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Objectives and Key Results

Posted on Dec 25, 2019 by Chung-hong Chan


I hate new year resolutions.

When I was young, I didn’t even know the concept of new year resolution. After I had known that, I did make some for a few years. But after all, I could not get those things done. I have not set new year resolutions for so long. But does it mean that I cannot get some progress? Well, it is a yes and no. The ‘yes’ is, well, I have done something. Let’s say, I did have some academic achievement. The ‘no’ is, I am going to elaborate in this blog post.

Let’s look at my goal last year. Mind you, that is not a new year resolution. Last year I wrote that I want to write a blog post every week for a year. And I could only sustain it for 8 weeks. I don’t know whether I should count it as an achievement, because I have not written consecutively for 8 weeks for a long time. But by comparing it with the intended goal, I failed.

By reviewing that, I think it is important to really set a few goals. These goals might not be able to be fulfilled. But with those goals set beforehand, I can evaluate how close or how far I did one year after.

I have a professor whom I really admire. Back in the days when I was at HKU, he was a computer science professor who is an ex-googler (a.k.a. xoogler). I have taken his C++ class and he was one of the coolest guys I have ever seen. Unfortunate for HKU but fortunate for him, he has left HKU and is now working again in the industry. He has a blog and the great thing about his blog is that he updates it quite frequently. One thing he did quite frequently with his blog is OKRs (Objectives and Key Results). He sets objectives and key results around them. Then he evaluates the progress regularly. For example, he has the objective of “develop top talents”. Then, he determined a set of achievable key results around such objective, e.g. guide the students so that they can publish a paper in the XYZ conference. After some time, he evaluated well such an objective has been achieved.

I should set a few ‘new year resolutions’, for the purpose of doing OKRs. The problem that I have with my struggle in the academic world is, I have many things I really want to do, but I don’t THINK I could handle them all. I think this problem will get even bigger because I will be working in a new position at the current institution. Consider it as a little promotion, although I needed to do a job talk all over again. With thiss new position, I will need to take up more responsibilities but with the same amount of time. I need to balance the things that my institution wanting me to do, and the things that I myself want to do. So, I need to change my THINKING. I am just THINKING I could not handle them all. If I can somehow empower myself to handle them, I can at least get some, or even most, of them done.

Still, I really want to maintain this blog, just like the xoogler-professor whom I admire. This is one objective: think out loud. Another objective, as I have written on my twitter, is to write a book about automated content analysis: transfer my knowledge or publish a book. The third objective is to release an R package about validation of topic models on CRAN: contribute to open source. The fourth objective is to get at least one paper published: publish top papers. The final objective is to improve my language, both English and German. Learn actively: improve myself.

Five objectives, not one less: think out loud, contribute to open source, publish top papers, improve myself, publish a book. TCP/IP

If I need to succeed, I need to devote some time to these goals every day, especially to the goals that may not have a direct impact on my career.

Let’s see how far I can go. At least with this blog post, I am one step closer to the ‘think out loud’ objective.

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