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  • Tom Birchard

Say-Do Ratio

Do you have anyone in your life, whether personally or through work, that tells you they are going to do something but you know with near certainty that it won’t get done without follow-up on your behalf? That person has a low say-do ratio. I forget where I first heard this phrase but it is the percent of the time you say you’re going to do something that you actually do what you said. I believe that in many places, this ratio is on the decline and that’s not a good thing.

There are many reasons for this decline…the number of things vying for people’s focus is high, attention spans are decreasing, and there are countless modes of communication (email, phone calls, texts, instant messages, social media, etc.) I believe many people’s systems for staying organized and accountable are breaking down and this is negatively impacting say-do ratio. If you’re interested in methods to stay better organized I wrote about this previously in the follow post and would welcome any conversations with someone looking for tips - Staying Organized to Stay Productive (

The goal should be to keep this ratio as close to 1 as possible. Mathematically there are two ways to go about this, 1) increase the numerator or 2) decrease the denominator. Increasing the numerator means doing more things you say you’ll do and naturally this probably gets more focus in improving the ratio. That said, I think decreasing the denominator deserves some focus as well. If you find yourself struggling to keep up with commitments, perhaps it’s worth reducing the number of commitments you make, essentially reducing the “say” in the ratio. This could take a few different forms, ranging from outright saying no to requests but could also including negotiating on the scope of what’s being asked or the timeline. There’s nothing wrong with asking for an extra week to complete an assignment IF your personal organization system allows you to keep that task in front of you so you hit the deadline.

Interacting with people that have low say-do ratios can be frustrating, but the good news here is if you can keep your exceptionally high, you can differentiate yourself even more in the current environment. If you’re starting a new job, you can quickly build credibility with the team by keeping your say-do ratio near 1 and apologizing any time you let something fall through the cracks. If you’re trying to foster a new friendship or relationship, the same principle stands. As a leader if you have folks on your team struggling to do what they say they’re going to do, I think it’s a balance of trying to determine if you’re asking too much of them, if you can help them by clarifying expectations, or possibly if they just aren’t the right fit.

Thanks for reading and here are some of the favorite things I’ve come across the last couple weeks!

· Article - The Neuroscience of Trust by Paul Zak – I think this article nails one of the most important principles in leadership and building a good company culture. While some of the examples provided are specific to business, I think the fundamentals of trust would apply to many areas like athletics, relationships, and even parenting

· Movie - I See You – This movie is available on Amazon Prime Video. While not the greatest movie I’ve ever seen, it keeps you on the edge of your seat and has a lot of twists and turns all the way up to the very end

· Podcast Episode - Marc Andreesen on Invest Like the Best – The title of this episode is “Making the Future.” Andreesen has an impressive track record of looking into the future and making some accurate predictions. He spends considerable time on the big areas of housing, healthcare, and education in this episode. For anyone interested in contemplating the future and some of the possibilities that technology will enable, this will be an enjoyable listen

· Article - Picking Unfair Fights by Sean Iddings – Fun little short story that I think makes an important point around being intentional about the “games” you play

· QuoteHealth lies in action, and so it graces youth. To be busy is the secret of grace, and half the secret of content. Let us ask the gods not for possessions, but for things to do; happiness is in making things rather than in consuming them. Will Durant

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