Chris Pickett

Personal OKRs

Misc | June 7, 2016, 8:59 a.m. | 2 min read

Last year my company implemented OKRs and I enjoyed the practice so much that I brought it into my day-to-day life. So far this year I've read 11 books (oddly a bit behind last year, but I’m confident I’ll make it to 30 books this year), did meditation, yoga and exercised on about 60% of the days (last year it was completely sporadic), lost 10 pounds, and gotten back into playing my guitar.

What is an OKR?

OKR stands for Objective and Key Results, it's a productivity tool that's used by large companies like Intel and Google. It's a list of three to five Objectives and under each objective is a list of two to four Key Results each of which has a measureable goal attached.

Create your Objectives and Key Results

The way I've been planning my OKRs is to look at myself and my life and what I would like to be true about them at the end of the quarter and I'll literally write a list like:

  • I want to be a reader.
  • I want to be healthy.
  • I want to play the guitar more.

I turn those into Objectives and then I think about how I could achieve each one and I create two to three Key Results for each thing I could achieve that would help me meet my Objective:

Objective: Be A Reader

  • Read 20 pages every day.
  • Read at least 5 books this quarter.

Objective: Be Healthy

  • Get 150 minutes of exercise every week.
  • Be able to do 50 push-ups in a row.
  • Eat two cups of fruit and veggies every day.

Objective: Be a Musician

  • Play the guitar at least 5 times per week.
  • Learn 10 new songs.

The most important thing to remember is that your Key Results should be measurable, a Key Result of "Read more" or "Do some push-ups" isn't helpful because they're impossible to score and the scoring is what lets you know if you've achieved your goals.

Have achievable, but difficult goals.

One of the more interesting aspects of OKRs is that you're not actually meant to achieve the goal, but only about 60%-70% of the goal. If you get 100% of the goal then you weren't aiming high enough when you created it.

When you're creating your key results keep this in mind. Do you think you can easily read 20 pages a day? Your goal should be more like 30 pages a day (20/30 = ~67%). Do you think you can easily do 50 push-ups in a row? Your goal should be 75. Always push the goal slightly higher than you think is reasonable.

Never get discouraged if you fail to even meet 50% on the goal, you just set the goal a bit too high, keep that in mind for the next quarter, or even feel free to adjust the goal mid-quarter if it's your first go-around.

Make your progress easy to log.

Start with just a simple text note, I recommend something like Evernote so that you can update it from your computer, phone and/or tablet. Try to update the note every single day, if you get behind it's easy to get discouraged. Going back to the earlier example objectives this is how I would log my days:

Objective: Be A Reader

  • Read 20 pages every day.
  • Week 1: x - - x - x x
  • Week 2: - - - x x - x
  • ...

As a cautionary tale, I actually started with a note in Evernote and then I created a web-app because I wanted it to auto-calculate my score. But due to the way I created the UI if I missed logging a day it was nearly impossible to go back and add those updates, which led to me giving up on my OKRs for a week until I fixed the UI, and not just giving up on logging them, but giving up on them altogether.

Make logging easy to do, even if that's just a pen and paper.

Scoring.

At the end of the quarter you should score each of your OKRs. Start with each key result and count your successes and divide that by the timeframe. Again going back to the example of reading every day, if you read your 20 pages on 30 of the 90 days, then your score for that Key Result is 30 / 90 or .33. The average of your Key Result scores is the score for that objective and the average score of all your objectives is your score for the Quarter.

Your turn.

In your first quarter, keep it simple, define 3 Objectives, and 2 Key Results for each one, make the Key Results hard, but not impossible, to accomplish and make sure you stay on top of updating them when you succeed or fail. When the quarter's over let me know what you accomplished, I'd love to hear about it.

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