The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington
The thesis of this book is to plan your work and work your plan in 12 week rather than 12 month cycles.
The “period of performance” is often a 1 year stretch. If we collapse this period from 1 year into 12 weeks, we increase the number of cycles in which we can perform the same activity. The corporate world has annual reviews and quarterly statements.
We can’t get something from nothing. This is not a magical time machine. Rather than working on the physical, it is affecting the mental. The 12 week year is a mental reframe. This concept forces us to divide and conquer tasks with more efficiency and urgency. It makes us take a very serious look at what we can accomplish in 12 weeks, 1 week, and 1 day. It also helps us trim the fat and use our time most effectively.
Parkinson’s law is the adage that “work expands to fill the time available for its completion”
I see the 12 week year as similar to the Scrum method of software development where tasks are broken down to smaller activities.
Scrum is an agile process most commonly used for product development, especially software development. Scrum is a project management framework that is applicable to any project with aggressive deadlines, complex requirements and a degree of uniqueness. In Scrum, projects move forward via a series of iterations called sprints. Each sprint is typically two to four weeks long.
Spiral development model is a method where cycles of development are repeated, each iteration enhances the next version of the product.
The benefits to a 12 week year are:
If something is failing, let it go quicker. Fail fast and fail often.
Allows for more timely feedback.
A pivot can occur sooner allowing for a change of strategy.
More urgency can be applied to an activity, the panicked rush to complete a deadline.
Feeling the benefits of success, the success comes quicker and more often, and motivates us in the present.
Vision – must be clear with your vision. Otherwise you will not realize your goals. The clear vision defines your success criteria. The vision also acts as motivation. Dream big to accomplish big. Average visions produce average results. Analogy – the requirements specification in engineering. Your vision should push you outside your comfort zone. Vision is long term, well beyond the 12 week period.
Measuring and reviewing will call you out on your failings. It also allows one to see where improvements can be made. Share with a friend to make you feel more accountable.
The strategy of SMART goals is encouraged for the 12 week period:
Make goals Specific, Measured, Achievable, Relevant, Timely.
Criteria for your goals:
1. Specific and measurable – State goals clearly and make them well defined, use metrics to measure progress.
2. State them positively – Use positive terms, not negative ones.
3. Realistic but challenging – Grow your goals to be as challenging as possible while still attainable in the 12 weeks.
4. Accountability – hold yourself accountable to teammates, and mastermind group members.
5. Time limited – Everything needs a deadline. All goals must fit within the 12 weeks or less.
Write down your 12 week goals and roadmap on how you plan to obtain them.
Break down the 12 week plan into 12 one week plans. It’s like climbing stairs.
Peer support is helpful, mastermind groups, mentors, have a weekly accountability meeting (WAM)
Have a weekly routine that scores your previous week based on measured metrics. Plan your next week. Participate in one WAM per week.
Lag indicators are end results. Did you succeed and by how much?
Lead indicators are early results and evidence of how you are doing as the task is ongoing (example- real time measurements or end of day results).
More frequent measurements leads to more accurate measurements and better results.
Document indicators for each of your goals.
Strategic blocks – 3 uninterrupted hours of planning 1-3 times a week
Buffer blocks – half hour to 1 hour once or so per day to take care of menial tasks
Breakout blocks – 3 hours once a month/week taking a break, doing a completely unrelated activity
Feel free to create custom blocks that are relevant and important to achieving your goals.
Have a standard template for a typical week with pre-allocated time blocks. Then you can adapt this template per week to tailor it with current events and tasks.
Focus on your top 1-3 things and nothing else. Focusing on a task allows you to make progress on it vs. being pulled 6-ways from Sunday. Garry Keller The One Thing shares this sentiment. Remove all other distractions and focus on the one thing.
The author talks about how accountability is ownership. The person must buy into owning the responsibility and can’t really be held accountable by others. The ownership is key. We have to avoid a victim mentality. I interpret the authors message as an application of circles of influence. inside the circle of influence we control, outside is out of our control. We can expand or shrink our circle. And we need to know where the boundary of the circle is.
The author implies that if we feel we control the situation then we are empowered to change it. I agree as long as that belief is true. Avoid the victim mentality and don’t feel sorry for yourself. Fairness is a human construct – life isn’t fair. Rather than seeking fairness, be effective and successful. Be willing to take different actions. Doing the same thing over and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity. Associate with like-minded people, or at least be around successful people. You become the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with.
The author discusses interest vs. commitment. He uses the old metaphor of the breakfast and how the chicken is interested but the pig is committed. One must be committed to a task in order to give their fullest, be present in the moment. Being committed means following through on promises, and to not retreat when things get difficult. The amateur performs their craft when they are at their best or when they feel like it. The professional performs their craft all the time, regardless of state.
Be “all in” on your activity, like in poker. Burn the boats. Being great in the moment is taking action even if you are not at your best – this is the definition of the professional. Take action based on your commitment and not based on your feelings (This is VERY important). Be great in the moment is like “Go Big or Go Home”.
Authors key to successful commitments:
Strong desire – ways to motivate you through difficult times
Keystone actions – reduced set of activities that actually get you results, gives most ROI or biggest results
Count the costs – do cost/benefit analysis on actions required to achieve each goal. Identify and pay the cost. Required to commit to your goal and get it.
Act on commitments not feelings – willpower, discipline. Push towards your goals even when motivation is low.
Our frontal cortex gives us logical thinking we can use to direct us towards our goals and override any amygdala motivations to run from fear or give up when morale is low.
Greatness in the moment – be mindful and in the moment. Don’t half-ass anything. You have to be great before you can be successful.
Rather than strengthen a weakness, maximize your strengths. Focus on those unique capabilities and maximize them. This message is similar to how Marcus Buckingham says work to your strengths. Maximize the time you spend working with your strengths and minimize the time you are exposing your weaknesses.
Work-life balance. Sometimes you have to focus on the one thing to get it done. Temporary imbalance is necessary to push through. As long as it is intentional and finite duration.
Balance VS Keystone Commitment = throw yourself into a MASSIVE project for 12 weeks to create change. Use that intentional imbalance to get ahead by leaps and bounds instead of slow progression.
The execution system = Accountability + Commitment + Greatness in the moment
Vision – picture of your goal backed with motivation, must be compelling
Planning – prioritize activities, focus and clarify, essential
Process control – use of tools, critical actions, daily actions
Measurement – lead and lag indicators, feedback
Time use – intentional and correct use of time
Emotional cycles of change:
uninformed optimism – initial motivation.
Informed pessimism – the challenges become apparent. Demotivation appears.
Valley of despair – when most people quit. Stay the course!
Informed optimism – breakthroughs.
Success and fulfillment – learning curves overcome. Mastery of the new behaviors. Full confidence.
We don’t have a knowledge problem, we have an execution problem