Personal OKRs: Your New Year's Resolutions Are Now Numbers

Why I replaced my traditional new year's resolutions with a method that tech companies use to measure success.

Personal OKRs: Your New Year's Resolutions Are Now Numbers

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.

That’s it.

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:

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!