OKRs stand for Objects and Key-Results. It's a system that is used at Google for everything from project tracking, performance evaluation, to transparency. At work, we create a new set of OKRs every quarter and evaluate the OKRs from the previous quarter.

The idea is that you set big goals - Objectives - that are ambitious and broad. Anything that you want to make a priority that will involve an investment of your time and consist of many sub-tasks can be an objective.

Key-results, on the other hand, are a granular way of measuring how close you are to accomplishing your objective. They should be self-contained tasks that can be quantified or easily measured. For example, for a Fitness Objective -

  • Work out regularly (bad key-result)
  • Run five miles every week (good key-result)

At the end of each quarter, we go back our previous set of OKRs and grade each of our objectives on a scale from 0 to 1, which can be estimated based on the key-results. A score of all ones on your OKRs is not necessarily a good thing, because it indicates that your objectives were too easy for you to accomplish. One of the hardest but most important things is finding a sweet-spot for your objectives - you want to push yourself to the limit with aggressive objectives, but you also need to make them reasonable to prevent burn-out and discouragement.

Here are some quotes taken from some articles that have good summaries of OKRs. (First Round, Business Insider)

The ability to track results on a quantitative basis.

Key results are not general or subjective actions you plan to take. They should always include numbers to make it clear how much has been achieved. For example, if Mary’s objective is to improve her sales prospecting skills, one key result might be to spend two hours a week shadowing Jennifer, the team member who demonstrates the most prospecting success.

Make it something people look at, every quarter, every week, every day.

This consistency turns goal-setting into a habit and changes how people think about their work and approach their everyday to-dos. “It puts in place natural milestones that make you think about what you need to do next and aim high.”

They have to be a stretch.

Most people wouldn’t consider 70% to be a good grade, but for OKRs that’s just about perfect, Davis says. You want your objectives to be ambitious enough to push you beyond your limits. When everyone does this, it forces the tough conversations about what's truly needed to beat expectations.

Since July 1 was officially the beginning of Q3 2014, I have decided to create a set of personal OKRs so that I can keep myself accountable for life outside of work. Q3 ends on September 30, so

Explore the city more with Esther

  • Try one new restaurant a week
  • Go on one nice date a month
  • See a broadway show

Launch V0 of Ensemble.fm

  • Complete the PRD
  • Create a technical design doc for V0 features
  • Complete all necessary code for V0

Exercise and workout regularly

  • Bike to work twice a week
  • Go to the gym twice a week
  • Play basketball once a week

Keep better track of my finances

  • Finish reading The Intelligent Investor
  • Create an investment plan for my savings
  • Keep Google Spreadsheet of all expenses

Personal growth

  • Learn 90 Chinese characters
  • Blog once a week
  • Talk to parents, sister, and uncle once a week
  • Clean my room and do laundry every two weeks