How I stayed on track with my personal goals through accountability check-ins

Ariel Liu
Ariel Liu
Jul 3, 2018 · 5 min read

Growing up, every new year or new school year I would come up with a list of resolutions, a set of habit changes or goals for myself. Within a few weeks, or days I proceeded to throw all those ambitions away and proceed with life as usual. I learned to stop creating resolutions and instead accept the reality that habit change is an ideal rather than goalpost.

In 2017 though, I was able to write 11 posts/essays, start missuteki, read 12 more books than in 2016, lead climb indoor 5.12a, run my first two half marathons, learn basic conversational Thai and Italian, develop a regular sketching and journaling practice, meditate daily, and overall develop better productivity habits. Of course, I did have the extra 40 hours a week without a full-time job, but I was worried that I would laze away the time watching movies or falling into the black hole of the internet. Instead of wasting away the time, I had a system of accountability through using Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) in my personal life.

Personal OKRs

At my job, we followed the OKR format for yearly and quarterly planning. We defined overarching objectives, then established what metrics would measure how well that objective was met (Key Results), and then came up with projects that would move those metrics. For example, one objective might be “Win New York” and a key result metric might be “increase market share in New York from 1% to 70%” and a project could be “redesign sign-up flow.”

I used Google Keep to quickly take notes on goals, but inevitably never followed through on any of these goals

In 2015, I tried out OKR planning with a few friends for our personal lives. It wasn’t a formal process and died out as quickly as it spun up. In 2016, another friend of mine and I decided to do accountability check-ins weekly to track progress toward our personal goals or just life’s chores. Eventually that died too as we included more people into the check-ins and the meetings devolved into more of an emotional support group (that we affectionately called “feelings lunch”).

Weekly accountability was great for daily tasks, but eventually petered out

How I stayed accountable in 2017

Every year for the last three years, I assessed my life through Alex Vermeer’s 8760 Hours (Google Doc template). My boyfriend at the time and I decided to start our own accountability check-ins for 2017 as we had both quit our jobs. I called these check-ins “8760 check-ins.” This time I was much more successful as we roped in our roommates and friends too. Here’s how we did it:

1. Establish quarterly focus

They could be anything as generic as “discipline” or as specific as “DIY MFA” The point is knowing where you’re headed. These are the “objectives” in the OKR format.

2. Quantifiable tasks for the next month

Actionable and measurable tasks, or SMART goals, so that you don’t have to spend time during the month waffling on how to meet those objectives. Tasks should pertain to the quarterly focus and be challenging enough that the extra accountability would help. I usually encouraged others to also schedule the tasks into their calendars.

3. Pings every 7–10 days over group chat

Reminders so that we could reconnect with our goals even during the busy workweek.

4. Monthly meetings: scoring, re-evaluation

We score ourselves based on how well we think we did toward each task. Any scores at or above 70% received snaps from the group! Then, we re-evaluated and readjusted for the next month.

We would score how well we did in red marker, including goals as a house like “clean sink”

Some questions to consider: what went well, is this something you actually want to do, what can you do to ensure that you can achieve your goals next month?

5. Quarterly dinners / retreats

Every quarter was a chance for reflection on what we think went well and what could be better. It was also an opportunity to bond as roommates! In November we went horseback riding and to a Korean spa.

You starting 8760 at the apartment was one of the best things that happened to me last year. It got me to organize my life, do shit, and also got me to realize that I didn’t actually want to do half the things I fantasized about doing. Thank you for starting it, and keeping us in check. 🌟 — Mishall

What went well

  • Consistent system to work on things while funemployed that I ordinarily would slack on
  • Co-living made it easier to check in and be surrounded around people who know what your goals are
  • Whiteboard in the living room as a physical reminder of goals
  • House goals like “4 forks rule” to always have 4 clean forks handy for good roommate-ship and resolving conflicts during our monthly meetings

What could be better

  • Unreliable scheduling, people would be traveling or forget so we’d have to reschedule or skip people’s updates
  • Oftentimes people’s tasks wouldn’t get done
  • Over the course of time, we included significant others and friends outside of the house, but they all eventually stopped coming
  • Relatedly, the meetings would get too large (up to 7 people) which would make them very long, the ideal size is probably about 2–5

Why I haven’t continued

Simply put, I’m not living with the same people anymore. It also felt as if I was the only one really pushing for the check-ins to happen and pinging people every week. It became disheartening to have people constantly skip out or not respond. The check-ins were really amazing for me to structure how I wanted to spend my time when I wasn’t working, but I now feel that I have the self-discipline and enough casual accountability through friends to be successful without the check-ins.

Ariel Liu

Written by

Ariel Liu

Writing, drawing, and musing on http://missuteki.com/