Recently I talked with a friend about new year’s goals and resolutions and how it’s often hard to keep them and we ended up discussing how we set and manage goals in general and why I ended up going all out Google on this one and using OKR for my personal development.
If you’re interested in product management or have been following the social media recently, you might have heard about OKRs already. They were developed by Intel and popularized by Google to align teams, set and review goals. A while ago, I learned about them from Adam, my co-founder at Lifetramp, and first dismissed them as a very corporate and uncreative way of doing things. A while later, I looked at them again as a way to translate product roadmaps into actual, measurable results and then decided to try them as an extension of my to-do list system for my personal development.
Let’s get to the point. OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results and is a way to define KPIs that actually contribute towards progress, rather than random business metrics. They also define pretty well how to get to where you want to be.
To start, simply split your goals into two basic ingredients of an OKR:
Objectives. Those are your big ideas. Objectives should be ambitious, qualitative, time bound and actionable by the person or team.
Results. For every objective you defined, define 3–4 measurable results, not more. Key results should be quantifiable, achievable, lead to objective grading and be difficult, but not impossible. Those results can be based on growth, performance, revenue etc. For personal goals, I generally like to set a number anyway, like “Read 10 books”, so that fits perfectly.
The Objectives are considered “done” in OKR, when you reach around 70% completion. Everything below means you are not working hard enough and anything way above means your goals aren’t ambitious enough and it’s time to revise them. Neat, huh?
The Habit of Reviewing
Goals in OKR should be reviewed in regular intervals. I set myself a to-do item for every Friday to look at my OKR spreadsheet and update it with the numbers I am seeing right now. Let’s see the goal you’re tracking is getting more healthy. You decided that your numbers would be to go to the gym twice a week (that’s 2 times 52 weeks, so 104 visits per year) and run 5km a day (that’s 5 times 365, so 1.825 kilometers in a year, damn!).
For OKR, you simply create two fields in a spreadsheet: the current and the goal value and you revise the current value every week to see if you’re getting there. Then, you create a percentage value of goal completion for every number you’re tracking and the percentage completion of the objective, which is simply average of all the completion percentages for this objective.
Reviewing those numbers weekly gives you one more advantage: you can easily track how you’re doing and it creates a habit of making sure you’re on track, which is really good if you’re serious about the goals you’re setting.
That Sounds Easy Enough. What Now?
If that sounds like something you want to do with your personal goal setting, I highly encourage you to try it out. I even created a Google Spreadsheet template that does the hard work for you, so you don’t have to spend much time reinventing the wheel.
If you want to read more OKRs, I can highly recommend those books:
- Radical Focus: Achieving Your Most Important Goals with Objectives and Key Results
- Getting Started with OKRs
And more importantly, if you decide to try this approach out, do let me know what you think after you spent a while doing them!