What Gets Measured Does Not Always Get Done
“What gets measured gets done.” That’s how the saying goes. It’s probably why we see efforts to measure absolutely everything. In health, for example, there is a school of thought which claims that if I could see a constant data stream on my weight, resting heart rate, calories burned, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc., I would make healthier decisions. I don’t think that is enough. This has become clearer to me as I’ve started using a “To-Do” list more regularly.
I use a simple word document to track the things I want to get done. At least daily, I update the list and use it to plan where I will focus my time. It works well for the most part, but there are a few items that just seem to get stuck on the list. It’s very annoying actually. Enough so that it made me start thinking about why this happens. Why do some items move off of the list while others don’t? Here is what I came up with as the key factors that impact my speed of completing To-Do items (listed in no particular order):
- Achievable – How difficult do I perceive this task? It turns out the way in which the To-Do item is written actually matters. If it’s broken down in to achievable steps, it’s more likely to be finished quicker.
- Associated Reward – Is this item more likely to lead to a higher relative reward than the other items? If so, it will get priority.
- Fun – Do I enjoy doing it? The more fun it seems, the quicker it will be removed from the list.
- Social Accountability – Will someone else care if it is done and done on time? If there is someone else waiting on the outcome or there is some shared interest in the outcome of this item, I’ll give it priority.
As I’ve learned, just tracking what I need to do isn’t always enough to make sure it gets done. I would re-write the popular saying as follows: “What gets measured is made achievable, fun, social and rewarding gets done.” This works even for physical activity, that nagging To-Do item that just never seems to go away.