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This week we want to talk about the difference between being effective vs efficient.

First, let's define these two terms so we are on the same page:

Being efficient means you do a particular task quickly with little waste.

Being effective means what you are doing is pushing the needle forward.

Let's discuss a few examples.

Example 1: Student studying for a test

Let's say you are a student studying for an anatomy or physiology test. Your goal studying is to learn the material and perform well at the test. You could be using efficient studying techniques that aren't the most effective. For example, you could take the class notes and copy them over to flash cards. This is time consuming activity, but you could be doing it really efficiently. This may get you the end result you want, but it is very time consuming and slow.

On the other hand, you could read the class notes, study them, and memorize them with the same result as doing the flash cards. If you were able to do this in half the time, it is more effective even though you may not be efficient at it.

Example 2: Clinician getting more patients in the clinic

Another example would be someone who is working with patients and wants to grow their new patients in a month as their goal. One way to get new patients to see you is to work at local events, like a triathlon or a CrossFit event. You may be extremely efficient at this process, but it may be an 8-hour day that yields 3 new patients. You have to ask yourself, would there be another way you could spend 8 hours that gets you more patients/clients and is less time consuming? If yes, it means you are not using your time as effectively as possible.

Four Quadrants

Essentially if you take effectiveness and efficiency and cross multiply them you can have 4 categories of activities:

  1. Inefficient and ineffective
  2. Efficient but ineffective
  3. Effective but inefficient
  4. Effective and efficient

These categories are listed in least powerful to most powerful activities.

You should aim to be doing level 4 tasks, ones that get the most done and that you can do without waste.

People will tend to gravitate toward level 2 tasks, ones they can do efficiently but don't really produce results.

Why? They are easy and low barrier tasks. When we bump into something that is category 3 (tasks that will move the needle forward but are challenging) we typically will revert to level 2 tasks instead.

Ideally we make our level 3 tasks into level 4 tasks by getting better at them and learning how to do them more efficiently.

This Episode's Challenge

Write down your tasks you do throughout the day and rate them with the above 1-4 system and see where you are at. Try to spend more time at level 3 and 4 with the intention of getting your biggest level 3 tasks up to level 4.


Podcast Transcript


Ryan: I’m Dr. Ryan Debell. Thanks for tuning in to this episode of the Health Fit Business podcast. This episode which is episode number seven is about being effective vs. efficient. Those words are very similar in terms of how they are spelled but extremely different in their meaning. So, you can be very efficient at something but if that thing is not effective in helping you achieve your goal, you have to know “where am I spending my time and why?” It’s easy to do things that you were already good at but that doesn’t mean it’s the right thing to be doing. So, a couple of examples. Let’s say you’re a student in athletic training or chiropractic school or physical therapy school and you’re studying for a test. You might be really efficient at taking class notes and re-transcribing them on to flashcards and you might have that down color coded, all that stuff, but may not be the most effective use of your time to achieve the goal that you’re trying to achieve. Getting high score on a test – that type of thing. Now let’s say, you’re a practicing clinician. Here’s an example you could throw out. Let’s say you wanted to go work at events and you’re going to sponsor an event in order to promote yourself or promote your clinic. You might have the steps down extremely efficiently to go run an event and maybe that takes you all day to go to the event and you get two or three new patients that come and see you at your clinic from doing an event. Was a full day the most effective use of your time to achieve your goal, reaching the most people and helping the most people, making your business busier or more profitable, whatever your goal is? Was that the most efficient, most effective way? You might have the process down efficiently but is it the most effective use of your time to achieve your goal?  So, without further ado, let’s listen in to this episode of the Health Fit Business podcast.

Anthony: Welcome! Welcome! Welcome!

Ryan: What’s up Dr.  Anthony Gustin?

Anthony:  Just hanging out in my kitchen. What are you doing?

Ryan: I am also hanging out in your kitchen.

Anthony: Nice. What do we have for the six people out there today?

Ryan: For the six, I think we got an additional one. Each episode we get one, so in a couple of years we’ll get a hundred. This episode, what we’re going to talk about is the idea or the concept of being effective vs. efficient. There is a big difference between those two words. You’ve got to say something.

Anthony: It’s all about doing things right vs. doing the right things.

Ryan: Yes. That’s exactly right.

Anthony: So being efficient essentially means you are good at doing something in the process of doing something.

Ryan: But is that the right thing to be doing?

Anthony: Being effective is getting the right things done to move, whatever kind of progress, forward.

Ryan: Right. So, there is a big difference also if you think about, I’d like to say moving the needle forward versus maintaining the needle. If you know what I’m saying. What I mean by that is, if you’re trying to progress versus just doing what exactly you are doing right now well, if you are going to progress you have to do things that are effective. Now, a lot of people focus on being very efficient at things and spending their time like “Oh! I’m going to make this extremely efficient. I’m going to get tis down” but it isn’t needle forward moving activity. If you are spending your time making something slightly more efficient but it isn’t the task that’s exactly moving the needle forward and it’s already being done well enough, your time is better spent doing something else and that something else is the thing that is effective versus just being efficient.

Anthony:  Right. So, there are four different possibilities here when thinking about doing something effectively and efficiently. The first of them would be you’re not effective and you’re not efficient so you have no idea what the hell are you doing and you’re not getting anything done. You’re sloppy and slow and lazy.

Ryan: Right. You are really slow at doing things that are not helpful.

Anthony: Exactly. Just a complete waste of time. We never want to be doing anything in this quadrant. Beware of that and skip those entirely. Next would be being efficient but not effective.

Ryan: So, you are extremely good at doing things that are not helpful.

Anthony: Exactly. A good example of this and I think we talked a little bit about this on time blocking and email episode, responding to emails. Right. If I have a system where I’m going and responding to emails but it’s just random conversations that don’t do anything, it doesn’t matter.

Ryan: Right. The problem with this ineffective but efficient things is you feel like you’re doing work.

Anthony: Yeah. You’re going to check things up in your to-do list.

Ryan: You need to check things up in your to-do list but they don’t help in anyway. They don’t move the needle forward. They just maintain the needle or maybe they actually make the needle go backwards even though you can really be good at it.

Anthony: Yeah. So, it’s like an opportunity cost. So, if you’re spending your time thinking that you’re doing such a good job because you can reply to emails super quickly and you can get hundred replied to.

Ryan: What you could be doing instead during that same amount of time? You could have been moving the needle forwards by doing something more effective. What’s quadrant three Anthony?

Anthony: Quadrant three is being inefficient but being effective. This is let’s say you are setting some type of partnership or getting a project rolling but it’s taking you forever and you don’t have a system in place. There is no procedure for saying “Every time I do this…”, like for instance, for your Movement Fix Monday videos.

Ryan: Yes.

Anthony: They are very effective like they get a lot of great content for the people. They build your audience.  They are great to do right but if every time you have to figure out “How do I turn my camera? Do I set lighting up this way? How do I process the audio? How do I post it on YouTube?” You don’t have nice system and you’re not efficient, it’s just a huge waste of time.

Ryan: I think that it’s a valuable thing to be doing but it is very time consuming, right? It’s the right thing to do but you’re not doing it really well.

Anthony: Exactly! With that, that’s kind of like the easiest thing where people kind of switch on and notice those things that are moving the needle forward where they can run finest system, get it tighter, either delegate, automate, or make their own process tighter so they can get more of the right things done.

Ryan: I think that… So, quadrant four obviously is the only remaining combination which is…

Anthony: It’s money maker.

Ryan: This is where it’s at. You want to be in quadrant four, which is being effective and doing it efficiently. But here’s the deal, here’s the issue and this is why a lot of people aren’t hanging out in quadrant number four. It’s because to get to quadrant four you have to go through quadrant three.  Quadrant three is doing things that are effective but they are inefficient and so it’s hard. What happens when people do that? They drop to quadrant two because they are doing things that are easy that they can do quickly and so they never achieve quadrant four activities because to go from three to four requires suffering and working your ass of through hard things that are worthwhile but that you have to figure out how to do. There are more cognitively or mentally challenging. They require potentially more planning and thought and so it’s hard to work through quadrant three to get to four so we regress to two. But you have to suffer in three. When you do that, when you set up a lot of stuff with pureWOD, I’m sure you went through some stuff where it took a lot of time to figure out exactly the steps that you have to take but they were the right steps. Once you are able to go through and systematize it, then you are in quadrant four.

Anthony: Yeah. I mean I was awesome! I posted it on Instagram but if that’s all I did, takes the company off the ground, it wouldn’t have gone anywhere.

Ryan: What does that even do anything? Maybe you get likes and you get stuff like that. It feels good because again it’s a gamification of that, but does that actually turn in to a successful business or a successfully product?

Anthony: Exactly. In an honest defense of this quadrant number three you have to be aware that it takes work to tip over and into quadrant four. Otherwise, like you said, it’s so easy to check things out on your to-do list. To think “Oh! I’m good at doing this” but not being aware enough that those things aren’t worth doing.

Ryan: And that the hard thing is really the identification of the things that are effective versus ineffective. You have to have somewhat of mental clarity and you have to have… Again this is why we think that some of these time efficiency things we’ve discussed like time blocking and all that, is so important because if you don’t have time blocked out how can you spend time thinking deeply about the real problems that you have to solve if you haven’t scheduled time for that? Because if you’re busy doing other stuff, like say, patient care, research etc., for let’s say a blog post, are you going to have time and the mental ability to think deeply about solving problems and the answer is most likely…

Anthony: No.

Ryan: No.

Anthony: Nope.

Ryan: Which is why you have to time block in the first place, you have the head space if you will…

Anthony: It’s plugged. Do you get paid for that?

Ryan: No I don’t not get paid for that.

Anthony: That’s an app.

Ryan: Right. If you don’t time block, how are you going to think deeply? You’re too… you are on this hurried state. You are in this scattered brain state where you can’t really think strategically but that’s what you have to do in order to figure out what’s effective versus ineffective.

Anthony: Right. If you can’t think strategically or you’re stressed out, you’re always going to default to whatever is easiest. The easiest thing is you have the “you know where you are efficient at.”

Ryan: You know the problem in doing that? Okay, you’re stressed out and you want to get something done. You do the things that are easy but deep down inside of your heart of hearts, your brain, you know… heart of hearts? Where did that come from?

Anthony:  Read some love novels?

Ryan: I don’t really read novels, I only read other things but…Deep down in your brain, you know that you are actually procrastinating doing what is the inevitable thing and I think it actually makes you feel worst at the end of the day.

Anthony: Obviously, everyone listening to this. All six of you. Seven, six?

Ryan: Seven? Where are we at now?

Anthony: Six?

Ryan: I don’t know. Six and a half.

Anthony: 6.5 people have.

Ryan: Someone has one ear bud in, you know?

Anthony: An overwhelming amount on your to do list. So, if we’re thinking about weekly challenge in ways to turn these concepts that we are talking about into action, you’ll be listing down all of your to dos and it’s taking a good twenty, thirty minutes and thinking about this – “What quadrant is this to do in for me?”

Ryan: Right.

Anthony: “Do I suck at it and does is not really do anything? Quadrant one?” Just assess one and put it on the bottom of your to do list. And then go through and say “Okay. Am I good at doing this or have a good process of doing this? Can I do it really well?” That’s quadrant two or is it do that but not get you anywhere- quadrant two. Think about how you can’t apply those skills and do somethings with those same set of skills that would get the needle moving forward. Right?  Then go down and say, “this thing is going really well. I mean a lot of traction with this but I’m not really good at doing this.”

Ryan: It’s hard.

Anthony: It’s hard. You don’t know ow to do it. You might even ask for help. You might even need to feel on the way.

Ryan:  Welcome to quadrant three.

Anthony: Welcome to quadrant three. It’s a rocky ride but it’s worth it. And then, finding also if there are some things in quadrant four, were you really good at doing them and they are really pushing the needle forward but those are the top of your to do list. Get those done immediately.

Ryan: Those are the highest pay off things and also the ones that don’t take a lot of time. Those are extremely valuable. Quick little example here would be, when I started the Movement Fix podcast, I had no idea how to do a podcast. How do I record audio? How do I record a skype call? How do I get the audio hosted? How do I get it to go to iTunes? How do I get it to go to all these outlets? And so, the podcast is great communication method or whatever the word I am looking for. It’s a great way to communicate and get information across. But now… (what is that? Is there a bird in here?) but now that I know how to do that setting up the podcast like this podcast, it took me two minutes. So, now it’s an effective way to get a message across and it’s also efficient for me because I’ve done it and so, it lets me snapping. I can go through it quickly and get it up. You have to struggle though. I’ve spent hours trying to figure out how to do this.

Anthony: Yeah.

Ryan:  I was sweating bullets.

Anthony: If you guys are confused about maybe how to take things from quadrant three to quadrant four, there will be multiple episodes that we’ll release. That will be all about automating, delegating, setting up systems, really pushing things from quadrant three to quadrant four.  The first step is just acknowledging…

Ryan: And identifying. Becoming aware that there are different quadrants of activities.

Anthony: Exactly and so, be aware that to do list – audit. From this week the challenge, right? Get your to do lists out, audit it, see what quadrant you are in and see where you can go from there.

Ryan: Doing number fours and make number threes number fours. That should really be your goal. And then maybe you should eliminate number one.

Anthony: Understand.

Ryan: And then number two, well, that’s like an instant gratification thing, maybe you kind of have to give up in order to move three to four. You have to cut some things out in order to really advance what you’re trying to do. So, that’s what we’ve got from this episode here Anthony.

Anthony: You guys, get after it!

Ryan: Thank you guys for tuning in to this episode of the Health Fit Business podcast. If you find it helpful, please share with someone that you think it would also help and leave us a five-star rating on iTunes, make sure also to go to and sign up for the email notification to which you can find right on the homepage so that you get all the updated podcasts and blog post sent directly to you. Until then, we will see you next time.