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Time is our most valuable asset, and The 12 Week Year gives us an approach to make the most out of every week, it’s a book that you need to read actively, implementing the steps and activities they give you in each chapter.
Imagine if you could maintain the focus of the first couple weeks of January for reaching your new year’s resolutions all the way through December, there would be amazing changes in your life if your motivation and actions weren’t diminished as time went by.
The 12 week year presents a system where you keep working on your goals, day in and day out without having to rely on the first peak of motivation of the beginning and the urgency we get to get things done in the last weeks of each year.
A program that has worked for companies to get more productivity can also be applied to any aspect of our lives that needs constant improvement.
It consists of creating a vision to work towards an ultimate goal that excites you, and deconstruct it into small pieces of daily actions that will sum up, packing these actions into a weekly plan, and review your performance every week.
The importance of periodization
Setting goals in an annual way of thinking, gives us the misconception that we have plenty of time to accomplish them and we keep pushing them, to start working towards them on the next Monday, next 1st day of the month, our next birthday, and so on, until the end of the year comes inevitably and we’ve done so little work on the changes we needed to implement to improve our lives.
The 12 week year makes us think in a shorter period of time to reach quarterly goals. In one year you’ll get 4 quarters, 4 opportunities to focus on different aspects of your life, and weekly reviews are a chance to measure the execution of those daily actions that contribute to your master vision of the life you desire.
In 12 weeks you only focus on the minimum number of actions that are most important to hit your goal.
The execution system of The 12 Week Year lies in 8 elements:
- Process control
- Time use
- Greatness in the moment
Crafting your vision
There are three time horizons that The 12 Week Year wants us to focus our vision on:
- Long term aspirations
- Mid-term goals, about three years into the future
- 12 Weeks which will become our action plan.
Writing down Long term aspirations will give us the push and motivation we need when things start getting difficult, we remember why we are doing this in the first place, what is the life we want to live, it doesn’t matter how big our dreams are, we can always turn them into plans.
You can turn your dreams into plans in three steps:
- By thinking about your dreams that might seem impossible and asking yourself: What if…? How would it feel if that was true, how would your family’s life be if that was true? Once you start seeing your vision as possible you can move to the next step.
- Now you ask yourself: How might I? With this question you put your mind to work and turn that vision from possible to probable; it will be probable that you reach it by implementing some changes in your life.
- Take those changes you must implement into your life and turn them into a plan, those daily actions that you know you need to do in order to accomplish greatness, and with consistency, your vision will shift from probable to given.
Writing down mid-term goals, helps you get a clearer vision of what you need to work on and start creating your action plan: The 12 week plan.
The 12 Week Plan:
Start by choosing some goals to work towards that will get you closer to your vision. Then for each goal write down tactics that stretch you out of your comfort zone, these have to be actions, that you can implement daily or weekly and measure progress and execution of them.
The 12 week goal is the bridge between your vision and your 12 week plan; your 12 week goal should be a realistic stretch for you. Decide on the progress you are willing to commit to achieving in the next 12 weeks.
Following these criteria makes a great 12-week plan and tactics:
- Each goal and tactic must be specific and measurable.
- State them positively.
- Ensure they are a realistic stretch, not too hard but not too easy for you to not see any change.
- Assign accountability; be honest and make yourself accountable for the execution of those tactics.
- Be time-bound; you must assign a deadline to each tactic and goal.
“Process control is a set of tools and events that help you work your plan even when you get hit in the mouth”
You will not always be motivated, you will not always have willpower, process control is then the system that supports you to keep going and stick to the plan even when it’s cold outside, you’re tired or you just don’t feel like it.
Basically having a clear plan, that has the vital actions you have to take in order to reach your 12-week goal, meaning that having completed them equals progress and gives you that little push you need.
Also having a weekly accountability meeting (WAM) with a team, or partner willing to do this side by side will help you stay on track, sharing your progress, your weekly execution score, what worked, what didn’t, and how to improve the plan.
Then scoring your week based on execution of the tactics, planning your next week accordingly, and participating in a weekly accountability meeting will be your weekly routine that keeps you on track and focused on your objectives.
We need to start keeping scores of not only the achievements but the execution of the tactics that lead to them. Only this way we’ll make sure that the actions we are taking are working or not. To measure progress we are presented to Lead and Lag indicators which we need to keep track of.
- Lag indicators are the end result, the weight you want to reach, the grade you want to score, etc. Your 12 week goals are your ultimate lag indicators, these are what we usually measure.
- Lead indicators are the things that happen early in the execution process, the miles you run, the amount of hours you spend studying, etc. Whatever indicator you decide to measure make sure to track and record your progress each week for every goal.
On the 12 Week Year they present us a Weekly Scorecard which shows the percentage of tactics that you completed in the previous week, aim to reach 85% or more, but if you reach less than that don’t be discouraged and keep striking for progress and getting better week by week.
Don’t be afraid to confront what the numbers are telling you, remember that a weekly scorecard of less than 85% isn’t necessarily bad if you’ve been having an improvement from previous weeks, just commit to making progress each week.
On The 12 Week Year we are encouraged to take control of our time and make it the most valuable resource we have, therefore, reducing interruptions by blocking your time and setting timeframes to specific actions instead of multitasking and trying to do it all at the same time.
There are three primary components of performance time: strategic blocks, buffer blocks, and breakout blocks, after you’ve saved time for those you can plan around the remaining time and your progress will keep up.
- Strategic block: 3 hours of uninterrupted time scheduled each week, you will focus all your energy in producing breakthrough results. These will be high-value activities that contribute to your long term vision.
- Buffer blocks: 30 minute, to an hour daily; designed to deal with all the unplanned and low-value activities like emails, phone-calls, etc. The power of these blocks comes from grouping together activities that tend to be unproductive but have to be done, therefore, placing them in a defined block of time you will gain great control of your day, not having to deal with them every couple of hours distracting you from high value activities.
- Breakout blocks: at least 3 hours long weekly break from anything related to work, this is to release stress, do different activities to refresh, and reinvigorate yourself so when you return to work, you can engage with more focus and energy.
Accountability as Ownership
We need to let go of the negative tag that accountability has, you can’t hold someone else accountable because it is a matter of oneself; accountability is being responsible, honest, and taking ownership of our acts and their immediate and future results.
Interest vs. Commitment
When you’re interested in doing something, you’ll only do it when circumstances permit it, you’ll find excuses not to do it, and sometimes those excuses will make total sense for you and for anyone else.
When you’re committed to something you will do whatever it takes to reach it, you’ll accept no excuses, no change of circumstances will take you away from your commitment, you will only accept results.
In this book we are highly encouraged to make commitments, and to be successful in keeping them you need to have:
- A strong desire: it has to be personal and meaningful to you, otherwise, you’ll find excuses not to push through hard times.
- Clear keystone actions to follow
- Awareness of the costs, the downsides of what taking these actions might have on your life, it could be time, money, loss of comfort. Identifying the costs before you commit allows you to consciously choose whether you are willing to pay the price of your commitment.
Greatness in the Moment
The moment you decide to change and start implementing keystone daily actions in order to reach your goals you are already reaching greatness.
In the book they give the example of Michael Phelps, he didn’t achieve greatness when he won his eighteenth gold medal or when he won his first. But every day he went to the pool and made his practices, every workout, meal choose, every action he took that lead him to winning from day one is what made him great from the start.
Results are not the attainment of greatness, but simply the confirmation of it. You become great long before the results show it.
This system of a 12 Week Year with quarterly goals to reach and look up to, it made me change the way I approach my goals, I’m truly motivated to implement these tactics into my life and I’m ready for the improvement it will bring.
I will be sharing the crafting of my vision and my 12-week plan, because I know it might seem overwhelming at first, I had to re-read some chapters to understand the system and how to implement the tactics.
Overall, this is a great book, if you’re willing to reinstall your “operating system” and are open to change and improve your life with a different approach.