The 12 Week Year: Plan for the present

Most people have felt, at some point in their lives, the rush of procrastination. You put off that project for weeks and weeks. Now you only have a few days or even a few hours to get it done. You then work with superhuman speed, while before when you actually had the time to plan and do things properly, you could barely get yourself to think about the project. What if there was a way to harness and channel this energy in a systematic way? In The 12 Week Year, Brian Moran and Michael Lennington offer such a way.

The book seeks to address the shortcomings and pitfalls of thinking and planning with a 12-month year mindset. People tend to think in terms of annual goals. One need only think of the almost proverbial failure of New Year’s resolutions to suspect there might be something wrong with this way of thinking. A 12- month year mindset relies on sporadic bursts of energy and motivation. Just think of how busy December can be for companies as they scramble at the last minute to reach their yearly goals. On that long a timeframe it is too difficult to gage what goals are realistic and too easy to push off minor tasks to tomorrow, next week, next month.

By adopting a 12-week year mindset, you have to know what your goals are and what steps you have to take to achieve them. Your next deadline is always right around the corner. It isn’t removed in some indistinct future sometime. In a way, the 12-week year is all about living and taking action in the present.

The authors highlight the dichotomy between abstract, unrealized, and unrealizable ideas and the concrete realism of a plan. Anyone can be an ideas guy, but that doesn’t mean a lot if you are unable to execute those ideas and bring them into being. This is why their first piece of advice, after adopting the mindset of the 12-week year, is to write your plans. Take a pen and paper and write down what you want from your life, the truly big-picture stuff. Then establish a 3-year plan, with long term personal and professional goals. Break it down even further, to a 1-year and finally a 12-week plan.

Once you have broken things down into achievable goals and actionable plans, the next step is setting up a support structure. Part of this is knowing your Key Performance Indicators. Whether that’s pounds lost or new sales, you should have a concrete number that you can track from week-to-week. We have an extraordinary capacity for self-deception and self-justification. But numbers don’t lie.

The other part of the support structure is the Weekly Meeting. As Aristotle observed centuries ago, “Man is a social animal.” It is a lot easier to realize your potential as a human being when you work in community with other people. What Moran and Lennington suggest is a weekly meeting with a couple other similarly motivated individuals where each member must report how well or poorly they are doing on their weekly indicators. This sort of accountability system makes ownership and responsibility habitual.

You can purchase The 12 Week Year at Amazon.

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