Efficiency is one of the most touted buzzwords in business, and for good reason. Efficiency is all about doing things well with as little waste as possible. This waste can refer to anything, but in business this waste is often defined as money or time (which is money). When businesses need to grow, they can either acquire more resources and employees, which is expensive, or they can oftentimes make their current assets work better for them. If they need to cut back, on the other hand, they can cut down those resources or they can try to make their current assets cost less to maintain and operate. As you can see, this important virtue is returned to time and time again in order to maximize profits and reduce costs.

If you have a boss (and most people with a job do, of at least some sort), then efficiency is important to your survival and your gain. If they ever do need to cut back on people, they are going to get rid of the less efficient workers first so you're naturally in a better position if you work on this virtue and make your skills in this area known to your employers. If you own or manage a business you will need to master this skill to keep your operation viable—and you will have to learn how to manage your employees' efficiency as well.

One great way to improve efficiency is to take note of everything that goes on in your job or business and get it down in paper. Then, you make stats of everything that goes into those jobs, especially time and money. You can then break down the steps further so you can clearly see all the activities in hard copy in front of you so you're not trying to pull ideas down from thin air—many of the activities are all about doing this and keeping up on it.

Other things you can do to improve this virtue are to work your other habits. In fact, developing your strength with many of the other virtues will have a strong impact on your efficiency. If your punctual, then you will get more done, right? If your underlings or punctual, all the more better (but don't be a bad example yourself)! Inventiveness alone is very essential to efficiency because sometimes the most knee-jerk reactions to solve problems are not the most cost-effective ones.

Lastly, a great way to be more efficient if you do own a business, or at least save money in its operations, is to constantly go over those vendors you buy services from. Reexamine the markets from which you buy supplies and services every once in a while. It may be that the vendors you are currently buying from are no longer the best deal for your needs. Of course, sometimes the cheapest supplies are not the best, and you can't be efficient if your discount supplies and services cost you more in the long run. If you want to maintain a relationship with a vendor, perhaps because you trust them to give an example, that's fine. Just don't use excuses in order to avoid disappointing someone by telling them you don't want to do business with them anymore.

Here are some activities that may help you achieve better efficiency. Many of them cover the discussion up above in greater detail:


  • Make a Detailed Report on All Your Operations: Whether you are a humble employee or the boss of a small or large business, you will benefit from taking note of all your operations and breaking them down in detail. Get it all down on paper, diagram it in a way that makes sense to you, and don't leave anything out. Then, study your research in detail. Is there anything you can do that will save time and effort (and probably a lot of stress)? Sometimes, the answer could be getting all your documents to be copied together at the same time so you avoid multiple trips to the copier room. It could be rearranging your work space. Or something much more inventive, perhaps. Come up with any idea you can. Some employees don't have a lot of personal freedom in how they do their job, but most will find something that they can improve on (or at least make suggestions about).
  • Work on Responsibility, Punctuality, and any Personal Laziness: Sometimes, especially since the invention of Facebook games, people find ways to waste time on stuff that isn't their job. Some bosses (or fields) will be more willing to put up with this behavior, but even if a manager is very forgiving or open, he or she won't be if you're not getting your job done—suddenly they will have problems with your bad habits. If you work on the virtues Responsibility and Punctuality you may get this problem settled. If you have a small laziness problem as well, you can do what dieters sometimes do, which is keep a diary of what you've done all day (in this case, also make sure you write down the time you spent on each activity). You may waste more time than your realize, and as certain toy soldiers have been trying to tell us for years, knowing is half the battle.
  • Keep a Updated Record on How You Spend Money: We mentioned going over your vendors up above. If you keep a detailed list of your vendors especially for this purpose (this could simply be a report from sophisticated accounting software), then this will be both on your mind more often and much easier for you to accomplish.
  • Work on Enterprise, Inventiveness, and Professionalism: I put these down here because you should perhaps work on the previously mentioned virtues first (unless, after careful self-reflection you're really sure you don't have a problem with them). Enterprise and Inventiveness are lifelong goals, but these qualities can help people come up with, well, inventive ways of saving time and money. Having professionalism gives you a mental mindset that helps make staying on task and working efficiently a bit easier.

Your Record

If you realize you wasted time by a poor decision you should have avoided, mark yourself at "fault". Based on your hours at the job and your responsibilities, make a goal to avoid wasting more than a certain amount of time (sometimes water-cooler conversation can't and shouldn't be avoided). If you fail to keep on task then mark yourself at fault. Use the following activities up above and others that you research to make goals and policy changes. If you fail to follow through on the activities or changes then mark yourself at fault.


Obviously, the highest type of efficiency is that which can utilize existing material to the best advantage.

Jawaharlal Nehru, Indian Prime Minister

Efficiency is doing better what is already being done.

Peter F. Drucker, American Educator and Writer

The worst, the hardest, the most disagreeable thing that you may have to do may be the thing that counts most, because it is the hard discipline, and it alone, that makes possible the highest efficiency.

Elihu Root, American Lawyer, Statesman, and Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Golden Mean

Helplessness, ineffectiveness, inefficiency

Recommended Reading

The Personal Efficiency Program: How to Get Organized to Do More Work in Less Time — by Kerry Gleeson

The author, the founder of the Institute for Business Technology, lays out a Personal Efficiency Program (a "PEP") that helps you work out a plan to maximize how much you get done.

Efficiency for Everyone: Big Businesses, Little Businesses, Hospitals, and Homes — by Duane Baker

These book contains three volumes combined together to cover how you can improve your efficiency and expertise.

Successful Time Management For Dummies — by Dirk Zeller

Sometimes time management is the key to better efficiency. This volume is from the popular, easy-to-read "For Dummies" series.

General Rules

Practice virtues daily so that they become ‘habits of the heart’.

Don‘t strive for perfection.

Never give up! Remember: even the greats have off days.

Rely on your intuition.

Avoid extremes. Strive to achieve the golden mean between excess and deficiency of a virtue.

Have fun and enjoy the program with humor and optimism.

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Loyal and efficient work in a great cause, even though it may not be immediately recognized, ultimately bears fruit. Jawaharlal Nehru
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