As we construct our world-views, many truisms vie for our favour. Some constitute horrendously bad advice (‘Always listen to your heart’), while others are fairly bulletproof (‘Treat others as you would like to be treated’). Some are so relativistic as to be quite meaningless: ‘Put your trust in what you most believe in.’ We’re left floundering. Such as? Do my convictions pertaining to garden gnomes count?

Here’s one that bears out. It’s from Bill Gates: ‘Most people overestimate what they can do in one year and underestimate what they can do in ten years.’

To that end, organising our efforts cleverly can make the difference between a ten-year desert, or a decade of astonishing productivity. So how do you avoid the former, achieve the latter?

One of the best systems I’ve recently come across for organising both short and long-term productivity hails from a book called Measure What Matters, by John Doerr. I’ll give you the diluted-to-death version:

Start with the Big Objective. What’s the point, the goal, the ultimate desired outcome? Are you trying to be the world’s bestselling thriller writer? Or perhaps to dominate the Australian pet bilby market? (It’s a sort of cross between a rabbit and rat). Start with a clear picture of the outcome.

Then break it down into subsets, which, if combined, must necessarily achieve the big outcome. Then put measurable metrics to everything.

Doer calls his system ‘OKRs,’ which stands for ‘Objective, Key Results.’ To achieve the big Objective, you should know which Key Results are required for you.

After that, you should assign times and dates for each Key Result, and begin pursuing them. Achieve each Key Result, and the collective outcome is the certain achievement of your big Objective. Anything that doesn’t fit can be discarded, simplifying your life.

The point of OKRs is to 'keep the main thing the main thing.'

Possibly the best thing about this system, which made both Google and Intel what they are today, is that the Key Results are so wonderfully clear, because they are pass-or-fail. You either achieve the Key Results, or you don’t. And if you don’t, you figure out why, and go for it again. That brutal level of clarity prevents a surprising amount of pointless floundering. Absolutely everything is mission-oriented, or it doesn’t exist. It is an uncompromising eradicater of activity that does not matter.

There is much, much more to the OKR system, but that’s the essence. And I like it.

So say your goal is to become the leading producer of excavators in your nation (I have a two-year-old, so they’re top-of-mind for me). You begin by asking which specific metrics would prove that outcome. Then you work out which specific things must be done to achieve each metric. Then you do them. And for each one, once again, it’s either pass or fail. Yoda-like, you either do, or do not do, there is no try.

As the year winds down, do you need a framework for considering your goals? Try that one. It gets rid of everything extraneous. It hyper-focuses you on what matters.

Read the book first, it’s excellent. Then work out your big Objective. Break it down into the Key Results that necessarily add up to that outcome. Then get going, focusing on only two or three Key Results at a time, and doing each right.

Out-focus your competition, and you might own your industry.

Douglas Kruger is a bestselling author, and a "Hall of Fame" professional speaker. Visit