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IG#22: A pragmatic guide to personal goal setting

How I use OKRs to keep track of my personal goals, a new life hack: digital intermittent fasting, and more

Dominik Nitsch
8 min read
IG#22: A pragmatic guide to personal goal setting
Source: GPT4 / DALL-E 3 / author’s prompt

Happy Monday!

Apologies for the delayed newsletter, it’s been a busy two weeks. Hope this read kickstarts your week. Let’s dive in.

[1 Deep Dive] A pragmatic guide to personal goal setting

Self-help advice is littered with goal-setting.

“Without personal or professional goals, you won’t be successful, won’t get anywhere in life, bla bla.”

The usual.

You didn’t open this email to read yet another article about the importance goal-setting.

Let’s not get into that.

Let’s instead talk about how to actually set personal goals that you adhere to.

For the last few years, I had been setting goals, but hadn't implemented a good breakdown into quarterly, weekly, and daily objectives.

In consequence, I missed many of the goals I set out to achieve.

I simply lost track of them.

This is unacceptable. What’s the point of setting goals if you lose track of them?

Luckily, I didn't have to look far for a solution. With my team at Sdui, we had been using OKRs successfully for almost two years.

A tried-and-true system.

So today, I want to walk you through the process of setting up my personal OKRs.

This is still a work in progress, a first glimpse at how I’m trying to do it. I haven't used my OKR system for personal goals before, so I'll keep you posted on how it's going.

Best way to follow along on that journey is - of course - by subscribing (hint hint).

[1] Understand your long-term vision

Before setting any goals for the year, you need to understand where you want to be long-term.

A difficult question, I know. Not knowing the definitive answer is okay, my long-term vision changes and develops over the years too.

*thinks back to the 7 years ago when I thought being a digital nomad is the coolest thing ever - now I’m happy to actually have a home*

For now, we’ll assume that you have a decent idea of where you want to be long-term. Maybe I’ll cover the process of finding out in a future article.

For example, one of long-term big hairy audacious goals (BHAGs) of mine is to participate in the 2028 Olympics. A highly unlikely goal that only became achievable recently with the inclusion of Lacrosse for LA28.

We’ll be using this as an example throughout this article.

(This is just one of several long-term objectives, of course).

[2] Identify goals for the next year

Now, ask yourself: what do I need or want to achieve in the next 12 months in order to get one step closer towards my long-term goals?

Keep in mind that humans tend to grossly overestimate what they can do in one year, and grossly underestimate what they can do in ten.

Let’s look at our Olympics example: going there means to be one of the best 12 Lacrosse players with a German passport. I already have the passport, so I just need to become one of the best 12 Lacrosse players. To do that, it really takes two things:

  • lots and lots of practice
  • plenty of experience playing at the highest level (ie. internationally)

In order to practice a lot, you first need to be available (eg. not injured or sick).

So the first yearly goal is to be injury-free for the whole year, and to strengthen my fitness foundation.

The second goal is to be nominated for the roster of the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships. Great international experience, and playing in these international events is super rewarding by itself.

There are two things I can do within the next 12 months, so they’ll make it on my goal list.

We’ll break them down further in a second.

[Sidebar] Define your cadence

Most people plan their year January to December, which is fine. But you don’t have to do it this way.

Taking a page out of David Sacks’ seminal “The Cadence” post, I prefer to think in “seasons” instead of years.

My season goes from August to July. This has two advantages:

  1. It aligns perfectly with my life years (my birthday is in July). Around that time, I tend to reflect a lot anyway, so it’s a good time to finish the season.
  2. December tends to be super stressful, both privately and at work. Therefore, if you still want to achieve personal goals and want to work hard on them too, December is probably the worst time to do so.

Everybody has their own cadence, this one just works for me.

Back to goal-setting.

[3] Build a quarter-by-quarter roadmap

Now that you’ve set your yearly goals and cadence, let’s break them down quarter by quarter into your yearly roadmap.

Of course things may and will change during the year. This is normal. It’s important to understand what you need to do in each quarter to stay on track.

This is what a roadmap is for: it shows you where you’re going, but you still have to drive.

In order to achieve my goal in terms of not getting injured, the objectives could be broken down as follows:

  • Q1: fix posture by achieving notable improvement quarter over quarter.
  • Q2: increase strength in weak links (forearms, feet)
  • Q3: add 10% to 1RM on all major lifts (deadlift, squat, bench press)
  • Q4: sleep 7:30h per day on average (up from 7 normally), hit sauna once per week [Q4 is prime time for Lacrosse season, so workload will be higher than usual and therefore increased focus in recovery will be paramount]

Break down the other goals similarly.

Note that some gains aren’t necessarily linear.

For example, say my goal would be to get to 10k subscribers on this newsletter, starting out with 250.

Assuming a linear relationship, this would mean that I’d have to have 2500 subscribers by end of Q1, 5000 by end of Q2, 7500 by end of Q3, and 10000 by end of Q4.

But getting 2250 new subscribers when you only have 250 would be 900% QoQ (quarter-over-quarter) growth. That’s really difficult.

So instead, let’s assume an exponential relationship, where QoQ growth stays relatively similar:

  • end of Q1: 1000 subscribers (400% QoQ growth)
  • end of Q2: 3000 subscribers (300%)
  • end of Q3: 6000 subscribers (200%)
  • end of Q4: 10000 subscribers (166%)

This seems much more realistic.

[4] Break down next quarters objectives into measurable key results & activities

Once you’ve identified the objectives for each quarter, let’s break them down further into key results and activities.

Following through with the example from before, my objective for Q1 is to fix my posture. Good key results to achieve would be:

  • Do 45 sets eye exercises over the course of the quarter (ideally every other day)
  • Spend 10 minutes every day on rehab exercises (stretching, yoga, remedial exercises)
  • Acquire a new desk chair to sit properly in my home office

Doing these activities should get me fairly close to achieving my quarterly objective of fixing my posture.

It’s paramount to break down your key results in a way that if you achieve all of then, you should also achieve your objective.

[5] Use key results to inform your weekly goals

Every Friday, I sit down and think about my goals for the next workweek.

Every Sunday, I do the same for my personal goals, and allocate time for it.

For my objective of fixing my posture, I would set the following goals:

  • 10 min daily rehab exercises
  • 4 eye-tracking exercise sessions of 3 sets

The 10 min daily rehab is part of my morning routine. I’ll set blockers in my calendar to do the eye-tracking exercises.

[6] Hold yourself accountable

Goals, Objectives, and Key Results are worthless if you’re not holding yourself accountable.

This is what happened to me: I didn’t measure my progress and lost all accountability.

So now, I’m implementing two recurring checkpoints:

  1. An OKR check every Sunday, where I update my progress in my Notion Template (which I’ll share in the future).
  2. A quarterly board meeting with my friends where we review each others’ progress

Companies have boards that help the CEO make decisions (and sometimes make decisions for them).

Why shouldn’t you have a board as an individual?

My expectation would be increased accountability, and overall better performance on my goals. We’re testing it this quarter and will see what happens!

[7] Establish guard rails

Of course, we still have to live our lives, and can’t only focus on achieving new goals. Some guard rails will have to be followed in order to not have a completely breakdown somewhere else.

In business, you would use metrics like profitability or employee satisfaction as guard rails to ensure you’re still doing the things you need to do.

Personally, these are slightly different. Mine are:

  • Health: ensure healthy sleep, nutrition, and exercise 5x a week
  • Love: commit to spending time with my girlfriend
  • Social: meet with friends at least 3x per week

These things need to be a given first before doing anything else. A healthy body and good people around you are the perfect environment to achieve your goals.

A few final pointers:

  • Less is more. Don’t set too many objectives (for me, 2-3 are good), else you’ll do too many things.
  • Set stretch goals, but not too stretchy (70% achievement should be realistic)
  • Understand that you also have a work life, and have to put in the full-time work (if you’re employed). Therefore, setting less ambitious personal goals is perfectly fine - there are indeed only 24 hours in a day.

And that’s it!

This is merely the first iteration of goal setting - let’s explore what the future brings. I shall report after the next quarter how it went.

If you decide to give this system a shot, let me know how you get on. Always happy to have sparring partners.

[2 Nuggets]

Digital Intermittent Fasting

You're likely familiar with intermittent fasting. 16+ hours of not eating, max. 8h of eating. Quite effective for weight loss, increased focus, and general well-being (+ it saves time).

It's quite simple: 12h of technology, 12h of no technology.

Assuming you spend 8h in bed every night, this means:
2h without phone after waking.
2h without phone before bed.

It won't help you lose weight, but increase focus and general well-being while .. saving time for non-digital activities. Try it.

I'm at 30 minutes on either side, and looking to increase the time every day.

Join the discussion on my recent LinkedIn post.

What it takes to win in life

Sean Kelly recently published a post that deeply resonated with me. He shares 7 things that are only practiced by winners in life:

  1. Discover their unique ability and ruthlessly plan their calendar around it.
  2. Getting up at 5 am and working out
  3. Writing thank-you notes by hand
  4. Hold weekly personal board meetings (similar to the weekly OKR review mentioned above)
  5. Have people to handle insignificant activities
  6. Are excellent at giving gifts
  7. Being unfazed when people criticize them

Find the full post here.

  • I mentioned David Sacks’ post “The Cadence” above. It’s 110% worth the read if you’re running or working in a SaaS company.
  • In case you missed it: here’s my ultimate guide to tracking your time (an important part of managing your time).

One ask from my side

I’ve been getting a lot of feedback that some of you really enjoy what I’m writing - which makes me feel giddy, warm, and fuzzy. Please keep that coming.

My friend Lea mentioned recently: “a few friends and myself love the newsletter - we don’t always agree with what you write, but it encourages discussions among us, and that’s awesome”.

I love hearing that. If everybody agreed all the time on the things that I write, this stuff would be boring as hell.

So if you feel anything like Lea, please tell a friend about this newsletter, and maybe even forward them this email. It’s the best thing you can do to help this newsletter grow.

The more people subscribe, the more time I’m forced to spend on writing the best possible newsletter. Again, everybody wins.

Thank you.

That’s it for this edition of International Generalist. Thanks for tuning in and reading!

Who’s behind International Generalist?

I’m Dominik, and every day, I try to figure out how to become a tiny bit more effective. Then, I share some of the lessons learned here.

When I’m not writing, I build the international business for Sdui - the Leading European SchoolOS -, play Lacrosse, lift weights and enjoy draft beers.

Here’s how else I can help you:

See you in two weeks!

Much love



Dominik Nitsch

Proud generalist: Entrepreneur, Athlete, & Writer.

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