Efficiency vs. Effectiveness

You’re going to be tempted to skip this video. You’re going to notice that it’s forty minutes long, and it’s by some programming guy, so what could he possibly have to say that would be really relevant to your life? Unless you’re also a programming guy, of course, in which case you’re far too busy, so you’ll put it on in the background while you keep working because, you know, multitasking is what it’s about, right?

Or maybe it’s just me.

The less you do, the more of it you can do.
– Scott Hanselman, in that video up there

Since it’s our most precious and irreplaceable commodity, the way that we spend our time is definitely of some concern. So please don’t take it lightly when I tell you that spending the forty minutes to actually listen to his talk will certainly be entertaining (he’s a masterful public speaker) but also, you’ll get some takeaways. Some things that make you think, some things that make you go Hmmm… long into the night.

The Precious, Precious Keystrokes

For example, he posits this idea: imagine that you only have a finite number of keystrokes left to you before you die. Every press of the keyboard takes that number down a little further, and when they’re gone, they’re gone.

Suddenly tweeting seems a little less important. A ranting email might be better spent writing a love letter. Facebook statuses about your pet suddenly don’t seem quite so cute, as they subtract from the words you might need to type in the future before you die.

Nifty little idea, eh? Now, here’s what blew my mind: It’s actually true.

It really is. At some point in the future, I’m going to die. Between now and then, there is a finite number of keystrokes available to me. Sure, it may be a lot – I could up my words-per-minute to 150, perhaps – but whatever my rate, it is finite.

So…how do you spend your strokes? Let that simmer for a while. See if it doesn’t make you a little more self-conscious about what you’re typing. Who you’re typing it to. Why you are choosing that particular method to express yourself.

See if it doesn’t change how you look at what you may or may not be leaving behind in your digital wake.

And that’s just one takeaway I got from that talk.

A Feeling of Un-E’s

Another little nugget of wisdom that Mr. Hanselman came out with is pointing out the difference between two words that we bandy about a lot, often interchangeably: efficient and effective. There is, he posits, a world of difference between the two:

Efficient: Doing things right.

Effective: Doing the right thing.

Again, a very simple series of words…but suddenly there’s a world of difference in how I look at what I do.

You see, there’s no one that could call me unproductive. I am a content creator, with a stream of tweets, blog posts, a few novels and short stories under a pen name, dozens of workshops and artsy videos and more. I am very, very efficient at producing media.

However…when I look at that body of work, I realize that I am not necessarily being effective. That is, the things I have created are not necessarily the things that build on the body of work I’d actually like to create. They are often distractions (“look at the clever tweet I created in 140 characters!”). It’s not that they aren’t good – but are they what is really needed, now?

Every keystroke counts. Which means, perhaps, I need to take a look at my habits of highly efficient work and start focusing it more towards effecting the changes I want in my life. In my family. In my world.

How about you? Efficiently effective? Effectively efficient?

I think the goal might be, someday, to reach a point where I can be ineffably effective, and efficiency can be left in the dust. But we have a lot of practice to go before that happens.

Watch the talk. It’s worth it, if only for the skysurfing alligator.

1 thought on “Efficiency vs. Effectiveness”

  1. OK, I admit I initially skipped the video, but I went back and watched it later. It…is…freakin’…brilliant!! He is a fabulous presenter.

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