10 BEST Principles Of Effectiveness (2021) And How To Apply Them

6 min read

A principle of effectiveness will help you to work more effectively every single time. It’s more or less guaranteed that you’ll work more productively by following it.

In my role as a life coach, I am often tasked with helping people improve their professional lives – and being more effective in their work is a big part of that.

That’s why I’m excited to present this list of the 10 best principles of effectiveness – and how to apply them. 

So, let’s dive in straight away.  

Principle Of Effectiveness
Photo by Hamza NOUASRIA on Unsplash

10 Principles Of Effectiveness 

If you can incorporate even one principle of effectiveness into your style of working, I’m sure you will experience greater productivity in whatever you do.

Abide by several of these principles you’ll experience incredible improvements in the effectiveness of your work. 

1. Have A Mission And Don’t Stray From It

There’s a reason why business plans are so valuable in the business world; they make it undeniably clear what the goal of that business is. A great business plan will include a mission statement and company values too.

Whether or not you’re running a business, you too should have an undeniably clear mission for your personal and professional life.

From there, you need to be ruthless at erasing activities that do not contribute to the accomplishment of that mission. 

Is Elon Musk trying to master his golf swing? Is Rory McIlroy trying to create the world’s best electric cars? No, they’re focused on their life’s mission only.    

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2. Focus On What You Can Control

Yes, in your professional life, you are going to encounter unavoidable roadblocks. There are going to be hiccups that are completely out of your control. But there is nothing effective about focusing on problems you can’t fix.

Rather than wasting all your energy on complaining and letting everyone know that you’ve been victimised, how about you put all that effort into making your product or service even better. 

The most effective workers focus entirely on making their product so good that people can’t live without it, in spite of all the hurdles and obstacles holding them back. 

3. Put The Most Important Things First 

‘The 80/20 rule’ states that 80% of your results will come from 20% of your efforts. In other words, there are some actions that are far more profitable than others.

An effective leader will try to put even more focus on that 20% that brings success. 

Indeed, it’s a common productivity tip to tackle your most important daily tasks first.  

An ineffective leader will waste effort on other trivial parts of the business, which don’t bring in anywhere near as much results.  

4. Stay In Your Lane

There are plenty of entrepreneurs who are wasting energy trying to be the expert in every part of their business. They want to know it all and make all the decisions, from the manufacturing to the social media marketing and the right color of the paint in the reception.

Effective leaders focus only on the area of knowledge where they are already the expert. When something comes up that they’re unfamiliar with, they’re humble enough to admit they don’t know. Rather than try to figure it out themselves, they’ll seek support from someone with more expertise.

You can’t be the expert at everything. Go all in on your expertise, then outsource everything else to other experts. Outsourcing is a great practice to improve the effectiveness of your business.

5. The Whole Is Greater Than The Sum Of Its Parts

Teamwork will always beat a group of people working specifically for themselves. To be effective in any endeavour, look to create synergy whenever possible.

This includes a synergy of ideas, not just a synergy of physical efforts.

When you seek ideas from a broad range of people, you expose yourself to new ideas you may have otherwise remained blind to. A leader who behaves more like a dictator will nearly always suffer from blind spots and miss out on opportunities to become more effective. 

That’s a key reason why the world’s most successful corporations are looking to maintain diversity in their leadership teams. 

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6. Short-Term Fixes Create Long-Term Headaches

The Formula 1 Car with barely any petrol inside it will be lighter. It can therefore travel faster than cars with a full tank. The problem is: it will have to pit-stop more often, costing it more time in the long run. This driver’s short-term strategy cost him in the long run.

If a business splashes all of its marketing budget on an A-list celebrity to cut the ribbon at its new store, that will probably attract a ton of people on their opening day of business. But, what about day 2, 3, 4 and every other day?    

These are just two examples of unsustainable and ineffective short-term strategies. To be truly effective, you need to be planning for the future, as well as the present.

7. Effectiveness Often Trumps Efficiency

There is a key difference between the two terms

  • Efficiency is the most economic manner of doing something, when comparing the output to the input. In a business context, you’d consider the amount of resources put into a project when considering the most efficient way of tackling it. 
  • Effectiveness doesn’t take the resources into account. It simply measures the right way of doing something. 

A lot of business owners like to choose the most economic option, believing this is the right option for their bottom line. 

Often, these shrewd leaders don’t consider the boost in employee and customer morale when you choose effectiveness over efficiency. Often, this boost can make it the right choice for a business. 

8. The Most Effective Methods Change Over Time

Times change, people change, technology changes. That means the most effective method of doing something can inevitably change over time too.

If that’s how you’ve always done something, that may not mean it’s the best current way to do it. 

Get in the habit of asking why you originally chose to use a specific method, and whether that reason still remains relevant.

If you remain focused on what was effective, it’s to get stuck in your ways and be left behind.  

9. Constantly Sharpen The Saw

A lumberjack has been trying to cut down a tree with a blunt saw for hours. Eventually, a colleague suggests he tries to sharpen the saw. The lumberjack replies: “But that will take time!”

This is a great short story, which illustrates how we can waste so much effort by not spending time to improve or maintain our resources. 

So, what are some other examples of ‘sharpening the saw’ that occur in everyday life?

  • Sleeping. A good night’s sleep improves our focus and productivity. Constantly under-sleeping to get more work done will hurt us in the long run.  
  • Exercising. Staying fit and healthy also improves our focus and productivity. It stops us from getting sick and potentially falling behind in our endeavours for days, weeks or months.  
  • Reading. If we stay up-to-date and continue to learn new skills in our area of expertise, we’re far more likely to identify new opportunities instead of falling behind our competitors (see principle 8).
  • Upgrading equipment. The most directly literal example of the lumberjack above. A one-off investment in more effective equipment can save you hours worth of time, improve personal morale in your team and help you to earn more money in the long run. Perhaps the ‘equipment’ you need is actually a new staff member at your company, or an office in a better location. Remember, the most effective leaders plan for the future, not just the present.

10. Great Effort May Not Equal Great Effectiveness

‘Hustle culture’ encourages us to outwork our opponents, but that doesn’t always mean you’ll out-earn them. Effort and progress aren’t always aligned. Sometimes it’s more effective to ‘work smart’ instead of ‘working hard’.

In fact, most of the previous tips have focused on how to work smart and use your energy effectively. 

Frequently Asked Questions: What Is A Principle Of Effectiveness? 

Here are some quick answers to frequently asked questions about what a principle of effectiveness is in different fields.

What Is A Principle Of Effectiveness In International Law?

This is the principle that all laws should be effective, rather than not.

A good example of this principle is how EU member states are obliged to only create national laws that do not make EU law impossible or excessively difficult to enforce.   

What Is A Principle Of Effectiveness In Contract Interpretation?

In contract interpretation, a principle of effectiveness involves the assumption that a contract aims at achieving both parties’ common commercial adjectives. This principle applies to prevent one party from creating a loophole out of the contract via the false interpretation of the terminology within it.

What Is A Principle Of Effectiveness And Efficiency In Environmental Management?

This is the principle that professionals must choose resources that minimize waste and environmental costs 

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Any More Questions About Principles Of Effectiveness?

Thanks for reading this article! I hope you now understand what a principle of effectiveness is – and how these can help you in whatever professional role you hold. 

If you would like to ask any questions about principles of effectiveness, feel free to ask them within the comments section below.

I would really like to hear from my readers about this topic, so I’ll check for new comments as often as I can!  

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