Conservation strategies need to be both effective and efficient to be successful. To this end, two bodies of research should be integrated, namely ‘resilience thinking’ and ‘optimisation for conservation,’ both of which are highly policy relevant but to date have evolved largely separately. Resilience thinking provides an integrated perspective for analysis, emphasising the potential of nonlinear changes and the interdependency of social and ecological systems. By contrast, optimisation for conservation is an outcome-oriented tool that recognises resource scarcity and the need to make rational and transparent decisions. Here we propose that actively embedding optimisation analyses within a resilience-thinking framework could draw on the complementary strengths of the two bodies of work, thereby promoting cost-effective and enduring conservation outcomes.