Using Objectives and Key Results for Self-Improvement

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are tools for measuring the things you want to achieve. They’re widely used in startups and businesses, but they are also useful for improving ourselves. I like to use OKRs on personal projects.

Your Objective

The Objective is a high-level inspirational goal that you choose. It should be qualitative: something like having a successful vegetable garden or helping the community in a meaningful way.

It’s also good to set a timeframe to achieve the goal. In business, this is usually done each quarter. The timeframe for personal projects might depend on the goal. For instance, the timeframe for an Objective of growing your own vegetables should probably be from early spring to fall, when most of the growing season takes place.

It’s also important to note that it’s usually best to have no more than one Objective. This isn’t to say you can’t have more than one project that’s important to you, but you should pick one that will receive more focus.

Your Key Results

Key Results are meant to be quantitative; they measure your progress toward your Objective. KRs should be hard, but not impossible. You should have a 50% confidence level of achieving them.

You typically want to set three KRs. For a gardening project, these could be something like:

  • 10 different vegetables are harvested
  • At most, 1 plant dies
  • At most, 10% of vegetables are lost to waste (spoiled or eaten by insects/animals)

Your Weekly Projects

At the beginning of every week, you choose three projects for yourself—things that will allow you to make progress on your KRs by the end of the week. These need to be high-priority actions–things that can’t be pushed to a later week. Anything less won’t help you with your KRs.

A week’s gardening projects could be:

  • Buy tomato cages
  • Apply fertilizer
  • Pull weeds

Be sure to write down your weekly projects, and also keep a list of upcoming projects (things that aren’t important now but will be soon).

I find it’s helpful to check in with someone at the end of every week. Having someone to keep you accountable is a powerful motivator. This person can also help you celebrate your progress every week and renew your confidence in achieving your KRs.

Though my main example here was with a vegetable garden, Objectives and Key Results can be used for any kind of personal or professional development. This approach helps you stay on track, push yourself farther, and keep the path to your goals clear.