You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
It’s bedrock advice that we hear applied to everything from fitness to business: set your goals, establish your metrics, and measure consistently. If you’re not on target, adjust your strategy.
There’s some merit to this advice. If you’re not tracking any metrics, how do you know where you are and what you need to move forward? If you’re aiming for a result, you want to know what you’re aiming for and whether you’re getting closer. Not establishing metrics and not measuring where you’re at is a recipe for aimless wandering.
This advice about setting up metrics and measuring results is based on the illusions that (1) progress is linear and (2) that metrics in a certain direction are an indicator of progress.
Neither one is true.
At any moment in time, a snapshot of your metrics may show you what you believe to be progress. But you won’t know for sure until you have more context down the road.
On the flip side, your metrics may indicate that you’re not making progress. But give it a few months and that situation may look very different.
And then there’s the question of what the metrics are measuring. Are they measuring something that can indicate clearly whether you are making progress?
From a distance, a plane looks like it’s heading on a straight path towards its destination. But if you took a close-up snapshot at any moment in time, it would seem to be significantly off-course.
The same is true for us. Sometimes we can only assess our progress through outside eyes — friends, mentors, or coaches who can see us from a 10,000-foot perspective and reflect back to us where we’ve made progress.
Ultimately, we can waste so much time on measuring and tracking meaningless metrics — the activity of measuring and managing can become a form of procrastination on what really matters.
True progress must be assessed over time, and it can’t always be measured with metrics.
Instead of progress, focus on the process. Taking the actions you know you need to take and doing them consistently and persistently.