and oh, how about those three advance copies of the revision of the book I wrote with my friends Susan Straub and Rachel Payne? Another book I need to send to a guest writer. Business cards for a whole pile of blogs I want to follow up on. Expenses, art stuff that could figure in my next illustrative tableau or Vine video…or I could just grab my laptop or open a file. I have projects. I have too many projects, like Hugo Lindgren riffed about in the NYT Magazine a few weeks ago (Be Wrong As Fast As You Can).

Come to the glowing screen…come to me…

I have projects. And I have fear, and I have all these tiny little smoking assorted piles of lightly flaming things that seem so urgent, and could be crossed off some list somewhere or put to bed, and there are admittedly too many days when I just put out the fires and I don’t move anything forward. I’m not actually sure it’s efficient, and it certainly isn’t effective. Do we have any e words left? It’s…evasive. Equivocating. Enmeshing.

And what I also think it is, is girly. I was talking to a friend about email recently, and we both realized that our spouses just don’t stress about it. They shut the laptop, and all the clamoring voices just drop away. I feel something similar here–although that’s actually advice meant for the big, swashbuckling, unfortunately still statistically likely to be male CEO, it still has a girly feel to it, that need to just get a bunch of little things done instead of saving yourself to blow it all on the big project that really matters. It’s very good student, very safe.

My random February resolution is to be just a little—or maybe a lot—less safe.

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