Stop Trying To Be So Efficient!

20 Aug
by Allan A.

It’s a go-go-go world. Read. Act. Write. Send. Repeat. We are just machines using machines to be faster machines. From the top down, we’ve all been instructed for decades to get things done more efficiently. What’s it gotten us?

Are law firms and accounting firms sending staff home because they worked so fast on their deliverables? Probably not.

Are software developers standing up from their cubicle mid-day to announce “Ok my part is done! See ya’all tomorrow!”? Ya right.

Are work-at-home professionals calling it quits early and logging off for the day because they quickly responded to every email? Not anyone I’ve ever known. Expectations of efficiency riding us from behind to hurry up, while the carrot of effectiveness gets dangled in front of us to bring quality results. What do we have to show for it?

A big pile of mistakes, frustrations, more work, and more time working – and we are ALL to blame. What I see now from the several thousands of people I interact with, is a trend of lower quality work products and communication, and everyone is keeping their mouth shut about it, because we are guilty of practicing it and encouraging it – and we are all paying a hefty price for it – our lost time and sanity.

I don’t want an accountant to do my taxes efficiently. I’m not excited about resubmitting corrections to the IRS because they made a few typos.

I don’t want an attorney to write our terms & conditions efficiently. Turns out lawsuits are even more costly than lawyers.

I don’t want a solution proposal to be done efficiently. Turns out no one likes scope creep after they buy. (Plus if I see a typo, I may discredit you and buy from someone else.)

I don’t want an assistant to make travel plans efficiently. My trip may either miss out on savings or be on a redeye or worse.

I don’t want marketing to get a campaign up efficiently. They might not deliver their best ideas.

I don’t want tech support to do their work efficiently. They might miss a step and create another problem.

Doesn’t seem like a healthy model to try to be efficient if it doesn’t get the job done in one shot. You are not helping your team, your career or your company. Instead, we ALL need to shift our mindset, motivation and reward systems on being effective.

If you are not sure what the difference is, I could tell you right here efficiently or you could find out effectively so you actually learn.


I’ve never met one person who read “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” and disagreed with it. Did you think it would just efficiently get solved in one article? It’s going to take proactive effort on your part – on everyone’s part! As for my personal experience, it evolved who I am in a more positive way than any other business education I’ve ever had.

Every organization should build entire training and curriculum to train, nurture & reward these habits. What every leader needs to do is incorporate being an effective organization into their vision – starting with themselves first. What every manager needs to do is manage metrics & rewards on being effective. What every employee needs to do is make effectiveness their personal responsibility and learn to communicate that expectation to their peers and back up the command chain.

Practical Tips on Being Effective

While each company and individual has to come to grips on how to execute and implant the solution into their core being, here are some tips that can make the evolution to a more effective professional a little smoother. It is certainly helping me and our company.

Tip #1. Go to “You’re welcome”. This is my personal favorite. Do the job so well that you can confidently ask “Is there anything else I can do for you?”, receive a response “No thank you” and be the final say to the matter with “You’re welcome.” The other person will walk away with the feeling that they were helped and you were professional – a good sign that you were effective.

Tip #2. Communicate at your recipient’s level of understanding. Don’t E=MC2 unless you’re talking to another Einstein. Business communication is not about showing everyone how many big words you know. Keep your communication simple and always ask the person if they understand or if there is anything you can clarify for them. You are only as effective as the person that understands you.

Tip #3. Stop using your smartphone all the time! Since there are only 6 people left with blackberries, the rest of us have a hard time typing or dictating lengthy content with our touch screen phones. So we under-communicate, which spurs a series of replies, or dozens of replies if others are copied, which could have been communicated with one email if you took the time to compose your thoughts, instead of banging out another worthless email while waiting for your coffee.

Tip #4. Do not respond until you have the complete response. If you were asked 3 questions and only know the answer to 1, please don’t respond. You already suck with your smart phone. Don’t frustrate your recipient even more. Just flag it or save it in drafts and finish it later. When you make other people have to remind you to complete your commitment as your method of task-management, it just reminds them how unprofessional you are. So respond once, when you have all the information ready to respond and try to accomplish Tip #1.

Tip #5. Use Delay Delivery in Outlook often. The more complex the thought being communicated, the less desirable and beneficial for your immediate response. If you are certain you have the response, reply and hit Delay Delivery. Then later when the better thought occurs to you (and it usually will), you’ll be doing yourself and the recipient a favor by having time to edit it before it goes out. Plus no one needs your response immediately all the time, they have other work they are trying to do effectively.

Tip #6. Say “I don’t understand” often. Many people shy away from this because they think it will make them look less smart. It won’t. You’ll be helping yourself and the other person will usually try even harder to communicate even more clearly. You might have missed something anyway; you are trying to unlearn decades of poor work place habits of trying to being so efficient that has led to so many mistakes and re-work. Understand?

Tip #7. Verify your work! Did you complete a tax return? Check it over in detail even if you’ve done a 1000 like it before. Did you install software? Test it as the user would before you declare victory! Did you write a brief or scope of work? Proof read it before you send it out. The world is not here to verify your quickly-put-together work product for you and tell you to try again, that’s called “sucking at what you do”, even if you are the fastest at repeating it until you get it right.

Tip #8. Get closure. Ask “Are you satisfied with what I have provided?” Ask “Is there anything else I can do for you?” no matter how big or small what you completed. It makes people feel good about you, gives you a chance to truly deliver. Delivery happens when everyone signs off and you can get a chance to implement Tip #1.

If you implement these tips into everything you do at work, you will be reducing the mistakes, frustration and time spent working on activities.



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