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The Difference Between Taking Shortcuts and Being Efficient

Updated: Sep 22, 2020

"There are no shortcuts to any place worth going."

- Beverly Sills

What’s the difference between a shortcut and being efficient?

1. A Shortcut is like a fad diet. A fad diet has quick results, but once you stop that diet, you inevitably gain the weight back. Athletes will use shortcuts to fast track their way to a goal, or to avoid putting in the hard work in a certain area of their sport. In this case, a shortcut is a short term process.

Efficiency is defined as achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense. In sports, it refers to how much energy or movement is expended to perform a certain skill. For example, greater efficiency as a cyclist means that less energy and effort are required to sustain a given pace.

2. A Shortcut is a way of skipping steps to meet your end goal. In this manner, shortcutting involves eliminating steps that an athlete doesn’t feel comfortable doing. Thus, it tends to be emotionally based.

Efficiency, in this case, involves streamlining your process. It’s a strategic decision to refine steps toward your end goal. For example, a lacrosse player dedicates her cardio training on drills and exercises that focus on short bursts of high speed acceleration and deceleration rather than focusing the majority of her conditioning on endurance based training like running long distances. As a result, she will be more prepared for game like situations that involve short bursts of speed and fast change of direction.

While shortcuts can seem like an attractive way to get things done and to produce results, it tends to be a short term fix. On the other hand, efficiency involves incorporating things that are helpful and eliminate things that don’t support your long term growth and success.


"The ancient Japanese art of Aikido teaches that the less resistance you create, the more efficient and effective your action."

- Dr. Jerry Lynch

Tips for become more efficient:

i. Know where you want to go. To become more efficient at what you do, you need to set goals. Long term goals gives you direction and expectation. Efficiency has to be inline with your long term, mid, and short term goals. It is not a generalized concept, efficiency has focus.

ii. Consistency is key. Create a consistent plan of action. Things don’t happen overnight. It takes time to build up to where you want to be, like eating healthy, increasing physical strength and stamina, and improving a sport specific skill set.

iii. Make it fun. This includes having days off and times you can eat less nutritious food.

iv. Eliminating steps doesn’t make you more efficient. If you choose to skip steps, you will likely suffer the consequences later down the road, be it injury or a plateau in performance.

v. Take the right steps the first time. It can be harder to break an old habit than it is to create a new one. Either way, commit to taking your time, working through the challenges and frustrations, and doing it right.

vi. Manage your time. Create a schedule by writing down all your appointments, commitments, and training goals. Writing things down makes it tangible because you can see it and dedicate your time and energy to it.

vii. Be proactive not reactive. Communication is key. It’s essential to communicate your commitments to others, especially when things on your schedule conflict. If you take the time to create a schedule, you can learn to plan ahead.

viii. Journal your progress. Charting your progress allows you to see how far you have come and how much closer you are to achieving your goal. When faced with setbacks and challenges, your journal is also your reminder that things will be ok. While it may take a little longer, you still know your destination, you just need to adjust your training and your timeline to get there.

ix. Know your why. There will be tough and challenging days that you have to endure and push through. If you have direction and a plan, you have your motivation and passion to press on.

x. It’s part of the ever changing process. There is no standard way of becoming more efficient at what you do. You are unique, so you need to adapt skills and techniques to fit you.

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