Stop Trying to Be More Efficient

Doing more doesn’t equal doing it well

Darius Foroux
4 min readJan 20

What’s the natural response when you try to get things done? You’re likely trying one of the following two things:

  1. Work harder
  2. Try to be more efficient — completing your task faster or better

Sometimes those things are helpful. But too often, we shouldn’t be working harder or trying to be more efficient.

Let’s say you’re trying to achieve a major goal right now, like:

  • Starting your own business or side hustle
  • Changing careers
  • Losing weight
  • Starting with saving for an emergency fund

Focusing too much on efficiency may not help you in the long-term.

To better understand this, we have to look at the two origin stories of efficiency. We can use these insights to manage our work and goals better.

From factory workers to “knowledge workers”

During the world war, factory work increased in the United States. To improve production and get more output done, managers found ways to simplify and streamline their process. So factory workers could do more in the most efficient manner.

Back then, the concept of “personal productivity” wasn’t well known. Being productive was all about having a company’s process streamlined to maximize efficiency.

But management consultant Peter Drucker argued that, as companies and products and services evolved, the new kind of worker would no longer rely on “repetitive, simple, mechanical motions.”

Instead, these workers would have to use their skills to get things done. Drucker coined the term, “knowledge work.”

In his 1967 book, The Effective Executive, Drucker said:

“The knowledge worker cannot be supervised closely or in detail. He must direct himself.”

It was a revolutionary idea at the time because most managers didn’t think of giving more autonomy to their employees. But that autonomy was exactly what knowledge workers needed to get things…

Darius Foroux

I write about personal finance, productivity, habits. Join over 100K readers who get my newsletter, Wise & Wealthy: