How OKRs helped me achieve my personal goals in 2018.

Photo by Estée Janssens on Unsplash

For those who know me well, know this about me — I like systems and I like to keep things organized. As a software engineer, I relied on the Kanban/Agile board — life was simple. All I had to do was pick up the next task from the board and work on it until it was moved to the “done” column.

As a manager, that system was no longer an option. I struggled a little bit to find clarity on what I need to be working on, where I need to be spending my time etc. One day I made a comment to someone in passing that “I feel like as a manager, I just help out wherever needed — it’s pretty random”. This person told me that I can’t do that and I need to be always working towards something important/valuable in addition to helping my team. This made me think about my priorities and how I was adding value. Around the same time, there was a lot of talk around OKRs at work (Expedia) — I researched a lot and liked what I saw.

The results were astonishing!

I decided to give them a shot outside of work. I set 2–3 OKRs for myself for the upcoming quarter and promised myself that I wouldn’t take on any projects or goals that don’t fall under my set OKRs. The results were astonishing! I did weekly check-ins, made adjustments to my execution as needed and reminded myself that I only have 90 days to accomplish those objectives. This created an artificial deadline and also a sense of relief that I wouldn’t have to deal with those objectives (sometimes really hard) after the deadline — both of these things motivated me to keep pushing. So far, I have set personal OKRs every quarter for the last 5 quarters and intend to continue for the foreseeable future.

In Summary, this is what OKRs bring to the table for me:

  1. force me to think about where I want to be in 3 months
  2. force me to think about the why (why spend time on a certain task)
  3. create focus / allow me to say ‘no’
  4. create an artificial deadline — forcing me to optimize
  5. give me an option to refresh/restart every quarter
  6. give me peace of mind as I know that I am working on something that means a lot to me

It does take a while to wrap your head around what OKRs are and how to write them. My suggestion is to simply go over the basics and start writing. You only get better at them over time — you write, check-in at a regular cadence, evaluate at the end of the quarter and repeat. Below, I have added a few resources for you get started.

What are OKRs?

There is a lot of content out there that explain the basics of OKRs but if all you have is ~2 minutes then I recommend the following video.

I hope you find this system as useful as I did. Good luck!