Achieve Your New Year’s Resolutions with the Help of OKRs and KPIs — The Cycle of Goals

Graph showing the percentage of people pursuing their New Year’s resolution in relation to the date of the new year (Based on research by Strava¹)

It’s that time of the year again when we think about our life, work, experiences, and resolutions of the past year. We ask ourselves what we achieved, what we couldn’t accomplish, what made us sad, and what made us happy. If your reading this chances are you’ve already set your New Year’s resolutions and if you are like the majority of people you also already dropped them.¹ But why is it that we don’t stick to our resolutions? How can we set our resolutions that we are actually pursuing them in the long run? And what have OKRs and KPIs to do with it?

The Hard Truth

A study conducted by Strava used over 800 million user-logged activities to determine when people drop their New Year’s resolutions. Showing that around 80 percent of people have dropped their resolutions by the second week of February. Even more alarming the research predicts that most people are likely to give up on their New Year’s Resolution on January the 19th.¹ Sure, that’s just one prediction based on activity data but I believe this actually comes close to reality. So it doesn’t even take us three weeks to give up on the resolutions that only lately we were so ambitious about.

Why We Fail

Resolutions are intangible. Most of the time they are huge resolutions and we don’t really have a plan on how to achieve them. Moreover we often find ourselves in the so called “Knowing-Doing-Gap” that describes the space between what we know we should do and what we actually do.² Even though this term comes from the business side of life, we can observe this behaviour in our private life too. In addition there is our mindest and lack of commitment.

Pave the Way for Achieving Your New Year’s Resolutions

Don’t Call Them Resolutions

First of all don’t call them resolutions. As mentioned they are intangible and therefore not measurable. How can you motivate yourself and track your progress, if there is nothing to compare it to? So what’s the magic word you should use? — Goals.

They are tangible and measurable. Moreover goals can be split into smaller goals and even further into habits. Maybe you also think about your miscarriages of the past when hearing the word resolutions. Changing it to goals might already be the first step to a new beginning and motivation.

Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Work on Your Mindest

Rather than saying “I will try to” just say “I want to”, because “trying something” can become a vague intention instead of decisive action.³ That doesn’t mean that failure is no option. It’s more than likely that you won’t achieve everything you set yourself out to do — that’s totally fine. Just keep track of your goals and keep up your action.¹ At the end, don’t look at what you couldn’t accomplish instead look at your progress and what you’ve achieved.

Set Your Personal Goals with the Help of OKRs and KPIs

OKRs and KPIs are yet again both concepts of business management. OKR stands for Objectives and Key Results⁴ while KPI represents the Key Performance Indicator⁵. These concepts help businesses determine their goals as well as subsequent tasks. Moreover they offer a way to measure and keep track of the business performance. So when they have been working for businesses, why not apply them to your personal goals? In the following I will extract some of the concept’s principles and suit them to your process and goals.

The cycle of setting and pursuing your goals

1. Define Your Goals

“What do I want to achieve or change?”

For each answer to that question keep in mind the following requirements:⁴

  • Concise: Keep it short with around 10 to 20 words
  • Qualitative: No numbers, just words.
  • Time-bound: Set a realistic timeframe, e.g. until the end of the first quarter
  • Inspirational: Choose something that excites you

Here’s how one of your answers could look like: “I want to learn more by reading advice literatures.”

2. Set a Specific Indicator for Each of Your Goals

“How will I know if I met my goal?”

Sometimes your goal might not be translatable into numbers one-to-one. You will have to determine what your goal means specifically to you in terms of numbers. Make it difficult enough to nurture your ambition, but not too hard that it feels unachievable.⁴ In my example the indicator could be: “Read 6 advice literatures untill the end of the first quarter.”

3. Translate Your Indicators into Smaller Steps and Habits

“What can I do every day that gets me closer to achieving my goal?”

Working towards your goal with simple and small steps everyday increases your chance of achieving that goal by a lot. If possible, build upon existing habits and engineer your environment in order to support your new habit.¹ Coming back to my example this could mean: “Read 3 Chapters every evening before going to bed and keep the book always on the bedside locker.”

4. Keep Track of Your Progress

Nothing is more satisfying than seeing a progress bar fill up or checkboxes being checked — or maybe that’s just me. Nevertheless, keeping track of your progress is not only essential to measure your goal, but also an important incentive for your motivation. Make a check list, spreadsheet or simply keep a notebook that you update regularly. Choose what ever suits you best and start today!

5. Reflect on Your Goals and Redefine Them

As I mentioned before you probably won’t accomplish 100 percent of your goals. Revisit them at the end of the timeframe that you defined for yourself. Look at what worked for you, what didn’t, and why so. Based on those learnings you can set new goals or extend existing ones. You will get better every time! Besides where would be the fun, if there would be nothing more to improve?

I’m curious, have you set yourself New Year’s goals and did you stick to them? Tell me about your story —

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[1] Haden, J. (2021, January 3). A Study of 800 Million Activities Predicts Most New Year’s Resolutions Will Be Abandoned on January 19: How to Create New Habits That Actually Stick. Retrieved from

[2] Pfeffer, J., Sutton, R. (2000). The Knowing-Doing Gap: How Smart Companies Turn Knowledge into Action. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press

[3] Kelley, D., Kelley, T. (2013). Creative confidence: unleashing the creative potential within us all. New York, NY: Crown Business

[4] Niven, P., Lamorte, B. (2016). Objectives and Key Results: Driving Focus, Alignment, and Engagement with OKRs.Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons

[5] Parmenter, D. (2015). Key Performance Indicators: Developing, Implementing, and Using Winning KPIs (3rd ed.). Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons



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Luis Jordan

Luis Jordan

UX Concepter | Strategic, Ambitious & Minimalist