‘I can count to 100!’
‘I can count to 1 million!’
As kids, we delighted in how high we could count! Perhaps, that explains, to some extent, our lifelong obsession with counting!
And not all of us count the same way. Some of us look for continuity while others for patterns. Some of us don’t like counts ending with odd numbers and look for ways to even things out.
I have to admit; I count too. Sometimes, when climbing steps, I catch myself counting them. For some strange reason, they usually add up to 17! Equally, sometimes I am totally zoned out and climb more floors than I intended to!
Even as you read this, I am sure many of you are sub-consciously tracking that half this year is almost over. Some of you might be thinking mid-year reviews, while others wondering what happened to that New Year’s resolution?
Sure. It’s a checkpoint.
Many of us are also making vacation plans. Counting days? Go for it!
You see; I really don’t have a problem with counting.
Where I do have a problem is when you end up counting for countings sake – where counting becomes the end as opposed to the means to an end.
Counting, by nature, is just so simple and positive in its feel that getting consumed is easy. Take for example, how many likes you got on your latest Instagram post. Or how many calories you just burnt.
So counting is the easy part. The hard part is, knowing what to count.
If you have ever spent endless hours slicing data in countless ways, to a point where you forget what you were trying to derive in the first place, you know what I mean. It’s that easy to get lost in data.
So here comes the question…how do you know what to count?
‘…And I Care Because…’
For starters, I suggest you try the prefix, ‘…and I care because…’ to whatever it is that you are counting.
For example, ‘I would like to be able to make a stock return of x% this year… and I care because this is one of my means to gaining financial independence.’
In a more work related scenario, we could say something like, ‘Organisations want to educate 100% of the top-level executives on cyber security and they care because C-level executives are at high risk for such attacks.’
While it seems easy, it’s a tricky one. It often takes deeper thinking to establish and confirm correlations.
Yet, at the very least, we need to know why something even matters.
Sometimes, we get so lost in measuring that the effort made on measurement by far exceeds genuine action.
You know the hours spent making meal plans, buying all the right ingredients, only to find yourself ordering takeaway the very next day?
Or the hours spent on customer/employee surveys, slicing data by every possible variable, finding later that while you have all the data you need, you have exhausted your resources on measuring and don’t have enough left to actually fix the problem.
Albeit knowing a problem is a great start to solving it, problems seldom solve themselves.
At what cost?
Finally, take a rain check on the cost of counting.
If it’s as harmless as counting steps while we walk, we can live with that, but when this starts getting in the way of things, perhaps its time to do something about it.
Counting is associated with progression, i.e. going forward. If in any way it is acting as a deterrent to this very intent, then its time to think.
For example, are you paying phenomenal amounts for analysis you never actually read? Or are you spending so much time counting the hours that your child did his math that you forgot to notice what he/she actually learnt.
In the work scenario, have a check on whether your employees feeling like meaningless data slaves? Maybe take time to explain why a certain figure matters and actually encourage some challenge.
I’ll end with saying that counting is a skill most of us have yet knowing what to count, at what cost and then driving meaningful action of the back of it, that is art!
So when you find yourself counting again, take a moment to reflect.
I wish you a smart start to H2.
As always, if you need someone to count with, contact me on my coaching page!