Moving outside of the macro business environment, productivity suddenly takes a whole new form. With the “9 to 5” of office workers and the study schedules of high schoolers and college students, we’re now discovering that a primary complaint is being “too exhausted from college and/ or work to be productive.”

Two inferences can be drawn from this statement:

  1. People do not include their daily work or study routine as a part of their productivity activity.
  2. Productivity thus means more than what you’re “required” to do by an institution.

This brings us to a book that may have an answer to the productivity question. “Measure What Matters” by John Doerr, is a book that describes the journey of Google, Bono and the Gates Foundation to not just an accurate measure of productivity, but also the methods to achieve high performance. Doerr says, “If you’re striving for high performance, goals are necessary things.”

Doerr thus goes on to describe a goal-setting system that he brought to Google from Intel, a system that Google’s thousands of employees now use.

This is a system that musician-turned humanitarian Bono describes as the “frame to hang your passion on” and multiple start-ups swear by it, known as the O.K.R. Goal Setting System, where OKR stands for “Objective” and “Key Results”. The objective is what you want to achieve, and the key results are how you want to achieve it.

There are three key steps to the O.K.R. system. The first one is picking an audacious objective. To quote James Cameron, the director of the movie Titanic, “If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure, you will fail above everyone else’s success.”

Start with an idealistic goal, and then scale the objective back one step short of what’s impossible. This is the objective that compels you to grow.

The second objective is quality and quantity key results. This objective has to do with little things that help you measure your progress, like devoted time, hourly output and the like. These key results inform you about if and when you will be able to achieve your goal as well as improvements you can make to the project to work more efficiently.

The third objective is the color-coding check- ins. This objective helps improve strategy, execution, and results.

According to this objective, check-in weekly with your key results and put them under three color- coded labels: red, yellow and green. Green key results are those which mean that you’re 70-100% on target and should continue what you’re doing. Yellow are those where you’re 30-70% on target and need a recovery plan. Red is for when you’re less than 30% on target and you either need a recovery plan or need to replace the key result altogether.

According to Doerr productivity is thus a collective measure of key results and little by little efforts that collectively help in the achievement of a goal. To put it in his words, “ Our goals are servants to our purpose.”

–Arjun Chauhan