Two years ago I started setting personal OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). I wrote about the 2017 results here and decided to carry the practice forward into 2018. I wanted to recap how things have gone and how I’m thinking about this experiment going into 2019.
I am aware that this is a bit of a ridiculous exercise. My answer to “do you have any New Year’s Resolutions in 2018?” was “well it’s like 13 metrics-driven resolutions spread across three main themes”. Most people probably wouldn’t find value in this kind of system, and I think it would be fair to criticize me for taking this approach to achieve goals like “happiness”. I probably overdid it this year by trying to do too much. I felt stressed out about making progress on these goals and that led me to be very protective about my free time. I was probably a worse husband, father, son, and friend this year. At the same time, it’s hard to say that I wasn’t aware that this was the deal I was making. I wanted to push myself to do more, and to have more to show for it. I’m proud of what I was able to achieve in 2018, but there was a cost too.
I kept my objectives from last year unchanged. One of the tenets of the system is that objectives are meant to be ambiguous and hard to complete. It may take multiple successful key results to satisfy the objective. I consider it a good thing to keep plugging away at the same goal year after year.
I’ll also reiterate that I consider a 70% achievement rate to be a passing score. I’d rather aim high and find out where fall short rather than feel like anything was too easy.
Objective: Be healthier and happier.
I wanted to spend 2018 focusing a little more on exercise and health. I also wanted to make sure that I was allocating my spare personal time fairly with my wife and daughter too.
Key result: Bike to work 200 times
Last year I didn’t develop a regular running habit, but did start biking to work. I did a quick calculation that there were about 250 working days in the year, so I aimed to have 200 bike commuting days in 2018 (missing less than 1 work day per week). I was able to stick to this (it helps that commuting by bike is cheaper, faster, and healthier than any alternative) and completed 207 commutes by bike this year. This number may have been sandbagged a bit—I’d still have gotten a passing score if I’d aimed for 250.
Key result: Excursion with the family every month
My goal this year was to have at least one special family outing per month. We tend to do a lot of these organically but it was nice to remind myself that spending the better part of a Saturday with my family was still in service of my objective of being happier. We did a bunch of activities around San Francisco: hikes at Ft. Funston and Sweeney Ridge, visiting Curiodyssey, the Academy of Sciences, the SF Zoo, the de Young, and the Bay Area Discovery Museum. We went to a “Frozen” Sing-Along at the Castro Theater, and got a cargo bike and biked as a family (dog too) around the city. We haven’t gotten around to doing anything in December yet (and may not given how hectic this month has been) but did at least one activity a month for the first 11 months of this year.
Key result: Redesign dining room shelves
This is a holdover from 2017, when I wanted to redo our dining area. I made a great deal of movement here without a ton of progress, precisely modeling our home and dozens of candidate pieces of furniture in SketchUp. But we didn’t quite pull the trigger on anything, as my wife and I became paralyzed by choice. I think we know what we want to do now, but actually getting the changes made will go into 2019.
The great thing about being a competent 3d modeler is that you can obsess over home decor projects without needing to resort to "having taste" and "making decisions" pic.twitter.com/rhP38Nrh0J— Arne Roomann-Kurrik (@kurrik) May 28, 2018
Objective: Learn and grow intellectually.
I work with a lot of smart people, so I try not to feel dumb all the time. I still feel concerned that I don’t subject myself to enough rigorous thinking exercises, or more nuanced expressions of art.
Key result: Read 20 books
I wrote about my 2018 reading list here and was able to complete 19 out of my target 20 books. This is an increase of two books over 2017’s result, and I feel that I chose more challenging books this year.
Key result: Watch 8 cinema club films
My cinema club requirement used to include writing about each film I watched. This year I made a choice not to require myself to have to write a blog post for each entry in the hopes that I’d just watch more films. Subsequently, I moved film discussion off of this blog and onto Twitter. It’s sometimes difficult to draw a separating line between what makes a cinema club film vs. not. I used to use the criteria of “art film”, but I’ve certainly watched a few commercial or studio films this year. I’m sticking to a loose definition of film with some kind of clear artistic merit that I go out of my way to see (so for example no Annihilation on this list despite my fascination with it—I would have watched it if I weren’t aiming for this goal). I’m counting 7 movies toward this key result:
I’d recommend all of them, although the two Tarkovsky films The Mirror and Solaris were standouts to me. I found The Seventh Seal really striking too, and painted some scenes from the black & white film in ink during Inktober. Overall, I think I got some great references to draw on in terms of composition, editing, and scene construction for a creative project I want to attempt next year.
Key result: Finish Referaat
This is my perennial structured procrastination “Very Important Task” which I keep putting off. I got a single blog post together which I estimate at maybe 5% of the total effort needed to finish the entire paper and translate it to Estonian. Oh well.
Key result: Regular Mandarin practice
I didn’t define “regular” very well, but did set a reminder to do a Rosetta Stone Mandarin lesson every 4 days this year, which is roughly 90 exercises in 2018. I completed 62, about one every 6 days. I don’t think I made as much progress here as I liked (I don’t feel remotely conversational in Mandarin) and am looking to increase my effort here next year.
Objective: Create things.
Many of the creative endeavors I took on in 2018 were intended to be practice for a larger, more focused project in 2019. I’ll talk more about that later, but I wanted to improve my ability to create art, write a story, and publish an app in the App Store.
Key result: Digital art every two weeks (except theme months)
With the exception of theme months in October and November, I aimed to make a piece of digital art every other week. This could be a 3D render or a painting on my iPad. I completed 18 out of the target 22, and posted these to my Instagram account throughout the year.
Key result: Paint every two weeks (except theme months)
The counterpart to the digital art goal was to complete a physical painting every other week (excepting October and November). I stuck to gouache paintings this year and even got in some plein air practice during a trip to Scotland.
I completed 20 of the target 22 paintings. Photos of these are also posted to my Instagram account.
Key result: Inktober 5k
I follow several artists on Twitter who take part in Inktober each year. During the month of October, participants complete one ink-based artwork a day. This seemed like a good challenge, but I didn’t have the bandwidth for a painting a day. There’s a “half marathon” which is a painting every other day, and a “5k” option, which is one painting a week. To get my feet wet, I decided to try a 5k and completed four ink-based paintings in October. This was my first time painting in ink, and I found myself enjoying the process. Technically, it’s the same approach as painting watercolor, but since you don’t have to worry about color I found it easier to focus on value instead. I generally picked subjects suitable for black ink, painting a couple stills from The Seventh Seal and a couple portraits of BMO, our dog.
Key result: Timebounded NaNoWriMo
The National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) takes place in November and challenges participants to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. I’ve had a couple friends do this and have been fascinated with the idea of sprinting to get the structure of a book down in only one month. I didn’t have the bandwidth to make an earnest attempt this year, but I did have the outline of a story for a game I wanted to make. I decided to to spend 30 minutes each day in November fleshing it out into a screenplay, completing 11,332 words by the end of the month. I’ll be using this screenplay as the basis for a game I want to work on in 2019.
Key result: Publish TinyPatch
I’ve been working on a game for my daughter Ada on and off for about two years now. In the interest of getting used to publishing an app to the Apple and Google App Stores, I set a goal to finish this up in 2018. While I made a lot of progress on the game itself and was able to get beta testing versions out, I still don’t have it finished enough to feel comfortable making it generally available. This is probably my most regretted miss of the year, as I really wanted to close out this project to free up some mental capacity for 2019.
Key result: Write 10 blog posts
I always feel like I should be writing more blog posts, but find it difficult to spend the time to come up with a post I’m happy with. I satisfied the letter of my goal by publishing 7 out of 10 posts this year, but 3 of those were self-reflective examinations of 2017 and 2018. I did make one post in service of making progress on my referaat, and another which explored some ideas for a game I want to work on next year. My published list for 2018 is:
- Caesar Cipher
- Flow puzzles v1
- Which word has the most valid subwords?
- Sending nice emails from Google Forms
- Reading List - 2018 Books
- This post
Planning for 2019
I thought that I attempted too many things in 2018 and subsequently took on a fair amount of stress and failed to accomplish some larger goals. At work I perpetually push my team to focus on fewer more impactful things and I’d like to embrace that in my 2019 personal goals. I’m in the surprising position of being able to plan a bit in advance, so I’ve tried to think deliberately about what I want to get done and what I’m willing to not do in order to succeed.
In 2019, my OKRs are:
Objective: Be healthier and happier.
Key result: Days below target weight. After losing quite a bit of weight when my daughter was born in 2016, I’ve steadily gained it all back. While I’ve been able to keep good habits like biking to work, the net effect is still negative and I’ve been feeling particularly unhealthy lately. Instead of focusing on specific activities, I’m going to plot a “target weight” for 2019 and plan to lose 1lb / week until I’m at that weight. I’ll score myself by number of days I stay below that projection throughout the year, with a perfect score being 365 and a perfect failure being 0. I’m hoping by focusing on the outcome rather than specific activities, I’ll make adjustments throughout my daily routine (exercise, diet, etc) as necessary.
Key result: 12 planned family trips. I reached my excursions goal for 2018 but felt like I could be more ambitious next year. Ada will be at the age where we can start doing more daddy/daughter activities together, and I’m especially excited to plan her first ski trip next season. I expect to flesh these out in the next few weeks, but am currently planning:
- January: Bike over Golden Gate Bridge.
- February: TBD.
- March: Family trip to Hawaii (for a wedding).
- April: TBD.
- May: TBD.
- June: Family trip to Seattle.
- July: Boat ride in SF bay.
- August: Family camping trip.
- September: TBD.
- October: TBD.
- November: TBD.
- December: Family ski trip.
Objective: Learn and grow intellectually.
Key result: Practice Mandarin for 182 days. I completed a Rosetta Stone lesson every 6 days in 2018 and felt that I would do better with more regular practice. I’m going to shoot to complete some kind of structured lesson (either Rosetta Stone or some other program) every other day in 2019.
Objective: Create things.
Key result: Playable Act 1 for adventure game. I’ve spent the last couple of years accumulating a set of skills to be able to work on an indie adventure game. Picking up painting, watching art films, writing a screenplay for NaNoWriMo, posting about test puzzle mechanics and working on a mobile game for Ada were all in service of this. I think I’ve gotten to the point where I’m ready to commit serious time toward developing my concept in 2019. My goal is to have a playable vertical slice of the game by 2020, encompassing Act 1 of the screenplay I worked on this year. I believe this will be enough to demonstrate whether this idea has merit and whether I should invest real resources into hiring artists/musicians to help me try to finish the game and get it published. This is one of the most ambitious things I’ll have done in my life, and I’m incredibly eager to start on it in earnest next year.
For everything I want to do next year, it’s important to acknowledge that there are multiple things which I will not be able to get done.
As much as I enjoyed learning to paint in the past two years, I also found myself dreading having to come up with something each week and would block other things when procrastinating on painting. So while I may still break out the gouache set for some plein air practice on vacation or concept art for my game, I won’t be goaling on a certain number of pieces next year.
I do find writing blog posts and working on the research for the referaat rewarding, but these are also activities I dread as I get further behind them during the year. If I find something to blog about or feel inspired to continue my paper I’ll do them, but won’t compel myself either.
I got very close to publishing Tiny Patch, but never finished it up. I don’t want to drag it out for an indefinite amount of time and would prefer to spend my game development energies on the adventure game project next year. This will likely be on hold until 2020.
NaNoWriMo / Inktober were rewarding distractions in 2018. In the interest of focus, I won’t be doing them again in 2019 unless I can use them to structure work for one of my key goals.
I will not set myself a target for books to read or cinema club films to watch in 2019. I expect my volume of consumption of both will drop next year. This is a particularly painful non-goal for me, but focus is king next year.
In happier non-goal news, I think biking to work has become a habit at this point. It’s cheaper and faster than alternatives, plus a useful form of exercise. I already feel regret on days when I don’t bike to work, so I’m not setting a target for next year.
Writing this post for the past few years has been a key form of self-reflection. I tend to debate myself on the intended audience for this kind of thing and while it’s ultimately more for me than anyone else, I do find some value in this kind of public accounting. I sometimes share these posts with others to shed some light on how I intend to live my life as I find it important to be both deliberate and ambitious in this respect. If I have any virtue it is patience, and if I have any skill it is the ability to plan. I’m investing in a set of tools to rely on in the future and accomplishments to be proud of when I’m older. While next year is only one step along the way, it is an important one. I’m excited for it in a way which I haven’t been for a while. To a wonderful 2019!