How I Beat Overhwhelm and Kick Butt – OCRs in action

Time to read: 6 minutes

If you’re reading this, chances are you’re a (very) busy person.

We live in an age of overwhelm, where we are expected (and expect ourselves) to be superheroes.  Achieve inner peace – build a successful business – reach peak health – find love – be a great parent – be a stalwart of your community – save the world!  Sound familiar?

It can all get too much, and I know at times it’s lead me to stress, anxiety and depression.  The constant bombardment of things to handle and curve balls has had a real impact on many of the clients I’ve helped too.  And that’s before we start tormenting ourselves with all the things we SHOULD be doing.

All this leads to poor decision making, unfocused wasted effort and frankly suboptimal performance.

Below you’ll find a step by step play book to get focused, push yourself and deliver more than you ever thought possible.  Take it seriously and it could transform everything.

Enough, already!

It’s so frustrating to be stuck in this morass of overwhelm.

Over the years I have (almost literally) tried every technique and trick under the sun to get out of the pit, stay focused and reach peak performance.  Many of them moved the needle for a bit and then it was a return to the same old same old.  Finally in the last year I’ve stumbled on an approach which appear to have cracked it and I wanted to share them with you: OCRs (Objectives and Coaching Results).

These are a direct adaptation of OKRs (Objectives and Key Results) which are used in businesses to drive ambition and success – click here to read more about that.

So how do they work?  And how can you get started using them yourself?  Read on and feel free to play along at home…

STEP 1 – Identify your Areas of Focus

I’ve always been prone to biting off more than I can chew.  To bring about some sanity we have to be clear on which areas of our life are our priority at this moment.  To do this, I started to segment up my life into manageable parts.  I had to ask myself “what is REALLY important for me to work on and grow RIGHT NOW.”

After some soul searching, these were the areas that emerged for me

  • Love and Connection (my relationships with the people and world around me)
  • Personal Well-being (how I take care of myself and my energy)
  • Impact (the difference that I make in the world)
  • Joy and adventure (making time to have fun and have new experiences)

I deliberately limited myself to four as an absolute maximum and I’d suggest you do the same. This allows me to have a chance of remembering what I’ve prioritised rather than creating an extra source of overwhelm.

OVER TO YOU – Take as much time as you need to identify your three or four Areas of Focus – and write them down.

Step 2 Create Objectives for each area

This step starts to make it really personal.  For each area, you are looking to find an overarching objective that captures success for you.  The theory is to create objectives that are tangible and measurable.  In reality, for many areas of my life that didn’t quite capture my heart’s desire.  Instead I set objectives that resonated with me:

  • Personal Well-being – TO MAXIMISE MY ENERGY

I’ve found that although these are quite big picture and intangible, I can happily ascribe a score to these based on my experience of them.

Some people aim for more specific and time bound objectives and these could work better for you.  For example my personal well-being objective for April could be “To start a personal yoga practice of at least 10 minutes three days a week”.

In fact some people using this system may have two or three objectives in some areas and that is ok too – OCRs are very flexible like that.

The idea with objectives is to THINK BIG.  So aim for things that feel on the edge of possible and will push you hard to get there.  The only limitation with OCRs is you – so challenge yourself to really push what is possible.

OVER TO YOU – spend time writing your objectives for each area.  If you like the idea of big picture ones, then go that way.  If you clearly have some tangible targets in mind, use those.  I’d suggest that once you have a draft, let them mellow overnight and then come back and ask – “How could I 10x these objectives?” – see how much you can push.

Step 3 – Set your Coaching Results for the next month

This next step is crucial for real focus.  The Coaching Results are where your objectives turn into real action.

Here you pick the 2 to 5 outcomes that will accelerate you towards your objectives.  I’ve discovered that the key here is to  be very specific – pick things that you can ideally measure and / or tick off as done.  When you right a key result, ask yourself “when I get to the end of the month, how easy will it be to assess my progress on this result?”.  If the answer isn’t “very easy” have another go at tightening it up.

So here are my April OCRs for Love and Connection

Objective – Radiate love, joy and compassion

Coaching results

  • Always be positive, loving and supportive to my wife and children
  • Be loving and compassionate to everyone I meet
  • Contact my parents – weekly phone call and 4 whatsapp messages
  • Contribute to the food bank every time I visit the supermarket
  • Help a stranger 4 times this month

I’ve found these Coaching Results help me stay focused on what is most important to me over the month.  They also give me tangible actions and outcomes to aim towards and I can measure my success in doing them.  It’s help me turn good intention into real action.

OVER TO YOU – think about and draft between 2 and 5 Coaching Results for each Objective you have set.  As a rule these key results need to be: 1) Measurable 2) A challenge for you to complete 3) If they are all completed you can be very certain you’ll complete your objective for the month.  Take some time to review your drafts against the criteria and commit to your final ones.  Well done – you’re ready to roll with OCRs.

Step 4 – Start scoring your OCRs regularly

This is the bit I find really compelling.  Your OCRs are deliberately designed to be scorable (reminder from 0.0 for not started to 1.0 for absolutely complete).

During each month, I set aside 5 minutes every three or four days to review the OCRs on my phone.  I give an honest scoring of each key result and an indicative overall score for the Objective.

For example, from my latest April OCRs here is a live score update as of today (April 30th):


Objective – Live my healthiest life to maximise my energy – 0.7

Coaching results

  • Run 80 miles including higher intensity bursts  – 0.95 (I’ve run 77.5 miles this month)
  • Daily mindfulness of 20 minutes – 0.85 (I’ve meditated most days this month but not perfect)
  • Daily yoga 3 times per week for 10 mins – 0.25 (3 yoga sessions at the start of the month, then dropped off – will try again in May!)

As you can see, overall I have judged that I have done well but not perfectly with these OCRs.  I am pretty much on par with the running and mindfulness targets (these are the twin rocks on which I base my sanity!).

Yoga was a stretch for me and after a good start it dropped off – this reminds me to reevaluate for May.

I find regularly touching in on these goals every few days keeps them very much top of my mind.  The scoring gives me a real motivation to “win” and hit 1.0.  It also shows me exactly where I may be struggling and slipping behind, which lets me redouble my efforts in those areas.

When I’m planning my day, first thing I often refer to my OCRs to make sure that as many as I can are included in the aspirational day schedule too.

OVER TO YOU: Now you have your OCRs in place – put them to work.  Set a diary reminder to score them every 3 days for the rest of this month.  And then do it!

Surprising results

Since I’ve taken up OCRs last December I’ve seen a significant shift in my ability to focus and perform.  I’ve never felt so healthy, witnessed a shift to a more positive outlook and my business has started to thrive.  They’ve allowed me to put much more of my energy into the things that really count.  I now feel whelmed (if that is a thing) rather than overwhelmed and at the steering wheel of my life.

I sincerely hope that you feel inspired to take OCRs for a test drive.  I’m starting to use them with my clients and seeing similar results.  If you’d like to discuss how they might work for you and get support in implementing them, do drop me a line.

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