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Published on June 30, 2020

How to Set OKRs to Keep Your Goals on Track

How to Set OKRs to Keep Your Goals on Track

Goals typically fail for several reasons, the main one being they lack purpose or a tangible reason why they have been set in the first place. If you don’t honestly believe in a goal or have an emotional attachment to why it’s been created, you’ll either lose interest or only do the minimum to deliver it.

There are several other reasons goals can fail, including:

  • The goal is too ambitious and so far from being achievable that there is no point working on it as you feel you’ll never achieve it.
  • The goal completion target is so far off into the future that you just put it off as there is no urgency.
  • The goal isn’t specific enough and so vague and hard to plan for as they may sound great, but you’re not sure how you’ll achieve them.

OKRs can provide the structure and direction you need to achieve your goals, whether you’re a company or an individual.

They create the purpose and direction you need to achieve and work towards, as well as offer strategies for how you’ll measure your progress, success, and then ultimately the initiatives to get you there.

Where OKRs work better than a single goal approach as they link everything together.

At the highest level, you have your company vision; below the vision there is the annual OKRs (3-5); then below these come the quarterly OKRs.

Each one is serving the next and is being achieved by all the initiatives (the work) being delivered by the teams and individuals day to day, week to week, and month to month.

What Is an OKR?

OKR stand for “Objectives and Key Results” and was initially created by Andy Grove in the 1970s while at Intel. Since then, OKRs have been taken on and used by companies like Google and Netflix[1].

OKRs are a collaborative way to create goals for a company and individuals as they are not only ambitious and inspiring but also achievable.

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OKRs were not only created to set objectives for companies but also to improve collaboration, engagement, and transparency between senior management and its employees. Having shared objectives throughout the company brings the whole workforce together to work towards common goals and then celebrate together when they’ve achieved them.

The objective within an OKR is the outcome you’re looking to achieve, and the key result is how you’re going to measure whether the outcome has been achieved.

Key results are what make OKRs measurable; they tell you if you’ve been successful with the objectives set up front as, without them, the success of an objective can be left open to opinion.

How to Create an OKR

An OKR consists of an Objective, which defines what you’re trying to achieve, and up to five key results. The key results are how you measure if you’ve achieved the objective.

Under the key results, you also have a set of initiatives, which are the activities or the work required to achieve the key results.

You create OKRs to set the overall direction for a company and create the alignment needed, so every employee is working with the same shared purpose.

While we will be discussing OKRs mostly at the company level, keep in mind that individuals can also use them for life planning.

A company typically has a single vision or a mission for the company, and this direction you want to move towards could be set for the next decade or even longer. This is the ultimate purpose that aligns your company’s employees and, in some cases, your customers on why you do what you do.

This vision sets your direction, which then allows the creation of the company OKRs, which are set annually. These 3-5 OKRs are the objectives that will move your company closer to that overall vision and are specific to what outcomes you need to achieve in the next 12 months.

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Each company OKR has clear key results (up to five) that are measurable, so you can track progress and measure success. These company objectives encompass all parts of the business and can overlap over multiple departments.

The departments within the company then set group OKRs, which are set quarterly using the company OCR’s as the direction. Again, like the company OCR’s, they all have key results defined and agreed on so the departments can measure progress.

What Makes a Good Objective?

Objectives tell you where you need to go and should inspire and set the direction.

When defining the objective for your OCR, it has to be clear, well-written and free of doubt about what the outcome of the objective is.

An objective should always be an outcome that you may not initially know how to achieve, but you understand what the outcome is you’re looking to aim for.

It also needs to be balanced in how achievable it is. If the objective is to achieve 100% market share in your industry, that is not only too ambitious, but it’s very likely to be impossible.

You could also make the opposite mistake and make the outcome of the objective too easy (for example, increase our market share by 1%).

If the objective is too easy, too hard, or impossible, you’re wasting your time creating it as it offers no value, and ultimately the team will pay no attention to it and lose faith in the overall approach.

What Makes a Good Key Result?

If the objective sets the direction you want and defines the outcomes you need to achieve, you can think of the key results as the milestones to get you there.

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The key results are how you’ll track progress so you can quantify and measure as you go to make sure you’re on track to achieve your chosen outcome.

If the objectives are well-defined and thought out, the key results are what keeps the team motivated and focused. This is because they’re measurable. Once complete, it can be a tick in the box to show not only progress, but also celebrate the success you’ve achieved.

These small, significant milestones keep the teams and individuals motivated, especially when working with quarterly objectives.

The vital part of creating key results is that they’re measurable. There should be no doubt if you’ve achieved a key result or not. For example, if you have an objective of “Increase revenue this quarter by 5%,” one of your key results could be:

“Sell 100 of our new training courses.”

If you’ve only sold 80 training courses, then you only achieved 80% of that key result.

How to Track OKRs

OKRs must be tracked and reviewed regularly.

The direction of the company, although this is an ongoing activity, is typically reviewed annually, but the company OKRs need to be reviewed quarterly.

A quarterly review would entail looking at the progress of the key results defined at the start of the quarter. These key results tell you if you’re going in the right direction through measurement and progress tracking.

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A quarterly review also gives the teams a chance to review the OKRs when it comes to the value they’ll provide the company, the staff, and its end users.

What you created three months ago may not hold the same value today. Discuss the value of the OKR. Is it still pushing you towards the overall company vision, or do you need to change or potentially create a new one?

To review OKRs at the team level and the initiatives in place to deliver them, you need to meet at least every two weeks or even weekly in some cases.

Meeting regularly follows the same principle as the quarterly and yearly review as you look at how are you progressing. What is working and what isn’t?

The Bottom Line

OKRs are a great way to adapt your goals into a more structured and trackable format that will keep your goals on track.

The OKR approach gives you the ability to separate your long term and shorter momentum goals so you can stay focused and interested throughout the year.

Making them measurable by creating key results allows you to track progress through to completion, which is a great way to stay motivated and push to complete more.

Like standard goal-setting, if you don’t invest the time up front to create them correctly, you’ll either lose interest, or they wont deliver the value you had hoped for.

To be successful when implementing the OKR approach within your company, don’t have too many, make them transparent, make sure your teams are aligned, and check progress regularly.

If you do all of this, you’ll give yourself the best chance to reach your goals.

More Tips on Objectives and Key Results

Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Medium: Objectives & Key Results

More by this author

Ben Willmott

Productivity and Project Management blogger for at work and at home

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Published on October 19, 2020

27 Strategies to Achieve Your Goals Fast

27 Strategies to Achieve Your Goals Fast

As a performance coach and expert in the psychology of productivity for over 25 years, I have used every tool in the book to teach people how to achieve their goals by breaking through their barriers, getting out of their heads, and getting into their productive flow.

Here are my favorite tools and techniques to keep you on the path towards achieving your goals and dreams.

1. Accountability

Your word is your wand. It’s the source of your power. What you say, what you commit to, and what you follow through on creates confidence in your own ability to create what you want in the world.

However, every time you go back on what you said you were going to do, it weakens your inner power. Your subconscious mind keeps track of what you promise. It records each time you don’t follow through with your commitments and unconsciously reduces your power to create. Keep your word and keep your power!

2. Time Excuse Diet

The fastest way to achieve your goals is to stop using time as an excuse for why you’re not getting things done. Stop seeing time as your enemy, and start seeing time as your most valuable ally. Picture yourself as the source of time, and decide where you want to use it and where not to.

3. Gratitude

The attitude of gratitude changes everything. When we focus on what we are grateful for, we connect to the most important things in our life, which floods our system with positive chemicals and releases joy, euphoria, and excitement.

Start by making a list of the things and people you are most grateful for in this moment. Every morning, list the 5 things you are grateful for that day.

4. 1% Improvement

To maintain momentum and motivation, focus on getting 1% better per day. Don’t overwhelm yourself with unrealistic goals. Let go of perfection and focus on progress. Anyone can improve by 1%. After a month, you’ll be 30% better. After 3 months you will be 100% better without nearly as much effort as you think.

5. Nature Breaks

When you take a break, look around you. If you don’t see any plants, trees, or blue sky, then you need to get outside. Being in nature naturally resets your mental state to a state of natural wellbeing.

Wayne Dyer famously said, “there’s nothing to do in nature. Nature will do you.” Take 5-10 minutes to be in nature with no expectations, and you will feel the results immediately.

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6. Music

Songs and sounds that motivate you have been shown to increase your brain’s ability to learn, be creative, and be motivated. This is especially true of classical music.

Put music on during mundane tasks to help you get through the day. Relaxing music in the evening can help you rest and recover better. Meditation music can help you reach deeper levels of focus and calm. In short, a bit of pleasant music can make nearly any situation better and more productive.

7. Hypnosis

Subconscious suggestion while in a relaxed state is the fastest way to program your mind for what you truly want. The subconscious mind is the hard drive of everything we do. A good way to start self-hypnosis is to close your eyes in a comfortable seated position, take a few deep breaths, and then put on audio conditioning or hypnosis audio.

8. Relational Communication

When having trouble communicating, remember this: the meaning of communication is the response you get.

When you’re communicating something important, pay attention to the way the other person responds. If they’re not responding the way you expected, it’s your responsibility to continue the communication cycle until they understand it the way you intended. Don’t make the other person responsible for how they’ll understand your message.

9. Laughter

Creating laughter in difficult situations stops us from immediately going into worry, doubt, and fear. Laughter is like the jamming system of our mental radar that gives us space to observe and learn from our situation.

When encountering a problem or difficulty, repeat out loud to yourself, “I laugh at this current situation. I can laugh at how bad this is.” Get your brain focused on laughter and amusement. It prevents the mental dominoes from falling down the wrong path by putting your mind into a state of curiosity so it becomes open to learning from the situation.

10. Time Blocking

If it’s important, you need to calendar it. Make sure you block out time for what’s most important in your day. This ensures at the end of the day that the essential things are done and distractions don’t rule your world. I use Outlook to organize my calendar appointments and Calendly to make it easier for people to book themselves on my calendar.

Find out more about time blocking: Time Blocking for Productivity (A Complete Guide)

11. Power Naps

One of my favorite strategies for achieving your goals fast is taking a nap. Research shows that people who take naps are more productive. A regular nap for 20 minutes per day can increase your performance and productivity by 10-30%.

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A great way to ensure a good power nap is by using an eye mask with noise-canceling headphones. For an extra boost, drink a cup of coffee just before you begin your nap. It sounds counterintuitive, but it takes the caffeine about 20 minutes to kick in and it will help you wake up feeling extra energetic.

Learn more about power nap: How to Power Nap for Maximum Benefits

12. 4-7-8 Breathing

When you’re stressed out or redlining in your day, this ancient Vedic breathing technique will instantly calm your last nerves. Start by inhaling through your nose for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and exhale through your mouth making a whoosh sound for 8 seconds. A quick 3 rounds of this technique will bring you down from even the most stressful situations in your day so you can get back to being productive.

13. Circle of Excellence

Here’s a quick way to shift yourself into a high-performance mindset: think about a time when you felt super confident and unstoppable. Re-live that memory. Place that memory in an imaginary circle in front of you on the floor. Once it’s there, step into the circle and the memory.

Imagine yourself being transported back to it, feeling it come in through your toes all the way to the top of your head, and imagine yourself looking through your own eyes as if you are inside of that memory now. Seeing what you’re seeing, hearing what you’re hearing, and feeling what your feeling, be in the memory now. Feel the motivation and confidence rise in your body. Activate that positive feeling in this very moment.

14. Be of Service

Helping others is one of the most relevant things we can do today to be happier, more grateful, and more motivated. Giving to others is the greatest gift we can give to ourselves psychologically. It releases a huge amount of positive chemicals and hormones that make us feel great. It also helps us put life in perspective. The happiest and most productive people are those who feel they are being of service.

15. Visualization

This is one of my favorite tools to help you create your ideal future. Take a few minutes to visualize how you want your life to be. This will help you get there much faster.

Studies with athletes have shown clearly that the more you practice any action in your mind, the quicker it becomes a reality. Your subconscious mind doesn’t know the difference between visualization and doing the actual thing. This might be the most powerful free technique of all time, so use it as often as possible!

Start trying these 13 Visualization Techniques to Help You Reach Your Goals.

16. Head-Heart-Body

This exercise is the fastest way to check your mind, emotion, and physical well-being. It is a lot like checking the gauges on your car. The technique is simple—close your eyes, focus on your head, and notice what thoughts you’re having.

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Take a deep breath. Focus on your heart. Notice what mood or emotion you’re having. Take another breath. Focus on your diaphragm. Notice the sensations in your physical body. Take one more deep breath and ask the question, “What am I needing right now?” Write down the answer your mind gives you. This is a great technique to use midday or right before important decisions or activities.

17. Technology Time-Out

In our 24/7 hyper-connected world, we are constantly connected to our devices. This “always-on” lifestyle is hard on our bodies and mind. Putting your devices down a few times a day can help you reset and recharge. Take a few 10-minute “technology time-outs” each day and see how much better you feel by the end of the day.

18. Timefulness

Be “timeful” by being mindful of your relationship with time and being intentional with how you use your time. Stop blaming time and start using it. Put yourself in the driver’s seat of your life by knowing that you are 100% in control of your time—you are the source of time.

19. Time Frame Exercise

Changing the time frame in which you view a situation alters the way your brain views the content, often changing it from potentially negative to positive. It can be easy to get overwhelmed when you are focusing all your energy on this moment in time. If you take a moment to close your eyes and expand your time view from this moment into the future, it instantly changes the context which also changes the meaning of the content.

Open up time a bit in your mind and see how the situation could play out this month, year, or over a lifetime. The biggest upsets in life often turn out to be the most positive for us long term or, at least, have a less negative impact on us than we think.

20. Journaling

Writing down your thoughts has a profound effect on integrating the right and left sides of the brain. Research shows that when you write things down, you allow clarity and insights to come through simply by putting your thoughts and emotions on paper. Journaling allows you to name the emotions and things bothering you, and this process alone can help you neutralize and settle your thoughts. Name it to tame it.

21. Schedule Everything

Schedules allow for spontaneity. It sounds counterintuitive, but research shows the more organized your calendar is, the more flexible you can be. Knowing what you have to accomplish frees your mind to allow for spontaneous activity.

The lack of scheduling creates chaos in the mind. The calendar gets it out of your mind and frees up more cognitive space. It also gives us a GPS for what we need to do each day. Schedule all personal activities, not just work.

22. Get Better Sleep

Sleep is the master tool for recovery. Sleeping in a dark, quiet, cool room is the key to recovery and sleep. I personally use a Chillipad to keep my blanket temperature around 65 degrees. This gives me incredibly restful sleep.

23. The 5-Second Rule

This momentum technique from Mel Robbins is perfect for when you know you have something to do but don’t want to do it. Count down from 5 to1, and then start the activity. This countdown gives you the mental momentum to do things at that moment. Give yourself a countdown out loud whenever you find it hard to start a task and at the end of the count, you will be in action.

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24. The Accountability Mirror

This daily guidance technique keeps you focused on your goals. Look at yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, “did I accomplish what I set out to accomplish today?” If you didn’t, be brutally honest about why you did not accomplish it, commit to fixing the issue, and do it the next day.

25. Stop, Start, Change

This is a super-effective 30-second therapy. Any issue you have or any place where you are stuck, stopped, or struggling, ask yourself, “what should I stop doing right now,” then “what should I start doing right now”, and “what should I change that I’m doing right now?”

26. The Magic Question

Here it is, the big question: “what am I pretending not to know?” When your brain is stuck and frozen or you feel like you don’t know what to do, ask yourself what you are pretending not to know about the current situation. It inverts the way your brain is processing the question. It penetrates your mind in a different way unlocking new possibilities.

The brain has a certain sequence to answer most questions. This question flips that sequence upside down, so your brain is forced to look at it differently. Use this question when you are ready for powerful changes.

27. Self-Compassion

One of the greatest things you can do to improve your productivity and maintain high-performance levels in your work or in whatever you do is to practice the techniques of being there for yourself. This means being mindful and paying attention to the way you talk to yourself when you encounter failures and setbacks, especially ones that feel as if they are your fault.

The key is to use the same kind of self-talk as you would use with a friend if they were in a similar situation. Speak to yourself with warmth and kindness. Then, recognize the common humanity of the situation—that you are not alone and there are many people out there experiencing exactly what you are right now.

Lastly, stay mindful of how you are talking to yourself and don’t overidentify or dissociate from the situation. “Compassionate productivity” is the most effective way to support yourself in these difficult times.[1] It’s not about being “soft” or going easy on yourself. It’s about being there for yourself in a supportive way, so you can recuperate and get back in the game in an even more productive way.

Try these 13 Simple Habits to Cultivate Self-Compassion.

Final Thoughts

Knowing how to achieve your goals requires implementing some techniques and making use of some tools to help you on your path towards success. These 27 strategies are good starting points to jumpstart your journey towards achieving your dreams.

More Tips on How to Achieve Your Goals

Featured photo credit: Doran Erickson via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Steven Griffith: Compassionate Productivity

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