The 12 Week Year

Brian P. Moran Also available in audiobook: Download our app for free listening.

Have you set goals and resolutions for New Year, but after a while you forgot or gave up? This is because planning actions for 12 months can be unrealistic and complicated. The idea behind this book is to show you how you can accomplish your goals by breaking the year into 12-week cycles. When you plan for 12 weeks, instead of one year, you can accomplish much more. The time is shorter, and this urgency can be more motivating. Come learn how to accomplish great things in your life, how to realize your annual goals in just 12 weeks, and how to be more organized in your planning!

Understanding the 12 weeks plan

It's time to dismiss the yearly thought and start working as if every month, week, and day count. Periodization breaks the year into four 12-week cycles and helps you achieve exceptional results within each period. Forget that the year is 12 months, you will now think in 12 weeks. The ten principles that make periodization work as an incentive to productivity are:

#1 Make Every Week Count: The problem with annual goals is that they give you the impression that you have a long way to go before the end of the year. It's easy to give up in the first few months because you believe you can make up for lost time later. If you ignore the annual thinking and instead focus on reaching as much as you can in the next 12 weeks, you'll be able to work with far more purpose and passion. There's nothing like a deadline to motivate you, then go ahead and get to work.

#2 Connect Emotionally: The secret to achieving many results in any sphere of human activity is to have a compelling vision for you to connect on an emotional level. If you have an idea of the future that is greater than your current reality, you can begin to work on the changes needed to achieve your goal.

Your business vision will not exist in isolation but will be aligned with your vision. You need to first articulate what you want in your life in all dimensions - spiritual, relationships, family, income, lifestyle, health, and community. After you clarify your vision, you can create aligned business and career goals.

#3 Develop your plan: To achieve in 12 weeks what you used to achieve in 1 year, you will need to work on a written plan for three reasons:

  • A written plan reduces mistakes.
  • A well-written plan saves time.
  • A well thought out plan gives you a lot more focus.

To develop a 12-week plan, follow two main steps. First, identify three general goals for the next 12 weeks. Remember that if you achieve these goals, you will feel good because you are progressing toward your long-term vision. Second, for each 12-week goal, specify which tactics will be used to achieve each goal. Make sure your tactics are specific, straightforward, including a deadline, and assign responsibilities when possible.

#4 Perform one week at a time: Once you develop your 12-week plan, you will need to have a game attitude and stick to it. The execution happens when you follow the plan, and the best way to do this is to develop a weekly plan that aligns with the 12-week plan.

In practice, your weekly plan defines blocks of time in which you will work, uninterrupted, on the tactics that define your overall goals. A good weekly plan will also incorporate these elements:

A weekly planning session where you will review the progress of the previous week and find out which tactics will be used the following week.

A quick 5-minute planning session that starts every day, where you review your priorities and plan your daily activities.

A time plan in which you define where and when you will carry out activities that are aligned with your strategies and priorities.

#5 Measure your results: If you want to increase your performance levels, develop weekly indicators. They should serve to help track your performance in the critical activities that need to be done every week to achieve the overall 12-week goals. Measuring the percentage of activities, you complete each week will help you achieve excellence.

Note that your weekly indicators need to be in line with your overall 12-week plan and your weekly plan. The indicators give you a measure of goals and help you understand how your execution is going. You need to be honest and transparent when using your weekly indicators. If you are not running according to your priorities, you will feel a kind of productive tension, which may signal that you need to get back to work. A good indicator will show you what you need to improve your execution and what your strengths are.

#6 Have a Purpose: The secret to achieving great achievements in 12 weeks is to be intentional about using your time. Studies have shown that even busy and timeless professionals waste about two hours every day on random things. To recharge your productivity, you need to be more intentional with your time.

Instead of focusing on trying to stop interruptions, take a more positive approach. Set aside time each week to devote yourself exclusively to your strategic tasks. A good way to do this is to allocate different blocks of time in your timeline:

Strategic blocks should be 3 hours long. This is an uninterrupted time when you turn off your phone and the internet and focus all your intellect and creativity on producing innovative results. For most people, one strategic bloc per week is enough.

Buffer blocks are used to handle low-value activities. Depending on your needs, a buffer block of 30 minutes a day may suffice, or you may need one hour in the morning and one hour at the end of the day. By grouping these activities into blocks, you can take control of your day.

Exhaust blocks should also be 3 hours long. You use this time to recharge your batteries. This is the time when you leave the office and do something fun.

By building your daily and weekly schedule with a mix of the buffer, strategic and escape blocks, you can work to expand your performance time. Increase the blocks every week so that you will notice an immediate impact on the overall results.

#7: Master Your Results: From a 12-week planning perspective, accountability means you own your results, regardless of the circumstances. You choose to move and find ways to increase your productivity.

To increase your performance, you need to stop waiting for the economy to improve, for your company to develop a better product or a better price. Start working with things that are under your control - your thoughts and actions.

#8 Make Commitments: To have a high performance, you need to keep your promises regardless if these promises were made for you or others. Individuals with high performance are aggressive and systematic at all points, and have the attitude for big things to happen. To achieve your one-year goals in 12 weeks, you'll need to do the same thing.

The key to becoming more productive is to be 100% committed:

  • Have a compelling, clear and personal motive for producing results.
  • Find out what attitudes will generate the results you want.
  • Calculate your costs - be willing to make sacrifices.
  • Go ahead and act on your commitments.

#9: Work on Your Performance: Olympic athletes don't achieve greatness at the time of competition. They become great when they decide to pay the price of hard training, and then they struggle with training and make the necessary sacrifices. When the Olympic Games arrive, everything they do confirms the price they paid for it.

Similarly, to use the 12-week philosophy, you need to choose to do things that will make you great. Athletes call it "entering the zone" or "playing in the zone." This reflects the fact that they are present at the moment, have left their distractions aside and are focused on their performance. To deliver great results, you must do whatever it takes to enter the zone and stay there. Choose to do the things you need to become great.

#10: Look for intentional imbalances: Many people talk about maintaining a balanced life, but the reality is that you don't want to spend the same amount of time in all areas of your life. The key to increasing your productivity is to have a purpose about where and how you spend your time, energy and efforts.

To move forward, you need to look for and create some intentional imbalances. Every time you start a new 12-week period, choose some key areas of your life to focus on and improve. You can do this not only in your financial goals, but also in your relationships, your community life, your spiritual well-being, your physical health, and so on. Each of these areas gives you more energy or wears you down. Use the 12-week approach in all areas of your life, not just in your career.

Because a year is 52 weeks, if you use the 12-week cycle, you will have the 13th week every quarter. Use this week to plan your next cycle. If everything is going well, you can choose this 13th week as a "recess."

Implementing the 12 weeks plan

To achieve one-year results in just 12 weeks, you'll need a great runtime system. The 12-week implementation system is based on three principles:

  1. Responsibility - You need to be willing to take responsibility for your results, regardless of distractions, unfavorable circumstances or anything else. To be responsible, you should always ask yourself, "What else can I do now to achieve the results I need?"
  2. Commitment - You must make and keep your promises, especially those made for yourself. In practical terms, commitment is a provision with your actions and future results. The 12-week plan requires you to commit to moving forward and delivering what is needed.
  3. Nobility - You must decide to do whatever it takes to get high performance. You commit to becoming great even before your results appear. You choose to do things that will move you in the right direction.

While these principles form a good foundation, to work through the 12 weeks, you need to improve your execution skills. In other words, to succeed, you need to apply some disciplines to improve your skills and your knowledge.

Analyzing each discipline:

Vision: If you have a compelling vision - which is aligned with your personal goals - you will be able to strive for things to happen.

Dare to have a great vision. History shows that those who achieved spectacular things dared to dream and to work hard to make these dreams, realities. Developing a vision is an exercise.

To create a 12-week motivational view, try this three-step exercise:

  1. Articulate your long-term aspirations and your overall vision. Think about what you want to achieve in the next 10 or 15 years
  2. Clarify what you want to create in the next three years and describe how you imagine a great professional and personal life
  3. Develop your first 12-week plan. Set your targets and daily actions to achieve those goals.

Share your vision with others - doing this will increase your responsibility for having an attitude.

Write down your vision and keep it with you - review it every day and make a commitment to achieve it.

Spend a few minutes each day to reflect on your progress - be intentional about your progress every day.

Rest assured that what you write is important - that it is your vision, not a vision of another person. Connect emotionally with your vision.

Make sure your vision inspires you - it must challenge you to do great things and to live your life with passion and commitment.

Plan: To improve your productivity, you will need an efficient plan that focuses on the items that are the priority. Developing a written plan of action increases your chances of success because it feeds solid execution habits.

Your 12-week plan needs to be very practical to be effective. Fill out the plan with goals and tactics that are:

  • Specific and measurable
  • Describe success
  • They declare in a positive way
  • Realistic
  • Assigned to someone

Once you begin to develop your 12-week plan, think about how you will answer these two questions:

  • What actions will be difficult for you?
  • What can you do to overcome these difficulties?

Most people understand that they should work on a written plan, but they don't bother writing it because they believe they will not use it. This is a problematic thought. You need to work on writing your 12-week plan because this will motivate you to do your best.

Other people fall into the trap of believing they will not have enough time to plan. This idea is also problematic. Numerous studies have shown that developing a good plan will reduce the time you spend to get things done by 20% or more. The more you plan, the more time you have.

Make sure your 12-week plan is aligned with your long-term vision - that both are connected and that the plan is an extension of your vision.

Be simple - focus on the three priorities of the 12-week cycle, then re-evaluate and identify three new areas.

Make your plan important - build the plan based on your goals and the things that matter to you.

If you are working on a team, give everyone a voice as you develop the plan - have team members help you select goals so that you feel responsible.

Process Controls: Process controls help you put tools, systems and support structures in the right place, aligning what you do with your priority objectives. You need to put the support structures and processes that will allow you to be more productive every day.

A written plan will organize your week. Be simple - write the plan and organize when you act. Use your weekly plan to manage every day and make sure the right tasks are being accomplished.

Don't try to do it yourself. Studies show that you have a 10% chance of success if you do it yourself. If you have the support of a colleague, your chances are 80%. The best way to do this is to organize a cycle like this:

As you go through each week, watch how your actions fit in with your plan. Follow and note how you are executing the plan. This record will be a great indicator of your success in the future.

Plan your next week's activities in detail. Do this while the successes and challenges of the previous week are still in your mind.

Meet regularly with a small group of colleagues who are interested in your long-term success. Discuss with them what is working well and what is not. Be prepared to incorporate into your plan some tips and techniques suggested by the group. You will encourage others to do the same.

The only way for you to have a realistic chance of accomplishing your ambitious goals will be by acquiring a weekly routine. So you watch your past week, plan the following week and are encouraged by a small group of colleagues.

Measurements: Measurements and records propel the 12-week plan. You will get good indicators of delay. Measurements are feedback that signals whether you are productive or not.

For each of your 12-week goals, you should look at what indicators of delay or progress are available. The difference between the two types are:

  • Progress indicators are things that need to happen early in the process. It is the actions you need to take to bring the results you want. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, the amount of food you will consume and the amount of exercise you will do, are your progress indicators. They will influence the results generated.
  • Delay indicators are essentially results.

If you can find out what your indicators are for each of your goals, and then look at how you are doing on each indicator week by week, you will be able to monitor your progress and change anything if necessary. You can do this by using a spreadsheet, a Word table or even a sheet of paper if you prefer. Develop an indicator to track how you execute your planned tactics.

This approach works best if you can review your indicators each week with a friend or small group of colleagues - and if you commit to progress a little each week.

A weekly execution indicator of 85% is very good - don't get frustrated if you don't reach 100%. Keep working to increase your level of execution each week.

Keep your evaluation sessions brief and uncomplicated - do it at the same time each week. Most weeks, you'll spend 15 minutes or less on it.

Make changes when necessary - don't leave the system. Track your progress indicators, identify the causes of performance decline, and make the necessary changes.

Time Usage: If you are not in control of your time, you are not in control of your results. To do more, you need to use your time always with clear intentions. You need to take control of your day.

A 2005 study found that 28% of the average professional's time is wasted with interruptions that happen randomly. If you can control your time and get rid of these interruptions, your productivity will grow considerably.

Another thing that can make a big difference in how you use your time is the commitment to use your strengths, rather than working through your weaknesses. If you can use your time doing the things you do best, you will be much more productive.

It is critical that you build your week in writing, before attempting to perform what you want. It may seem like you don't have a lot of time left, but if you can not write your plans first, they will not work in practice either. Make sure that you are doing your most important activities first.

Final Notes

Most people give up their annual goals and end the year without any changes or victories. And this happens because we have a lot of difficulty with long deadlines and in following directions without a vision of the future.

So using the 12-week plan can be a great way out, planning for a shorter period helps us visualize the future, and also helps us have the correct attitude. Remember that your plan should be written, keeping it just in your mind will make it look something distant and uninteresting to you.

When creating your 12-week plan, align it with your long-term goals, realistic and measurable. It is essential to continue measuring and tracking your results at the end of each cycle. Good luck and very successful in implementing your plan.

12min Tip

Considering the methodology of the year in 12 weeks, the important thing is to finish this book with a homework assignment. How about starting right now to put the plan into practice? Remembering that everything needs to be documented! Then open a text document, a spreadsheet or whatever you like best and get to work!

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