Efficiency is defined as the ability to accomplish a job with a minimum expenditure of time and effort. Being efficient allows us to make better use of our time, often leading to better results, less stress, improved mental health, and more time left over to do other things in life. When we are inefficient, we spend more time doing things (especially troubling when they are things we don’t like to do), experience more stress, increase the chances for accidents to occur, and find ourselves always behind trying to find time to do the things we love to do in life. Fortunately, we are not born to be more or less efficient in life, but instead we can develop our efficiency skills and enjoy the many benefits of efficiency.
The benefits of efficiency
It is important to re-state that efficiency is not a skill we are born with, meaning that people who are efficient have learned skills to improve their efficiency abilities. When we are inefficient, by contrast, we often feel like we are always racing, always behind, and always stressed about the things we did not get done today. Being inefficient also sets us up for more accidents in life because when our focus is divided, we are not giving our best attention to any one thing and this often leaves us vulnerable to otherwise avoidable problems. You might think of efficiency as the old proverb an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, meaning that the potential slight burden experienced through better planning is most certainly better than all of the other negative life consequences that flow from lack of planning and preparation.
Some athletes I work with struggle with efficiency, sometimes spending hours in the weight room when they could have completed all of their workout in half the time with better preparation (and less talking!). Similarly, many people go to the grocery store without a list, or drive to a new place without specific directions how to get there. In most cases the return on efficient planning is well worth the minimal investment of time needed to better prepare.
Below are a few ideas to help you improve your efficiency, creating greater chances for future success, productivity, and better overall mental health:
- Set clear goals/objectives. As you begin each day take note of the things you need to do, and be specific with your plans. Rather than “going for a workout,” define ahead of time exactly what you will do when you get to the gym. If you are a student, rather than being vague about what you are going to study try instead to outline just how far you plan on getting with your reading tonight. Not only does being clear about goals allow you to measure your progress, it also gives you the sense of satisfaction and improved confidence when you complete specific tasks.
- Plan out steps. Similar to the last point, try to plan out your to-do list in terms of what makes the most sense. For example, it might not be smart to try and drive across town at rush hour, especially if you have the ability to travel before or after rush hour. The frustration avoided through better planning will allow for a better mood state and greater chance for future success.
- More is not always better. Space your days and work to do better at each task versus simply trying to race through your to-do list. When you really think about it not everything we do is hyper time sensitive, and often creating more simplistic task lists improves our attitude, confidence, and resiliency.
- Enjoy less stress by having more control. Rather than always feeling like you are racing around, stop to take time out and create strategies that make sense to you. The idea of each of us having control of our own time is very empowering and allows us to get in the right mind state to be successful, compared to always feeling like you are racing for everyone else.
It’s amazing the mental health benefits experienced by simply being efficient with our time. When we are efficient, we feel good about how we use our time and the results we get by not always wasting time on things that bog us down. Learning how to improve efficiency is something everyone can do, and it is a worthwhile pursuit when you consider the improved chances for success and productivity.