What gets measured, gets managed
has got to be the most annoying piece of business advice ever.
(Right next to “create epic content,” “follow your passion,” and “don't fart too loud when the mic is on,” of course.)
Coming from a background in PR, I've always hurled silent insults at the whole “what gets measured, gets managed” thing, because many important outcomes—like positive sentiment, for example—are harder than Donald Trump's head to measure.
And yet, all these years later, I think I might owe that phrase an apology.
You see, it all started with my 2016 wall calendar.
WHAT? SHE DOESN'T USE GOOOOOGLEEEEEEE?! OR ACUIIIITTTTTYYYYYYY?! OR SOME OTHER FANCY ONLINE CALENDAR?!
Relax, Fran Drescher, I totally do. But the AMWC—All-Mighty Wall Calendar—is other level. I don't use it to keep track of my appointments, or, ahem, the exact day the Downton Abbey castle opens for tours (I'm going! I'm going! I'm going!) but rather, for keeping track of myself. Which sounds incredibly daunting because, unlike Bridget Jones (why is everything about the British today?), I'm definitely not memorializing my “alcohol units” on any permanent piece of pulp, let alone one that hangs squarely in my face.
But what I have been tracking is my weight—which, now that I think about it, is TOTALLY worse than measuring alcohol units. However, contrary to how it might seem, doing so has helped me enormously with one area in particular:
Not being such an impatient, demanding, self-critical tart.
You see, each morning I'll step on the scale and get the reading of my body weight, body fat percentage and percentage of water, and record it on the calendar. And while this might sound like an exercise in pure torture (and sometimes is), the benefit to doing this every day is that you bear witness to something most of us gloss right over:
The quiet little truths.
There, on the calendar, I can see that last week, I was one and a half pounds heavier, and the week before that, another pound. I can see that my body fat percentage is .7 less than it was just a handful of days ago. I can see that my water levels are improving.
Here's another stabby, but relevant, phrase for you: The numbers don't lie. And, they don't. In fact, seeing these quiet little truths motivates me to search for more of them. What might February 16th reveal? Or March 3rd?
Contrast that with my old mentality:
- Go on diet
- Exercise like crazy
- Do it for a week
- Step on scale
- Get royally pissed when I wasn't magically ten pounds lighter
- Say “screw it” and gobble Salt n Vinegar chips
My expectations were WAY too high, because my expectations of myself always were. I'm used to moving mountains in business—why couldn't I do it with my body?
The answer is that you don't have to move mountains. All you have to do is move, period.
And tracking that movement on my wall calendar has been the one thing that reminds me, every single day, that things are moving. That change is happening. That the quiet truths bear the loudest witness.
And, you know, it helps me not be such an asshole to myself.
The reason why I use the physical wall calendar instead of an online one is because there is something to be said about the ceremony of writing it with your own hand—of making it a beautiful daily routine where, in that moment, you are bearing witness to your goodness.
So this morning, when I picked up my pen and approached the AWMC—all-mighty wall calendar—I began to consider ways a routine like this might help others in a business context.
We're all so hard on ourselves all the time, and that's because most people don't see the quiet little truths right in front of them. Most people are waiting for a magical kaboom to happen in their businesses: For profit to explode, for email subscribers to soar, for some kind of big, obvious sign that this is working.
But what if you took the most gorgeous wall calendar you can find and started writing down your daily:
- Words written
- Clients helped
- Problems solved
- Ideas born
- Subscribers added
- Revenue generated
- Books sold
- Pages read
- Contracts signed
- Minutes spent
There's a difference between having a vague, general idea you're moving in the right direction, and being able to actually see that movement. After all, seeing is believing, isn't it?
Maybe the phrase shouldn't be “what gets measured, gets managed,” but “what gets measured, gets manifested” (KIDDING—you know I'd rather be attacked by another wild monkey than use words like “manifested”), or even better: “What gets written on old-school wall calendars will evitably make you realize how much you're actually doing, even though it never really feels like enough, and even though you doubt yourself every single day, and even though you want to jump Blahniks first into a reservoir when things don't move fast enough.” Little less snappy, but hey, who's counting? (Oh wait, I forgot: We were.)
For what it's worth, the next time you're dreaming about something, maybe the solution isn't so much about dreaming, as it is documenting.
Best case scenario, you'll end up actually holding yourself accountable, and worst case scenario, you'll document enough alcohol units to be able to write the next Bridget Jones novel.
Either way, when you create an army of your own small truths, the lies you try to tell yourself won't stand a chance.