If you are a high achiever you probably already have experience with setting personal goals. You may be familiar with setting SMART goals. The strategy of setting SMART goals sounds good. You might have learned about them in school, in a course or workshop. So why don’t they work? In this blog post, I will teach you about a goal-setting strategy that you may not be familiar with: OKRs, or Objective and Key Results. They are mostly used in business but you should use them too to achieve your personal goals.
What are SMART goals?
In the past you may have learnt that you need to make your goals SMART:
Let’s say you want to lose weight. A SMART goal may be: I will lose 10 kilograms by February 1st. This is:
- Specific: you have specified how much weight you want to lose
- Measurable: when you have achieved your goal, the number on the scale will be reduced by 10 kilograms
- Achievable: you have given yourself enough time to lose the weight
- Relevant: the goal is relevant to your desire to lose weight
- Time-bound: you specified the date you wish to achieve your goal
Sounds good right? You now have an actionable goal that can guide your behaviour. SMART goals only work with simple and often short-term goals. What if you don’t just want to lose weight? Maybe you want to improve your overall health. You can’t make that specific enough to fit one SMART goal. And too many SMART goals can make you lose track or may seem unachievable when you put them all together. For big, complicated, or long-term goals, you need a strategy.
Objective and Key Results
OKR or Objective and Key Results is a goal-setting strategy that is used by companies to set objectives that require smaller goals to hit. You set your objective and then you determine your key results. Let’s look at how this works.
- Identify your problem statement. A problem statement is something that you don’t want.
- What is holding me back?
- What is going wrong?
- What do I want to change?
- Maybe you’re trying to get an internship but your applications keep getting rejected.
This is your problem statement.
- Turn your problem statement into an objective. Your objective should represent where you want to go and it should inspire action. Your objective is your problem statement solved. So, in our example, the objective would be: I want to get an internship.
- Don’t make your objective time-bound or too specific. Your objective will require multiple SMART goals. For now, your objective should represent your overall goal.
- Write down your key results. The key results are how you know you’ve achieved your objective. This is the fun part. I like to visualise myself and my situation after I achieve my objective. Where are you? What does it feel like? A key result of the objective “I want to get an internship” could be “I now work for (company) as an intern.” Another key result could be “(company) offered me a two-month contract”. Try to identify 3-5 key results and make them as specific as possible.
- If your objective was “I want to improve my overall health”, key results may be “the results from my physical examination were better this year in comparison to last year”, “I lost 25 kilograms by the end of the year”, and “I drink two more glasses of water on average during the month of June”.
Set your tactic
Your tactic describes how you’re going to achieve your objective. This is where you’ll implement those SMART goals. For example, you want to land an internship.
A SMART goal may be: I will improve my cv so it will reflect and highlight my relevant experience by Monday. When you determine whether your SMART goals are relevant, you now know what they should be relevant to: your objective. When you have all your SMART goals, you’ll put them in the same plan, for example in a spreadsheet, so you’ll know when every goal should be reached to achieve your objective. This is your tactic.
Look at your objective to determine some milestones along the way. If you want to improve your overall health over the course of a year, a milestone would be solving your vitamin D deficiency by March 1st. Set these milestones before you start implementing your tactic. Setting milestones helps in two ways:
- If you achieve your milestones, it motivates you to keep going
- If you miss your milestones you should not interpret this as a failure
Missing your milestones gives you valuable information. Maybe your SMART goals aren’t actually achievable. Or maybe you should adjust your whole tactic. If something isn’t working you would want to know as soon as possible.
Check your OKR regularly to stay on track.
If your objective spans over a year, check monthly to see if your tactic is still relevant and working. If your objective should be reached within two months, check weekly or bi-weekly. Whatever makes sense for you. You’ll know once you’ve hit your objective. Your key results will then be reality.
Setting goals like this takes time and effort. But if it was easy, everyone would do it. I love that saying. It means that exceptional goal-setting skills will set you apart from everyone else. You don’t work hard just because you have to to keep up with everyone else. You work hard to stay ahead and be the best version of yourself. Now that sounds exciting!
So, leave in the comments which goal you will be working on. I would love to hear from you!
Written by Merel Melchers