We make order by counting. If I need to schedule my day, I count time. I prioritize by counting everything I need to do in some particular order. Until I count them, my Magic: The Gathering cards are just a pile.
There is a tradition of counting the 50 days between Passover and Shavuot, the Jewish holiday celebrating the giving of the Torah at Sinai, known in English as the Pentecost. The Christian Pentecost holiday follows the same formula of being 49 days after Easter.
Rabbis throughout the centuries have given reasons for the count and related it to a growth process. There is the idea that each week refers to one of the characteristics of God and each day refers to an expression of that characteristic. The first week is loving-kindness, so the first day of the first week is loving-kindness of loving-kindness. The second day is the discipline of loving-kindness, etc. On each day, people meditate, journal or attempt to act in the characteristic of the day to grow toward the accepting of the Torah.
On my phone, I have an app called MyOmer that provides ideas, questions and exercises to think about and act toward spiritual growth. Sunday, for example, is the characteristic of loving-kindness in compassion and the app asks, “Is my sympathy condescending and patronizing?” It challenges you to extend yourself fully as you try to help someone that day.
Another possible reason for the count is that it refers to the “48 ways to acquire Torah” with an extra day. Some Jews focus on a different element each day so that when Shavuot comes, they have exercised each method and are prepared to accept the Torah.
Each of these reasons speaks to the idea that organizing one’s time effectively promotes growth. Rather than randomly picking up a book when you have time, set yourself a date to finish it and make a little time each day toward that goal. Buzzfeed posts videos of people trying to do 100 squats or exercising a specific way for a week or a month. Giving ourselves checkpoints and milestones may make us more likely to follow through with our plans.
Rather than hoping I have a beach body by the time beach weather rolls in, I can count, “I have 30 days until this winter will supposedly end. Today I will run for an hour to get closer to my goal.” This counting enforces a daily progression as opposed to wanton exercise.
The count toward the Pentecost includes individual days and combined weeks. That is why it is seven weeks of seven days and why each week has a characteristic in addition to the daily characteristic.
To set and achieve our own goals, we need both short-term and long-term checks. Assuming I don’t want to cram it out, I should write a bit of my essay every day and complete it by the end of the week. This requires both daily and weekly checks. Sometimes we ignore the longer term goals as we get bogged down with daily living, so dedicating more spaced out time to work on longer term goals is important.
One non-religious way to get a count started is to bullet journal. In my mind, the idea of a bullet journal is to mix a calendar, diary and to-do list in one, designing the whole thing yourself. You can make pages refer to specific days and write what you need to do and write out longer or later goals in a page you’ve designed as a weekly or monthly calendar. You can design pages to mark supplementary goals like what you’ll read if you have time and what you want to try to cook. I have also seen bullet journals with designs to track habits and moods over the course of the month.
As I start to make the shift from college student to full-time adult, I will have to dedicate more mental effort to budgeting my expenses and finding new uses for time not spent on homework. By effectively instituting counts throughout my life, I hope to continue progressing spiritually and career-wise for the rest of my life.