Productivity and Efficiency: Two Sides of the Same Coin That Lead to Success
I have been running my dermatology practice for over two decades, something that I can admit is not a small feat. After graduating medical school I worked for a time at a dermatology practice that offered cosmetic procedures, but my desire to stop the epidemic that is skin cancer pushed me to leave the business and start my own practice. Today, my practice has five locations in the Treasure Coast of Florida, and we focus exclusively on the treatment of medical dermatological issues, most importantly the prevention and treatment of skin cancer. The common conception of achieving success is that you must sacrifice other things in order to do earn it, but I actually feel that even as my company has grown in size and success I have been able to keep up a good balance of work and life — my wife, son and daughter are my primary focus, but I also enjoy training my German Shepherds and taking them for long walks on Vero Beach in my free time.
I also serve as a voluntary associate professor at the University of Miami School of Medicine, and when I meet with the students they will often ask me how I have managed to have the career I have had without sacrificing my life outside of it. My answer to them is always the same: find the balance between productivity and efficiency. While some may think these two words are interchangeable, they are in fact not synonymous with each other and are completely different concepts. One can be tied to quantity, while the other is quality. Below are some ways that I have found to add both productivity and efficiency to your life.
1. Shorten and organize your to-do list. There’s nothing more intimidating than staring down a lengthy to-do list. Productivity doesn’t mean packing your schedule so tight you are overwhelmed at the idea of getting it all completed before you’ve even started your day. The next time you are writing out your to do list, try to remain realistic in your daily, weekly, and monthly goals. By taking a less-is-more approach to your to-do list you can better move through it.
2. Listen to your body. One of the most common productivity paradoxes is the idea that in order to be productive you must always work at a turbo-charged pace. I have found that often when I am feeling stuck or unproductive, rather than try and force myself to continue working, taking a quick walk or going to a coffee shop for a drink and pastry are actually a better use of my time. You may be losing 20 minutes of time that could be used productively, but that is better than the hour you would potentially be spending racking your brain for something that will come to you easily after a quick break.
3. Develop a morning routine. Another productivity paradox is the idea that you need to be “on” at all times in order to get the most done. On the contrary, starting your mornings by checking your email and calendar can be a huge productivity killer. I’m a strong advocate for developing a morning routine that allows you to mentally prepare for the day rather than jumping right into it: ignoring your emails, getting in a good breakfast, reading the news, meditating or working out. I may have to wake up a little earlier to do so, but just this small shift can massively improve your ability to be productive.
4. Use systems to fight bad habits. In today’s digital age, staying on task and avoiding distraction is often harder than accomplishing your actual work. Regardless of the source, the odds are if you take an honest look you can probably acknowledge that you have developed at least a few productivity-ruining habits over the years. I try to periodically look at my processes and identify little ways in which I am distracting myself each day, then put new systems in place that will combat it. For example, I noticed that at one point I was compulsively checking my emails. It was pulling me out of the zone each time I did it, and so I began scheduling out time slots to manage my inbox. These small shifts can do wonders for your ability to maximize productivity.
1. Stop multitasking. I have some bad news for you: you aren’t good at multitasking. Don’t take that statement personally though, because nobody actually is. Our brains aren’t wired to focus on more than one thing at a time, so every time you are trying to do two things at once, neither are getting your full undivided attention. When it comes to being efficient, multitasking can lead to work that may not be up to par, which means wasting even more time and energy going back to fix the mistakes, whereas a concentrated effort with few distractions will lead to better quality work.
2. Delegate delegate delegate. Having started my own company, I can understand very well the desire to take everything onto your own shoulders. However, I would encourage you to refrain from deriving inspiration from the CEOs and leaders who overload their schedules and burn the midnight oil as a result. By delegating tasks to others who will perform them better, you can become more efficient. When you know how to break down a task and empower others to put forward the effort to complete it, you allow yourself to take on the tasks most suited for you, moving through your to-do list better for it.
3. Focus on good communication. Because poor communication is a huge time-suck. This can mean choosing the appropriate mode of communication to disseminate information — a fast email transmitting bad instructions can end up adding many unnecessary hours to a project for just a few minutes saved. Consider your objectives before deciding to pick up the phone, and craft your emails with purpose and using exacting language so your tone has the desired effect. This is true efficiency: recognizing the quality of a communication can be just as important as the speed of it.
4. Value your time. One of the ways I can often tell that I am talking on the phone with someone who takes efficiency seriously is because they tell me when the call is almost over. Efficient people set a time for each of their tasks and work to keep the schedule. They recognize the value in every minute they spend, and as a result take the boundaries they set for themselves seriously.
The bottom line is that both productivity and efficiency are vital to experiencing healthy success. The two are inherently linked, and one without the other will always pale in comparison to both combined. Nobody wants to feel like they are always working, but it’s also perfectly natural to desire success. By finding ways to improve both the quantity and quality of what you put out in your career, you can achieve more without sacrificing the other parts of life that certainly bring you just as much joy.