Productivity vs. Efficiency: What’s More Important?
The workplace can be a hectic and fast-paced environment, and it is important to stay productive and efficient so as to get things done in the best and most cost-effective way possible.
However, the business world tends to mostly focus on being productive. But what about being efficient? Is one more important than the other in the workplace?
What is more important in the workplace, productivity or efficiency?
This debate on Productivity vs. Efficiency has been going on for centuries. And since there is no definitive answer, the answer may vary depending on the individual and the organization.
Let’s explore the differences between productivity and efficiency and discuss which one is more important. We will also provide tips on being more productive and efficient in your day-to-day work life.
Without further ado, let’s dive in…
What is Productivity?
Productivity measures the amount of output a worker produces in a given time. Generally, we measure it in terms of either money (gross domestic product or GDP) or work units (widgets per hour). Let’s see how to calculate productivity using the formula:
Productivity Formula= Total Output / Total Input
Productivity can be increased through various means, such as technology improvements that make workers more efficient, changes in work organization that help workers be more productive, or training and development that allows workers to improve their skills.
Increasing productivity is essential for businesses to remain competitive and grow.
What is Efficiency?
We often describe efficiency as using resources in the most effective way possible. In other words, it is a measure of how well we can convert something into the desired output with the least amount of waste. This can apply to many areas, from machines to businesses and entire economies.
In general, efficiency divides the desired output by the required input and multiplies the result by 100%. Precisely, it can measure the productivity of a process or system.
Higher efficiency percentage indicates more productive processes or systems. Let’s see the efficiency formula:
% Efficiency = (Output/Input) x100
For example, we would consider a company that produces many products with few defects more efficient than one with a high rate of defects.
We would also consider an economy that can produce many goods and services while using few resources to be more efficient than one that is resource-intensive.
And, we often see increasing efficiency as a key goal in many areas because it can lead to increased productivity and decreased costs.
These two concepts might look similar at first, but there is a subtle difference when you compare them.
Productivity vs. Efficiency
In most business circles, the words "productivity" and "efficiency" are often used interchangeably. While we may accept this in informal conversation, it is not technically correct.
Efficiency is the degree to which a person's activities result in positive outcomes. The efficiency of an individual's actions refers to how much effort and resources we put into work. In contrast, productivity is concerned with the quantity of work accomplished over a certain period.
Let's say a car manufacturing company can produce 50 cars per day. A productivity-oriented company will try to increase the number of cars they can produce daily.
So, your employees have worked hard, and now they can produce 60 cars per day. They have just become 20% more productive.
Whether they have 8 hours or one hour, the productivity-oriented company can still work at the same rate. They have to produce as much as possible, even if their total count drops due to cuts.
Efficiency is all about trying to complete the same amount of work with fewer resources.
Let's say your company, which can now produce 60 cars per day, gets its budget slashed. Now, the company is trying to finish the same amount of work (60 cars produced per day) with fewer resources to process them. This time, you should focus on efficiency.
Top Ways to Be More Productive and Efficient at work
1. Set Realistic Goals
Goals should be attainable, measurable, and specific. They should also be time-bound because procrastination is one of our greatest productivity foes. If you can’t finish a project in two weeks, it probably isn’t realistic enough—which doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start it! Just remember that if you set your sights too high from day one, you won’t feel you can make progress and will get frustrated.
This is where breaking down large projects into smaller, more manageable tasks is helpful. Think about quarterly goals instead of figuring out what needs to be done in your business within a year. Isolate objectives and goals by month or even week. It might seem like an easier way to approach things, but it’s also critical for keeping you accountable and motivated throughout your workday.
That way, if you miss a deadline or fail in some other way, you can catch up on time without too much stress.
2. Set Deadlines
Deadlines can help keep you focused and on task. Don't just have a general idea of when you want to complete something, but set a firm deadline for yourself. That way, you'll know exactly when you're supposed to have your work done.
Deadlines are also a great motivator—every time you think about making an excuse not to work, remind yourself that there's a definite date when all of your efforts will pay off.
Make sure deadlines are realistic enough not to cause anxiety or overwhelm, but make them strict enough to motivate and consistent with what's expected of professional workers. Try the employee monitoring software to always stay at the top of your deadlines.
3. Delegate Regularly
Delegating tasks means you can focus on those activities that are most valuable. As a bonus, delegating tasks makes it easy for employees to develop skills and increase their confidence in future projects.
If you have a big job or work on a large project, break it down into chunks and delegate specific jobs to each person or team. This helps ensure that all parts of your project move forward quickly and simultaneously—and doesn’t let one person do all of the heavy liftings.
Is delegating tasks a time-consuming activity for you? Try the best employee scheduling software to automate your scheduling tasks for better efficiency and productivity.
4. Remove Distractions
A lot of people are constantly busy but unproductive. Instead of working on an important project, they work on tasks that don’t have an impact.
To be more efficient, focus your attention and block out all potential distractions: emails, social media notifications, and meetings with co-workers who might pull you away from your current task.
To remove distractions quickly and easily, install software such as Boomerang for Gmail and Pocket for Chrome, which allows you to temporarily park incoming messages and articles to read them later—and then get back to what matters.
5. Prioritize Action Over Perfection
Some people see perfectionism as a good thing, but it is often nothing more than an excuse for procrastination. To maximize your productivity, prioritize action over perfection.
Perfectionists are less likely to get things done because they’re too concerned with details, aesthetics, and other minutiae rather than finishing projects quickly.
Don’t let a fear of imperfection prevent you from achieving your goals.
6. Set a timer
You can set a timer for every hour of work you do at work. When that buzzer goes off, stop what you’re doing and think about what you accomplished during that time.
A break allows you to reflect on your day’s tasks and get ideas for what to do next. If you don’t see much productivity in your first go-round, take a few minutes to rest and then set another timer for another hour of work.
Setting timers may seem like an odd way to stay efficient, but it can be a helpful technique. It encourages you to stop working periodically throughout the day, which will make you more productive over time.
7. Stop Multitasking
Multitasking sounds like a good idea, but studies show it's not only inefficient but it can also reduce your focus and lower your productivity. Research shows that when you try to do multiple things simultaneously, you get less done with each thing than if you had done them one by one.
In general, people who multitask are more likely to make mistakes and have attention problems later on down the road. It is far better to focus intently on one task or project for an given period of time and then take a break. You will become much more productive and efficient than before.
8. Brainstorm Before Hand
Many people don’t like brainstorming sessions because they seem complicated and unproductive. But for those who are stuck, a brainstorming session is a great way to get unstuck.
You don’t need to use any special software or access anything on Google; some of our most productive sessions have happened in person.
All you need to do is take ten minutes to write all your ideas and questions—and stick with it until you feel you have more than enough to work with.
Take short breaks every five minutes or so during brainstorming sessions when your mind wanders too much.