When You Measure Things, They Tend to Grow

measured goals grow
Nothing builds excitement for a website owner like a sudden surge in traffic. (Traffic is the number one desire for any blogger or writer, no matter what they tell you.)

Some people call it “expanding reach”, others call it “building relationships”, but peel away the jargon and you’re left with what it’s really called: more eyeballs.

The idea is that as more people visit your site, then more people are going to be influenced by you. So, if you want to be an influencer (who wouldn’t?), then you need to have more traffic. Simple, right?

Yet, every day new and seasoned site owners alike will all make the same mistake: they don’t set or track any goals. They have no goals for site traffic, or new subscribers, or any other metric. They don’t set posting goals for each month (I try to average two posts a week here). Not surprisingly, their sites don’t grow like they hoped.

It’s not hard to overlook measuring goals. After all, one might rightly say that there is no way to know just how many people will come to your site, so why make a goal? It’s all chance. But if you’re smart and a bit creative, you can create some metric that will indicate improvement for just about any goal.

The thing is, defining goals forces us to take the next (hardest) step and figure out how we’re going to actually achieve those goals.

Through high school and college I was a long distance runner. (If you run longer distances, the real training happens when you start to put hours of practice into each day.)

However, now that I haven’t been running as often as I’ve liked, it’s starting to show a bit around the edges. So, one of the things that I’ve been trying to do is pay more attention to what I eat.

My wife and I decided to download a little iPhone app that let us log how many calories we burned and consumed throughout the day. Thanks to paying attention to one important metric, we started to see results quickly.

The key to goals is measuring a really specific factor.

How many calories you consume is vastly different than ambiguous goals like “I’m going to exercise more this year”. There’s nothing that can easily be tracked about that goal. Without the ability to measure something concrete like calories or pageviews or sales, we’ll never achieve the goal.

You can’t have a goal unless you’re tracking something. And the more specific, the better.

The truly amazing thing about goals is that when we work towards them every day, measuring the results carefully, things get accomplished. Successes grow when we cultivate and measure them.

True goals deserve the daily cultivation that they need.


If you live in Kansas City/Lawrence area, I’ll be hosting Chris Guillebeau for his Kansas stop on his 50 state book tour. We’ll be meeting at Signs of Life (map) in downtown Lawrence at 7pm, and it’s going to be a fun time.

Chris will talk about non-conformity, among other things, and it’ll be a great opportunity to meet someone who has positively mastered goal-setting. Chris’ method for his yearly reviews has been a huge influence on how I plan my goals and life.

Anyway, It’s going to be a great time. Hope to see you there!

Leave a Comment

{ 11 comments… add one }
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  • Lauren E February 8, 2011, 10:39 pm

    I never saw goals put into this view until now. In regards to this, unless I have a specific goal in mind, it is difficult to find something to track that will show my success rate or how I am progressing towards my finish goal. This seems to suggest that goals need to be very substantial in order for people to be successful, and they cannot be something broad and immeasurable. This agrees with the idea that setting a goal takes steps – there are smaller parts to the big finished picture, and it’s important to take them into account to be successful with anything.

  • Jensen Millard January 11, 2011, 6:51 am

    Also I find it helpful to be as specific with the goals as possible. The more detail you put into it, the clearer it is to establish your success and track your results.

  • Ret October 6, 2010, 11:25 am

    Great insight Glen. Measuring is a function we can do to manage our goals. But we must also stay positive no matter what the measurement results we can determine. Sometimes, measurement can frustrate life, sometimes it can also encourage and inspire. But whatever the result is, we should use it to improve ourselves.

  • Niko October 1, 2010, 8:04 pm

    Glen, the words you speak are right on the money. Settings goals makes such a huge difference, I can’t imagine how I worked before I actively made them. There’s something about writing things down that makes them real to your subconscious. If you see it and are constantly reminded of it, it’s much easier to follow through.

    If you look at some of the most successful business people in American history, you will see them advocating goals as one of the key factors in their success. Andrew Carnegie was a huge proponent of it and taught it everywhere.

    Really good writings man, I’m diggin’ it.

    • glen October 2, 2010, 8:23 am

      Carnegie was a *fantastic* example. Good call. And thanks for the kind words! :)

  • marlon @ productivity bits September 22, 2010, 12:47 pm

    Goals, I think, are underrated. People would tell you, “Hey, you know what, just get things done!”. But I guess you must have a definite, concrete goals. “When you measure things they tend to grow”. That’s not only a philosophical mantra but it’s a fact. Your goals can remain forever as “potentials”. If you just go get it done without measuring the progress, it is easy to lose track of its value. Are you attaining goals for the sake of “having attained those goals” or are you measuring them up against life-value?

  • Kurt @ Day Blocks September 21, 2010, 3:18 pm

    Good post. Simple idea, but often overlooked. I find that in addition to just measuring, having a bright and shiny visual representation of the data / progress makes it even more powerful for hitting goals.

    • glen September 21, 2010, 4:18 pm

      Oh yeah! Visual representation always helps.

  • Eduard - People Skills Decoded September 21, 2010, 10:17 am

    Hi Glen,

    I’ve noticed the same thing. Measuring is among other things, a way to focus on your goals. And as you do so, you’re getting closer to them. Measuring and achieving are linked. Pretty cool stuff.

  • Dan September 21, 2010, 10:13 am

    If you’d like a tool for setting your goals, you can use this web application:


    You can use it to manage your goals, projects and tasks, set next actions and contexts, use checklists, schedules and a calendar.
    A Vision Wall (inspiring images attached to yor goals) is available too.
    Works also on mobile, and syncs with Evernote.