Surely everyone knows the thoughts that haunt you around the turn of the year and go something like this: “Next year I really ought to do more sport again.” or “From January I’ll be paying more attention to my figure again.” or “My New Year’s resolution: waste less time on social media.”
Hang in there or chill out?
Maybe, like me, you’ll start tweaking your habits in the new year. Then, at the end of February, I look back and go “Yikes, what ever happened to resolutions?” while I’ve been lounging on the chip-crumbed couch for three hours at the Second Screening.
Scientific studies (see, for example, this blog post) suggest that it might take a little longer than the first seven weeks of the year before you really manage to change habits or even anchor more complex changes in your life. But what strategies and tactics do we use to keep it going?
A goal system for yourself
Now OKRs come into play. Ever heard of Objectives and Key Results? If not, here is an explanatory video about them: “Objectives and Key Results explained simply”.
OKRs are a simple method to break down larger objectives into small, tangible and measurable desired results. In regular reflections, the achievement of these results is measured and progress is visibly recorded. Really not rocket science, is it?
With this basic knowledge about OKRs, the question now arises: is a “management tool” like OKRs also suitable as a tool for individuals? And how might it help our New Year’s resolutions?
External determination vs. ownership
First of all, I would like to make an important point at this point: You don’t have to do anything. By that I mean you don’t have to put any pressure on yourself. When we look around us left and right, we see ourselves in comparison with other people, maybe just the iceberg tips of their success, and we might think, “I want to be like that too.” or ask ourselves, “Why am I not there yet?” These are natural thoughts for us social beings, but rather destructive to your efforts to reach new goals.
So don’t get lost in the comparison worlds of a deluded Insta-world. To follow your own path, focus more on authentic sources, your own true desires and dreams, and very individual questions that have important meaning for you. The imperative of our meritocracy too often calls for an unhealthy, externally determined “ACHIEVE MORE” anyway, which is not what I want to trigger with this blog post.
So you don’t have to prove anything to anyone with your personal OKRs. If you are sure that you are looking for a new way to set and stick to a healthy set of goals and intentions from a reflective mindset, then this is when your ownership begins:
- Decide on a mission for your first OKR quarter.
- Break your mission down to “Objectives”.
- Design your first “Key Results” to make your achievement measurable.
Let’s play through an example
I want to improve my ability to focus so that I can deal with things in my life in a calmer and more relaxed way.
- I live in a balance between healthy stress and free time (slack time) and feel more focused.
- Exercise and physical recreation are part of my everyday life without much overcoming.
- I multitask less and am guided more by a sense of flow
Key Results for each Objective
- Pomodoro method used at least one day per week
- Attended a training to better understand positive stress (eustress) and self-management
- Carried out my own small craft project
- Did two sessions of cardio exercise per week
- Did yoga three times a week for half an hour
- Went to the sauna twice a month
- Practised my instrument once a week for an hour without interruptions
- Reduced total screen time on smartphone by 15%.
- One evening a week had no screen time at all after 6pm
The most important tools for staying on track
Create a poster on a flipchart or use a free wall to hang your OKRs on A4 pages. As you work on your Key Results and progress, make tally sheets or document your progress. Every single step against the old habit becomes more significant by making it visible and regularly looking at the achievement of your goals.
Save “Check-in”, “Review” and “Retro” as fixed dates in your calendar for the next few months. They help you to make the OKR process really effective and to always keep your visualisation in good shape.
During the check-in with yourself, you stand in front of your visualisation for 5 minutes every morning and think about what you will do today to achieve your goals. You can also check whether you have entered everything you have already done or updated your results. For the review and the retro, it is best to take two hours at a time and look back at the last quarter. During the review, go through exactly when you did what for about 90 minutes and think about, for example, which moments were a special achievement for you. When did you feel particularly good and why? In this way, you can reflect on what you have achieved and perhaps also find out where you would like to develop further.
For the retro, take the remaining half hour and reflect on what worked well for you in the application of the OKRs and which processes you would like to improve.
Reliability towards yourself
According to the motto “You can always rely on good friends”, it is important to be a good friend to yourself. If you find it particularly difficult to stick to your own plans from day to day, find an ally who knows about your goal system and whom you can write to or call in unmotivated or destructive moments.