From OKRs to Weekly Tasks

agile, blog, management30

Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) are a popular technique for setting and communicating goals and results in organizations. Its main goal is to connect company, team and personal objectives to measurable results, making people move in the right direction. A big part of OKRs is to make sure that each individual knows what’s expected of them at work. OKRs are public knowledge and are available to everyone so that teams can move in the same direction and people can know what others are focusing on. OKRs consist of a list of objectives, and each objective then usually details 3 to 4 key measurable results. Each key result has a progress indicator or a score of 0-100% or 0 to 1.0 that shows its achievement. See this infographic for more about OKR history, users, quotes, best practices, and examples. You can read more about OKR at this page of Weekdone or in workout Metrics Ecosystem of Jurgen Appelo. If you are more into YouTube, check out this video:

Now, I enjoy having a structure in my daily work/life, and according to my girlfriend, I sometimes enjoy it too much :). I use (my version of) GTD, in combination with Evernote to organize my daily work. Last year, I started experimenting with OKRs as an addition. I like the OKR approach because it adds a higher level of planning and focuses on my work. However, I was sometimes missing the link between my OKRs and my daily work. It happened a few times that I forgot about my OKRs and did not focus on them for one or two weeks. I know, my fault, but still…

I believe that you should be doing things at work that give you energy. Of course, we all have to do boring tasks sometimes. But in the end, I want to leave office with the same energy level as I came in, or even more energy! I also want to find out about what kinds of things gave me energy this week, but also have an overview of things that gave me energy six months ago. I am quite a structured person but it also partly serves to compensate for the fact that I sometimes forget things, sometimes even important things. About this fact, my girlfriend also has an opinion ;). So, remembering what gave me energy six months ago is hard for me. What are the small things that gave me energy, things that boosted my day? Why do I want to know this? There are moments that I don’t do anything, but just want to look three, six, or even nine months back and see what I did back then. What can I learn from it?

How did I solve these two issues: forgetting about my OKRs and wanting to keep track of my energy levels during the week? By simply printing the OKRs and pinning them to the wall next to my monitor? I am sure that this will work for a couple of weeks but then I won’t see the note anymore. It will have blended in with all things on the wall. Perhaps by setting a reminder in my calendar to review my OKRs daily? Sure that will work for the first days but then the reminder will pop up during a meeting and annoyed I will dismiss it indefinitely (and forget about it). So after some thinking and reading, I came up with the Energy Log. Below you can find a sketch of my current Energy Log. Current? Yes, current, it constantly evolves. More about that later.

Let me explain this log. It is not that difficult 🙂

Upper top left is where you just write the week number. Top right, it’s you write down your current OKRs. Below the week number, there is a graph. For every day you keep track of your energy level, I keep a scale between 0 and 5. Place a dot when you come into the office in the morning and again place a dot when you leave the office. Connect the dots and you have a graph displaying your energy levels of that week.

In the bottom, you keep track of the tasks you are working on. How detailed they should be? That is up to you, but I don’t add the task: Going to the reception to ask for new scotch. Following the Description column, there is a small column where you can write a + or -. Use it to indicate whether a task did contribute to your OKRs or not.

In my previous iteration of the Energy Log, the OKRs area was not there. I just had two graphs, one for keeping track of my energy level in the morning and one for keeping track of my energy level in the evening. This didn’t work because it was hard to see how my energy levels developed during the week. And, I realized I had to add my OKRs, so I merged the two graphs into one, making room for the OKRs.

What are the advantages for me? I see my OKRs a few times a day and whenever I update the task lists, I see my OKRs. For every task that I log, I think about whether it added to my OKRs or not. There are days that my work doesn’t contribute to my OKRs, which makes me think about what I need to focus on next week.

Now when I look back six months in time, I can clearly see what I did and whether it gave me energy or not. I am aware of every week that contained tasks that gave me energy as well as the weeks that did not. I have a big pile of Energy Logs, (of course also in Evernote 🙂 ). I discovered for example that my energy increases during the week, I never realized that.

You can take it one step further and share your log with your colleagues. At one moment, there was a colleague who asked me why I had such a bad week? I was wondering how did he know? I found out that he saw the Energy Log on my desk and sometimes looked at it. It was pretty low that week and we had a good talk about it.

Here you can see a real-life example, I created an excel file for printing the log, you can find the log here.

I keep track of the different days by marking the next day with a small dash. In the end, it is all about self-discipline as with all logs. When you don’t have the discipline to keep track of the work you do, it will not work to review the form a couple of times a day.

So what does the Energy Log give me in the end? I learned that I should start the week easy, my energy levels rise during the week. So I schedule complex problems or difficult decisions in the middle of the week. I learned that repeating tasks don’t rise my energy level but that helping people gives me energy.

What do you think? Would this help you to link your tasks more clearly to you OKRs and keep a focus on your OKRs? Just let me know or share your best practices.


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