Efficiency (March 25)


“There can be no economy where there is no efficiency” (Benjamin Disraeli).

BY DEFINITION, EFFICIENCY REDUCES WASTE, AND FOR THAT REASON IT’S AN ESSENTIAL HABIT TO ACQUIRE. When our resources are scarce, it’s obviously important to minimize waste, but when they’re abundant, as they are for most of us nowadays, it’s no less important to use those resources efficiently. When we’re plentifully supplied with raw materials to do our work, it’s harder to see the need for carefulness, but abundance is never an excuse for waste, and we should always get the most good that we can out of every moment, every dollar, and every ounce of our strength.

I would suggest that the area where efficiency and good stewardship are most critical is the area of personal talents and abilities. Since these are intangible qualities, it may be harder to see them as “resources,” but that’s exactly what they are. Think, for example, about a trait like intelligence. The more intelligent a person is, the more that person should use his or her intelligence efficiently, that is, wasting as little of it as possible on unworthy pursuits. “Be pleased, O God, to grant unto me that great freedom of mind that will enable me to . . . manage the common affairs of life in such wise as not to misemploy or neglect the improvement of my talents” (Susanna Wesley).

It is often pointed out today, by teachers like Stephen R. Covey, that “efficiency” must always be governed by “effectiveness.” We may climb life’s ladder with all the efficiency in the world (good technique), but if, when we get to the top, we find that we’ve had our ladder leaning against the wrong wall (wrong vision), we’re in trouble.

Working efficiently and effectively requires the old-fashioned quality of wisdom. There’s no shortcut to it — except our willingness to listen and learn from the wisdom of those who’ve gone before us.

The thing to remember is that we’re only here for a short time. We have only a limited number of days to make the contribution that we were put here to make. And so it’s common sense, at the very least, to work as efficiently as we can. If by working efficiently, we can reach the end of our lives having done more good than by working any other way, that’s a pretty sound argument for learning how to be efficient.

“The possession of efficiency — the power to do” (Nicholas Murray Butler).

Gary Henry – WordPoints.com

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