What does it actually mean to be effective?

So what does it mean to be effective? In other words how do I ensure I get the right things done and am not just busy for the sake of being busy? Effectiveness (doing the right thing) has to come before efficiency (doing more things in less time). This is powerfully illustrated in the 8 minute video below:

Here are some practical examples of this:

  • As you plan your day how do you know what are the most important things for you to do? What determines your first priorities? Is it urgency, your values? Or is it a clear compelling purpose you have thought through and articulated?
  • What do you do when you feel torn between different roles in your life, such as work and family or contributing to a worthy cause or developing yourself? Does being 'balanced' mean running between the different bases of your life fast enough to touch them all?
  • Suppose you have planned your day and someone comes to you saying they have an 'urgent' need . How do you know whether the best thing to do is to change your priorities? Can you make that change with the confidence and peace that you are putting first things first? Or are you being driven by whatever is latest and loudest in your life?
  • Or suppose as you go through your day an unexpected opportunity lands on your lap? How do you know whether the best thing to do is to respond to that opportunity or stick to your original plan?

I have to confess that although I am writing about this, for me it too is a daily battle to keep focussed on my most important priorities and remember "The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing." Yes I frequently get it wrong, but I trust over time my choices are getting more effective.

Effectiveness is best defined as getting the results you want in a way that enables you to get even greater results in the future. This is about success that endures, is sustainable and is balanced in all areas of life and not just one part.

There are three key elements to personal effectiveness:
- You know what the important things to be done are.
- You know how to do them
- You are actually motivated to do what it takes and they become habitual.

Without these three pre-requisites you cannot truly be effective. Because this is often not easy to achieve, we tend to focus more on speed and convenience - hence we spend more time on efficiency.

How does the video and these thoughts on effectiveness apply in your own life?

For more on being effective also see Time Management Part 3 and The top 5 regrets of the dying at How Would You Define Success Part 3

These ideas are taken from the work of the late Stephen R, Covey. For more on his work see Podcast #010

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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2 thoughts on “What does it actually mean to be effective?

  1. Great video! I will use that as an “all age talk” in a service one of these days – so thanks!
    I find:
    – Yes its really hard!
    – Scheduling things in my calendar helps – even tasks where it is just me sitting alone at my computer. I assign eg 2 hours for a task and switch off email (go offline) for that period
    – The trick (and the really hard thing) is knowing what you need to say “no” to …. acquiring the wisdom to identify the sand!

    • Glad you enjoyed the video Chris and found it useful.
      In terms of distinguishing the sand from the rocks, that takes time and reflection.