“Do you focus on doing things right or doing the right things?” This was the question my mentor, Brother Jim, asked me when we were discussing the difference between being efficient and effective. At first, I failed to see a difference between the two and wondered if he was asking a trick question. It soon hit me that this concept could shape not just how I spend my time, but why I do what I do in the first place.
Last week I wanted a glass of water. As I opened the cabinet to get a cup, I noticed that we had few clean cups left. Knowing we only had a few minutes before we left the house, I quickly and methodically loaded the few dishes from the sink into the dishwasher. The dishwasher was full but I was able to cram everything into the machine. As I was closing the door I noticed something- the dishes near the front were spotless. I had just packed dirty dishes into a clean machine.
Yes, I was efficient in loading the dishes. I didn’t waste any time and the kitchen counter was well organized when I was done. I did things right, but I didn’t do the right things. To be effective, I would have checked if the dishes were clean and unloaded the dishwasher.
“Efficiency is doing the thing right. Effectiveness is doing the right thing.” –Peter F. Drucker
As I have processed my mentor’s question, I see that doing the right things is often more important than doing things right.
When it comes to growing in your relationship with God, are you being efficient or effective? It is very efficient to set aside time each day to read for an hour. But if you find yourself dreading the hour and trying to rush through it, then you have failed at being effective.
When it comes to your family, are you doing the right things or doing things right? Scheduling a family vacation is doing things right. But if everyone is distracted by their devices and not spending quality time together, you’re not doing the right things.
When it comes to the church, are you being efficient or effective? If you serve as a greeter and open a door for people, you’re doing things right and being efficient. But if you wear a frown and don’t notice the new family who look lost, you missed doing the right thing and being effective.
Take a step back and ask yourself, “Am I focused on doing things right or doing the right things?”