19. April 2021

Pursuit, a take on personal OKRs: Nine months later

In August 2020, I started using a home-made web application to track my personal OKRs: Pursuit. Nine months later, I am still using Pursuit on a daily basis. A brief review with which I hope to inspire you to work towards your own big goals, and particularly to stay present on what matters most: the journey to get there.

Have you ever wondered how to make it towards a goal that appears scarily big? I have. As one of the many things to help me get to such big goals, I wrote a little web application mid 2020: Pursuit. This web application essentially allows to enter personal OKRs (say: objectives and key results; see e.g. John Doerr’s book on Measure What Matters: OKRs [1]) with a purpose attached to each objective, and measurable key results where I can see my progress as time passes and I’m putting in the effort. For all the details, please see my previous article Pursuit, a take on personal OKRs.

Specifically I use Pursuit to achieve my goals in various areas of life that I care about, such as friends, family, finances, French, career, running, health, sustainability, piano─in no particular order (but preferably with “f” as the first letter). For example, I am tracking the number of French vocabulary items I have actively memorized over the last year or so (~4500) with Pursuit. This makes me both understand that I am slowly progressing to what looks like a very difficult task at first: memorizing thousands of words.

What has changed over the last nine months? What have I learnt while using Pursuit on a daily basis? Let me try and answer this. I have in the meantime read two books that influnced my thinking recently. The first book is Peak Performance, which dedicates a section to showing up. Pursuit helps me to show up. Pursuit still helps me to prevent procrastination, and show up. The habit of checking in every day, doing the little step it takes to learn another vocabulary item, to do the brief exercise to prevent forward head posture, to do the five minutes of meditation to clear the mind from clutter, to read another chapter in a book, to learn a few more bars by heart on the piano… whatever it is, I better show up. Here is a quote of a quote:

“The best performers are not consistently great, but they are great at being consistent. They show up every day and they do the work.” (a quote from writer James Clear as quoted by Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness in Peak Performance [2]).

The second book is The Practicing Mind [3], which puts the emphasis on process: staying in the present moment, focused on the process leading towards the goal, and using the goal itself only as a rudder─not as a distraction. See my previous article Thoughts on ‘The Practicing Mind’ by Thomas M. Sterner. Here, too showing up matters. However, reading this book made me think that the Pursuit app should avoid drawing too much attention towards the goal, and instead draw the attention towards the process. It’s more about showing up and doing the work than e.g. agonizing about shortfalls relative to the planned progress.

[1] Doerr, John. 2018. Measure What Matters: OKRs: The Simple Idea That Drives 10x Growth. Penguin UK.

[2] Stulberg, Brad, and Steve Magness. 2017. Peak Performance: Elevate Your Game, Avoid Burnout, and Thrive with the New Science of Success. Rodale.

[3] Sterner, Thomas M. 2012. The Practicing Mind: Developing Focus and Discipline in Your Life – Master Any Skill Or Challenge by Learning to Love the Process. New World Library.