The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months
by Brian P. Moran & Michael Lennington
Most of us have had some brush with annual planning and are familiar with the rhythms of a 12-month plan. And in your personal and professional life, you’ve probably noticed that the bulk of the plan’s results get posted in the fourth quarter as everyone pushes to reach their goals before the end of the year. But have you ever wondered why can’t we bring forth that kind of focus, intensity, and effort throughout the year? What could we achieve? What could we get done?
The 12 Week Year answers those questions. It outlines how to dramatically increase your results by condensing your planning and execution into 12-week cycles. In this way, that year-end focus, intensity, and effort will be applied four times a year instead of just once.
Making accurate plans for an entire year is nearly impossible and a distant goal line makes it hard to maintain focus. With a 12-week horizon, things are more predictable. Twelve weeks is short enough to keep us focused and in action while long enough to produce meaningful results.
The authors are consultants and coaches with extensive backgrounds in business. The book is organized into two sections: Part I: Things You Think You Know, covers the why and what behind creating a 12-week plan. Part II: Putting It All Together walks you through the planning and execution process step by step. In short, The 12 Week Year is a planning guide with ample inspiration and coaching on the critical topic of how to execute well.
In the author’s words: The 12 Week Year is an execution system that helps you operate at your best each day by creating clarity and focus on what matters most and a sense of urgency to do it now. Execution is the single greatest market differentiator. Great companies and successful individuals execute better than their competition. The barrier standing between you and the life you are capable of living is a lack of consistent execution. Effective execution will set you free. It is the path to accomplish the things you desire.
This summary reflects my takeaways from a useful book that I recommend to others. Reading a summary isn’t a substitute for reading the book. There’s much more than I can cover here. Plus, this is my interpretation. If these ideas resonate with you, I encourage you to get a copy from your favorite bookseller. Here are the Amazon links: eBook | Audiobook | Print
Unless otherwise noted, all quotes should be attributed to the book’s authors.
Discard annualized thinking. It feeds procrastination by lulling us into thinking that there’s plenty of time left in the year to accomplish our goals. In January, December seems so far away. The 12-week frame shifts you into a more results-oriented way of thinking.
And throw out the annual plan. Whenever you plan far into the future, you have less predictability. Long-term plans are built upon layers and layers of assumptions. It is nearly impossible to predict what your daily actions should be 11 or 12 months into the future. A 12-month plan is much more predictable. It has a stronger focus. And it’s much more likely to be implemented.
The excitement, energy, and focus that happened every December now happen continuously. The year-end push to hit your goals now happens not once every 12 months but all the time.
The 12 Week Year System
The 12 Week Year is a system for getting things done — for doing your best every day by making it clear and easy to focus on what’s most important and giving you a sense of urgency to get it done now. The system has eight ingredients, three principles, and five disciplines:
Three Core Principles
- Accountability as ownership. Taking full responsibility for your actions and results regardless of the circumstances.
- Commitment. Following through on your promises to others and yourself.
- Greatness in the moment. Doing what is needed and staying present even if you don’t feel like it. Individuals attain greatness when they decide to do what is needed to become great. The outcomes are not the attainment of greatness but its confirmation.
Five Key Disciplines
You develop your thinking, actions, and results by integrating these five disciplines:
- Vision. Having a clear and inspiring life vision. It creates a clear picture of the future. Your business vision has to align with your personal vision to foster sustained commitment and action.
- Planning. Putting your broad vision into a concrete plan, including goals, priorities, and actions. An effective plan defines and prioritizes the top initiatives and actions required to achieve the vision. A good plan is straightforward to implement.
- Process controls. Staying on track with process controls, tools, and systems. Process control is a set of tools and events that link your daily actions to your critical priorities. They allow you to spend more time on strategic and money-making activities.
- Measurement. Measuring results to get critical feedback and make informed decisions. Throughout the process, measurement is key. A comprehensive measurement system combines both lead and lag indicators, enabling informed decisions to be made.
- Time use. Using time effectively. Without control over your time, you cannot control your results. You must use time with clear intentions to make the most of it.
The results you achieve are a direct byproduct of the actions you take. Your actions, in turn, are manifestations of your underlying thinking. Ultimately, it is your thinking that drives your results; it is your thinking that creates your experiences in life.
Create a Compelling Vision
Creating a personal vision is essential. If you are striving to be great, break new ground, and perform at a high level, you need a vision that reflects what you want in life. A personal vision establishes an emotional connection between your business and career objectives – it aligns your personal aspirations with your professional goals. Often, it’s your professional vision that enables your personal vision.
A vision should reflect three horizons:
- Long-term aspirations. What would you like to have, do, and be in your life? What is most important to you physically, spiritually, mentally, relationally, financially, professionally, and personally? Your life vision should inspire you and help you fulfill your dreams.
- Three-year midterm vision. What would a great professional and personal life look like in three years? Be as specific as possible — it will make creating your 12-week goals easier.
- The next 12 weeks. Your 12-week goal.
Common mistakes people make setting a vision:
- They don’t recognize the power of vision.
- Their vision isn’t meaningful to them.
- They don’t set a big enough vision.
- They don’t connect their day-to-day activities with their vision.
Vision is the starting point of all high performance. Vision is the first place where you engage your thinking about what is possible for you.
Develop Your 12-Week Plan
Time is valued at a higher premium when operating on a 12-week cycle. When you only have 12 weeks in a year, the importance of each moment becomes crystal clear. There are two ways to act in each moment: reactively or proactively. Instead of relying on willpower to remain proactive, an action-based plan helps keep your actions focused on your priorities.
Establish Your 12-Week Goal
Goals are the foundation of any good plan. A well-written, specific, and measurable 12-week goal is the first step toward creating an effective plan.
Your 12-week goal connects your vision with your 12-week plan. The goal you set should be a realistic stretch for you. It should be realistic but challenging enough that you’ll have to perform at your best.
Writing an inspiring 12-week plan is easier if you have a specific and measurable goal. Use these criteria to set better goals:
- Make your goal specific and measurable.
- State it in the positive.
- Make sure it provides a realistic stretch.
- Assign accountability.
- Make it time-bound.
Write Your 12-Week Plan
Planning is nothing more than solving problems. Your plan solves the problem of achieving your 12-week goal.
Common planning mistakes:
- Not connecting the 12-week plan with your long-term goals and vision.
- Not making the hard choices needed to focus your plan on what’s critical.
- Making your plan too complicated.
- Not making your plan meaningful.
The 12 week goal is the bridge between your vision and your 12 week plan.
Set Up Process Controls
A process control system is a simple set of tools and events that ensures things get done.
Process controls augment or replace willpower. Without structural and environmental support, following through becomes a continuous task. Although willpower can be helpful, it’s unreliable. It’s subject to fatigue, so sometimes we have, and sometimes we don’t.
Create Weekly Plans
Your weekly plan is derived from your 12-week plan. It’s a 1/12 slice of your 12-week plan. All of the tactics needed to reach your 12-week goals should be included in your 12-week plan. Each tactic is assigned to a week, which guides your daily actions. This ensures the weekly plan contains only those actions that are strategic and critical.
Your 12-week plan isn’t a glorified to-do list. And it’s not based on what’s urgent that week. A weekly plan based on a 12-week plan ties your daily and weekly tactics to your long-term vision. This assures that your actions are, by default, the most critical ones for the week.
Hold Weekly Accountability Meetings
Process control can be enhanced by peer support through a weekly accountability meeting. A weekly accountability meeting with an accountability partner helps ensure you consistently execute your plan. The meeting is an opportunity to celebrate successes, recognize progress, confront breakdowns, create focus and encourage action.
Get into a weekly routine:
- Score your results.
- Plan for the coming week.
- Hold a weekly accountability meeting.
Common accountability and weekly planning mistakes:
- You don’t do your weekly plans because you think:
- There isn’t enough time
- It’s unnecessary.
- It doesn’t matter.
- What to do is already obvious to you.
- You don’t want to hold yourself accountable.
- You include your entire task list.
- You assume each week is the same as the last.
- You load it up with new tactics weekly.
- You don’t use it to guide your day.
- You don’t make it part of your daily routine.
Most people know how to get back in shape—eat better, exercise more—they just don’t do it. It’s not a knowledge problem; it’s an execution problem.
Measuring your results provides critical feedback and insight into your performance. Your measurement system should capture both lead and lag indicators, providing you with comprehensive information for decision-making.
- Lag indicators measure the end results you are striving to achieve. For example, dollars raised.
- Lead indicators measure the activities that produce the end result, such as phone calls made.
The most crucial lead indicator measures actions taken. Action measures show whether you accomplished what you said was most important for achieving your goals.
Keep a weekly scorecard. Using a weekly plan and evaluating the percentage of tactics completed is the best way to measure your results. A measure’s usefulness increases with its frequency.
Strive for excellence, not perfection. You’re probably on track to meet your goals if you complete 80% of your weekly plan.
Productive tension can be a catalyst for change. Productive tension is the feeling when you aren’t doing what you should be doing. Don’t be afraid of measurement; embrace it.
Emphasize actions over outcomes. You can more readily control actions than outcomes.
Common measurement mistakes:
- You think that measuring is hard or doesn’t matter.
- You don’t set aside a certain amount of time each week to look at how things are going.
- When you don’t score well, you give up.
Measurement drives the execution process. It is your touchstone with reality.
Be Intentional with Your Time
You leave your results to chance if you aren’t purposeful about how you spend your time. The excuse “I don’t have time” is often just a smokescreen for what’s really stopping us, even though it may seem so real. Our ability to be exceptional usually isn’t determined by the time we have but by how we use it.
Block your time. Performance time has three primary components:
- Strategic Blocks are three hours of uninterrupted time set aside each week to focus only on actions related to your 12-week goal. Taking them one action at a time.
- Buffer Blocks are used to deal with all the unplanned events that arise during the day and the necessary but low-value activities we all have to perform.
- Breakout Blocks are 3-hour+ blocks away from work during regular business hours. This gives your mind a chance to rest and recharge, giving you more energy and focus when you get back to work.
Common time-use mistakes:
- Continuing to conduct business as usual with how you use your time.
- Trying to cram too many activities into your strategic blocks. It’s one thing at a time.
- Allowing interruptions to divert your focus.
- Having the mindset that being busy equals being productive.
The value of each moment is brought into sharp focus when there’s only 12 weeks in your entire year.
Accountability is about ownership, not consequences. In our culture, accountability is equated with consequences. It’s actually about taking ownership. It’s recognizing that, despite not having control over the situation, you have control over how you react.
There is only one true form of accountability: self-accountability. It means being willing to take responsibility for your actions and outcomes no matter the circumstances.
Failures are simply feedback in the continuous process of becoming excellent. When we accept responsibility for our actions, our focus can shift from defending failures to learning from them.
Four things you can do to increase accountability and achieve more in life:
- Banish “victim” thinking.
- Steer clear of self-pity.
- Be willing to try alternative approaches.
- Hang out with other “accountables.”
Common accountability mistakes:
- Continuing to equate accountability with consequences.
- Deflecting instead of learning from mistakes and failures.
The secret to living your life to its potential is to value the important stuff above your own comfort.
Our commitments ultimately shape our lives. Commitments are deliberate choices to take specific actions to achieve the desired result.
Four factors are essential for fulfilling commitments:
- Strong desire. You need a clear and personally compelling reason to commit fully to something.
- Keystone actions. When you have a strong desire to accomplish something, you must identify the key actions that will produce the desired results.
- Count the cost. Sacrifice is necessary for commitments. Benefits and costs are associated with every effort.
- Act on commitments, not feelings. Sometimes, you won’t feel like performing the required tasks.
You don’t have to commit for life or even for a year. Instead, you make them for 12 weeks. It’s much easier to commit and stick to it for 12 weeks than for 12 months.
Common commitment mistakes:
- Giving up after the first missed commitment.
- Missed commitments aren’t acknowledged.
- Not valuing your word.
Your current actions are creating your future. If you want to know what your future holds, look to your actions; they are the best predictor of your future. If you want to predict your career path and future income, look at the actions you take each business day. Your actions tell the story.
Book details and where to buy it:
Get the book on Amazon: eBook | Audiobook | Print (affiliate links*)
Amazon rating: 4.7 of 5 stars
Goodreads rating: 4.2 of 5 stars
Page count: 208
Publication date: May 20, 2013
Author website: https://12weekyear.com
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