Don't spend time quantifying the obvious

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It's tempting to think that quantifying everything will help you make a decision. Sometimes, this is true. The answer to a question may not be readily available, and using numbers may provide a level of clarity that will allow you to make the proper decision.

Other times though, you already know the answer. All you're doing when you spend time quantifying something that's obvious is delaying the difficult task of making a decision, wasting time, and making yourself feel better.

You're not actually doing anything to help you reach your goal though, and in fact you're spending time and energy where you don't need to.

In these instances, not only is quantifying the problem unhelpful, it's harmful and wasteful.

"But wait!" you might say, "I need to communicate to someone else why a certain decision has to be made, and the only way to do that is with numbers!" After all, it's true that there is a financial component to a lot of decisions.

This doesn't mean you have to quantify everything though. I would even argue that someone who can quickly and clearly articulate why one decision is better than another while quantifying less, is actually providing more value.

Let's take an example you may be familiar with.

Your family wants to take a summer vacation. Actually, you want to take three. Do you really need to outline your income, taxes, food expenses, clothing expenses, daycare costs, remaining vacation time, and then break out the cost of each trip to realize you can only afford one vacation?

No. You already know you can only afford one vacation. Spend time quantifying whether you can take three vacations and all you're doing is delaying the decision of which one you're going take. It feels good because you haven't closed the door on two of the possible vacations yet.


This is a small example, but I think similar things happen in businesses all the time.

Do you really need to quantify everything related to bringing another designer or developer onto a project? Probably not. Sure, you need to know how much that's going to cost you, but this is an entirely different quantification than determining the expected return of the value of other projects they may or may not be working on over the course of a year.

Do you need to spend a tremendous amount of time quantifying why you should choose one vendor over another when one is clearly better? Probably not.

Do you need a complex study to tell you that the $100,000 ad in a magazine or newspaper could be better spent? No. You already know this.

The next time you find yourself spending a bunch of time quantifying things, ask yourself, is this exercise helping you come to a decision that isn't clear?

Or are you quantifying the obvious so you don't have to make a decision?