Productive vs. Efficient vs. Effective

Since starting my new job, I’m at a great new company doing conversion optimization for eCommerce sites, I’ve been learning a lot about productivity and efficiency. But I’ve also learned about effectiveness. Yes, these are all just different words covering similar topics, but it was important for me to learn about what they mean.

Productive vs. Efficient vs. Effective

Everyone talks about wanting to be productive. They want to get stuff done.

If you’re being efficient, you’re getting stuff done in a limited amount of time with limited resources.

When you’re effective, you’re being efficient in getting the right stuff done.

See the differences? It took me a while.

Efficiency is what we want to be striving for. It’s about getting the right things done in limited amounts of time.

If you’re productive, you could have done a ton of things in one day and felt happy about it. Maybe you mowed the lawn, spent 2 hours learning how to fix the broken window, and spent 2 hours cleaning. But was that stuff really the most important to get done?

Effectiveness is about getting the important things done. Sure, cleaning, mowing the lawn, answering emails are all stuff that needs to get done eventually. But maybe it’s not the most important or worthwhile thing to get done right now.

5 Hour Workdays

At my new job, we have 5 hour workdays with no lunch break. That 5 hours is pure work. When you’re given a limited amount of time to work, you figure out what’s really important and what needs to get done. Rather than check email all day, I check it once in the morning and once before I finish.

It’s nice to have the restraints because then you can really use the 80/20 principle to get the right things done. When I had 8 hours to work, I felt like I had way too much time. Sure, there were some days when 8 hours didn’t feel like enough time. But I’m sure I could have been just as effective at my job if I were provided just 25 hours a week. I wouldn’t have gotten 100% of things done, but I would have gotten the most important things done.

Of course, there are some times where I need to do more work because I just get a lot of tasks all in one week. It’s more about spending the right amount of time to tackle a project or task, rather than trying to fill up a full day just because you can.

Tools & Tips

Tomato Timer
A simple 25 minute timer I use for Pomodoro. I do 10 of these blocks each workday.

Taking Breaks
It’s important to take a break if you’re stuck on something. Getting out of your work environment can help you think of new solutions.

This Chrome extension helps block distracting sites.

No Email
Don’t have email open all the time! Check it at certain times of the day.

This isn’t a tool you can use daily, but it’s something you should do once or twice a year. This is travel where you get out of your comfort zone or go to a new culture. Having these experiences can really help motivate you or change the way you think and view things.

Sleep More
In US culture, it’s cool to not sleep. I don’t understand why, but you always hear people talking about how they only slept 4 hours or something crazy like that. Sure, there are times where you will run on little sleep due to an emergency or something out of your control. But when you can control it, have a set sleep schedule. I always go to bed between 10 and 10:30 PM and wake up around 5:30-6 AM. On weekends I go to bed around 10-11 PM and wake up at 7 or 8 AM. I find that sleeping in too much makes me more tired, but having a set schedule leads to a more optimal day.