New Year’s Resolutions didn't work? Try Personal OKRs Instead

New Year’s Resolutions didn't work? Try Personal OKRs Instead

Businesses use OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) to implement their strategies and achieve a common goal. You too, can use this tool to accomplish your personal resolutions (such as losing weight), just in case your New Year’s list has been forgotten.

Remember those goals you had at the beginning of the year? Do more sports, eat healthier and lose weight, save more money? Let’s admit it; it’s easy to pen something down at the spur of New Year’s Eve, but not all of those items get ticked off your resolutions list.

Don't worry; you're not alone. In fact, 80% of the population find it hard to stick to their NYR's. The survey even forecasted that the number will fail by the second week of February. At least there's an effort.

But what makes following resolutions hard? A 2016 study suggests that participants who get immediate benefits from their new habits are more likely to stick to them. Unfortunately, with more than half of the resolutions health-related (exercising and diet, anyone?), getting the numbers off the scale is a mountain that's hard to climb.  

Google’s secret strategy might work for you

It was 1968 when Andy Grove, founder of Intel, developed a goal management system derived from Peter Drucker's Management by Objectives. This became the organizational method called OKR – Objectives and Key Results. One of Google’s investors, John Doerr, pitched the company with this system. Since then, Google has taken OKRs seriously, simply because it works.

The process seems simple. To map it out:

  1. First, you must have an Objective – the finish line, your X mark. Most of the times, objectives are risky, ambitious and uncomfortable. But there are ways to hit the mark.
  2. Second, list down a set of Key Results. These are definitive steps that will measure your progress towards the goal. Don't be afraid to set a number. Like a milestone marker, it lets you know how far, or how close you are to your objective.

OKRS for Personal Life? Why not?

You don’t have to be in business to implement this strategy. Christina Wodtke, teacher, speaker and writer, shares how this plan worked out for her personal life. “I have been evangelizing this system of staying on track toward your company goals to every start-up I work with, and the results are always impressive,” she disclosed. Wotdke reveals that it’s surprising how OKRs can be made to plan out goals involving health, money, career and even relationships.

Businesses are required to be bold with their objectives and be qualitative with their results. However, this is not the same case with personal OKRs.

Personal OKRs are similar to building a habit – a motivation to invite change and make it your lifestyle. Thus, you gauge your results not on number-specific terms, but on a physical, emotional and even relational transformation. Here are a few examples of personal OKRs:

Objective: To become holistically fit
KR1: Meditate 10 minutes every morning
KR2: Join a gym and attend 3 times a week
KR3: Eat 4 lean meals each day
KR4: Read a book every night instead of using gadgets
KR5: Travel abroad twice a year

Objective: Be financially healthy
KR1: Open up a new bank account for my savings
KR2: Set aside 20% of my salary every month
KR3: Invest in stocks and top-up every quarter

Objective: Nurture my relationship with my spouse
KR1: Visit 5 new restaurants we have never been to
KR2: Find one sport to do together
KR3: Go on a summer trip in Italy


Tip: If you set objectives with another person, you can define goals and key results together.

Reminder: What is not written down won’t work

If you’re taking this route, we recommend you get a journal and list down your set of goals and resolutions as you use this strategy.

According to Dr. Gail Matthews of the Dominican University, California, there is power in writing down your goals. In an experiment, she gathered more than 260 people and divided them into groups: one that wrote their goals, and one who didn't. Those who wrote their goals had a higher chance of achieving them, as compared to those who did not.

Regularly writing down your goals, says Matthews, gives you 42% higher likelihood of achieving it.

There is science behind this. The human brain is a complex system with a left and right hemisphere. When you think about your goals in dreams, you only use one side – the imaginative centre, located in the right hemisphere of your brain. However, thinking and writing it down lets you tap on both hemisphere, triggering the logical left-side hemisphere. This sends signals to your body that brings a new dimension of consciousness and motivation to your body.

Watch for the time, too

It is crucial to point that these objectives don’t go on forever. Wotdke, in a blog post, recommends setting up a specific timeframe for achieving them. “Objectives always work best when time constrained,” she says. 3 months, she says, is the perfect timeline. “It’s long enough to accomplish significant things, and short enough to have a sense of urgency.”

A limited time gives you a chance to gauge how you performed on a certain period. Here, you can grade yourself on how you pursued your OKR, what went wrong, and what can you do better the next time you try again.

Tip: Don’t be afraid to celebrate even the small changes! Go out with your friends and let them know how you’ve overcome your challenges. At best, help them make you accountable for your OKR; make it public, and tell them to remind you about it in the future.

To round it all up:

  • OKRs are a goal setting technique used by companies like Google but can work for your personal life as well
  • Create OKRs for different parts of your life (health, sports, eating, relationship, learning, job) but make sure not to overdo it! Do not define more than 5 yearly goals or 3 quarterly goals
  • Use objectives as inspirational qualitative goal, and use key results as progress tracking
  • Set your OKRs for 3 months – or define yearly goals
  • Write everything down and look at it regularly. Use post-its, chart it on an Excel sheet or always bring your journal
  • When all is done, measure your performance, and never be discouraged to try again


OKRs are like New Year’s resolutions, but with better planning. Today may just be the day to make that change; take out those notes, write down your OKRs, and start on a clearer resolution with this strategy on hand.