Itâ€™s almost a new year and like many of you, I’m setting resolutions to make for a better 2017. While itâ€™s great to have audacious goals, itâ€™s oftenÂ difficult to follow through on them because someÂ life changes require quite a bit of effort. But thereâ€™s a few tools that can make building new habits a lot more effective. One of my favorites is structuring resolutions as objectives and key-results (OKRs).
OKRs are a pretty effective and useful tool to help reach goals in work environments. The concept was invented at Intel and popularized at Google, and I used them extensively when working at the latter. Theyâ€™re also effective for personal life goals. Hereâ€™s how they work: You have a general list of goals youâ€™d like to achieve. These are the â€œobjectivesâ€ and they more or less summarize what youâ€™d like to achieve. Weâ€™re already good at making these since many new year’s resolutions are just a list of objectives (e.g. Eat healthy, get exercise). Whatâ€™s missing though is the real important part: â€œkey-resultsâ€, which are concrete, actionable, and measurable bits that accompany each objective. These are the specific items you focus on to reach that goal. So for the â€œget exerciseâ€ objective, we might have the key results: â€œRun at a moderate pace for 30 minutes 3 times a weekâ€ and â€œDo 100 pushups a dayâ€. If you can make them as concrete as possible, youâ€™ll know exactly what you need to do, and whether youâ€™ve done it.
The process of writing out OKRs isnâ€™t alwaysÂ easy, and thatâ€™s because it forces you to figure out how youâ€™re going to go about doing whatâ€™s necessary to achieve your goal. Conversely, writing out OKRs can also help you figure out what exactly it is that you really want to achieve. So instead of writing out objectives and then key-results to follow, you can write out a bunch of key-results (assuming you know a bunch of concrete actions you’d like to take), see what themes they share, and come up with an objective that unifies them. Or do a mix and match to improve the existing objective or to combine a couple ofÂ weak objectives into aÂ strong one. So in the â€œget exerciseâ€ example above, we might decide to instead call it â€œBecome strong like a gladiatorâ€. Doesnâ€™t that sound a lot more inspiring?
Looking for another example? Hereâ€™s one of my objectives with key-results:
Establish a healthy relationship with media consumption and stimulation
– Read three books a month – at least 30 pages before going to bed and 10 when waking up, 5 days a week
– Read five quality articles a day – maintain a running list to read
– Watch one TED talk a day – maintain a running list, and watch during work breaks or meals
– Consume Facebook only during work breaks, and minimize overall consumption
– Avoid looking at junk media, and consume a quality piece (article, book, TED) instead
– Meditate for 20 minutes 5 days a week (e.g. during work breaks)
– Keep phone away from self when engaged in another activity – e.g. off nightstand when sleeping and away from desk when working
Now get to making for a solid 2017!