“What gets measured gets done”…is that true?

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I’m a “shiny object” guy.  You might say I am easily distracted.  I might say I am easily attracted.

When the things I “should” do shift from being part of an adventure to something boring, I’m at risk.  It’s not that I get completely seduced to the dark side and waste my time.  Most often I get seduced into a business-related “opportunity” that’s new and interesting.

That can be a problem when it comes to getting boring high-priority items completed.

I'll track the number of days I set my #1 priority

Action: Pick my #1

Could it be true?

I’ve wrestled with the shiny-object-seduction forever.  One day I came across a couple of famous business quotes, both usually attributed to Peter Drucker by most and often attributed to others.  The quotes are:

  • what gets measured gets managed
  • what gets measured gets done

Thinking about those words, I asked myself, “do you think that’s true?”

It would make sense given that both self-help gurus and neuroscientists say that when we put our attention on something, we tend to produce more of it if it’s a good thing and less of it if it’s bad.

What if it were true?  Really, really true that what you measure gets done?

Hash Mark

Saved by Accountability

Around that same time I was contemplating this question, a friend asked me to be on a panel talking about accountability in the work place.  In the course of my research, I found one definition of accountability as “The obligation of an individual or organization to account for its activities, accept responsibility for them, and to disclose the results in a transparent manner.”

Account for activities?  I could do that.

Since then I develop accountability plans and use accountability tools to support my major goals.  I still chase shiny object projects, but I’m rarely AWOL from my priorities for long.

Three steps to reality

Track actions over timeFor me, the whole point of accountability is to stay connected with reality.  Consider its human nature for most people (not the super disciplined) to kid ourselves about what we’re really doing.  We’re sure we do more of what we should and less of what we shouldn’t that we actually do.  Then consider that success gurus tell us that, if we have an accurate sense of our progress toward our goal, we’ll likely achieve it.  Given those two points, it’s a big deal to be honest with yourself about where you really stand.  My three steps to knowing where I stand are:

  1. Pick a Metric:  Figure out the result I want and then identify an action I can take that I believe is likely to lead to that result.
  2. Track the Metric:  Figure out how to best keep track of the key actions I take.
  3. Report it:  Log my actions into a journal or spreadsheet so I can see how I’m doing over time.

That’s the point of the image at the very top of this post.  That’s one of my accountability logos.

What do you really want?

reality-checkLet’s imagine what you really want is to keep your job or maybe feel less stressed.  Either goal may have you pick the same “leading” action to track:  work on priorities.

There are lots of actions you might track related to prioritization.  One is spending a 10 minutes each day reviewing your responsibilities and tasks, and identifying your top priority.

On the days you do that, you might put a hash mark on your calendar or track it on a smart phone app.  I use a spreadsheet.  As you go along, you keep track of that number by week or month so you can compare action over time.  I make it a contest with myself.

Having that consistent record over time pulls you forward.  I still chase shiny object ideas and projects.  They keep work interesting.  With this and other accountability tools, however, I’m never AWOL for long.


Jim Earley

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