The 12 Week Year
By Brian P Moran and Michael Lennington
Authors Brian Moran and Michael Lennington state that they are on a mission to work with people – be they individuals, teams, or organisations – to help them unlock the secret to performing at their best and thereby living the life they are truly capable of achieving. It’s their belief that the vast majority of people fail to live up to their full potential, and this is mainly because most of us never set any goals in life, and most who do never go on to achieve any of them. They say that, deep down, most of us know there’s a better life available to us, yet most of us continue to live our day to day lives just as they are, often procrastinating over or simply fearing change.
The message they want readers to receive is that living a better life requires putting in a better effort, and this book is a ‘how-to’ that teaches not only what it takes, but how to do what it takes to be your best every day and, crucially, make things happen in life. According to the authors, the information they share in the pages of the book will increase current results in life by four or five times, producing “staggering results,” but they also promise that it’s not an overly complicated process. In their words, “effective execution is the path to accomplish the things you desire,” and while they acknowledge that it’s not always a walk in the park, effort is required, they have written this book to take the reader by the hand and walk them through everything they need to know and, most importantly, do to get more done in 12 weeks than others do in 12 months.
My Top 3 Takes from the Summary
“Annualized thinking” is a trap that limits success
Thinking in annual terms often leads to putting things off until later as there’s plenty of time to get around to it, but this is effectively putting off achieving goals
Actions lead to results, and those actions get taken daily when the target is only 12 weeks away
Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months
Through their research, the authors believe the commonly used annual planning and goal setting process to be a barrier to high performance. It’s not unusual for individuals or companies to organise their goals in this way, putting plans in place for the year ahead, but the authors have found this type of “annualized thinking” to be a trap that limits success. This is because people might set annual goals and then break those goals down into quarterly, monthly, or even weekly goals, but they still evaluate their success or failure in annual terms, thereby judging their performance over the course of the entire year. The authors point out that this is not to say annual plans are a bad thing, any plan is better than no plan at all, but annualised thinking is not the most effective or efficient way to make things happen or get things done.
The message here is that “Every week counts! Every day counts! Every moment counts!” The authors say, “Annualized thinking blinds people to the reality that life is lived in the moment and that ultimately success is created in the moment.” Thinking in annual terms often leads to putting things off until later as there’s plenty of time to get around to it, but this is effectively putting off achieving goals. Planning over a whole year creates a false sense of security and removes any sense of urgency. If targets set for February or March aren’t achieved, the line of thought is generally that there’s still plenty of time to catch up before the year ends… and the same thoughts prevail right up to the “frantic rush to end the year strong and kick off the new one with gusto.” The energy of this last-minute push to achieve annual targets is energy the authors want readers to harness and utilise to achieve every monthly, weekly, and daily goal, and the focused effort that‘s at the heart of the 12 week year. In short, if the efforts put in to achieving February’s goals failed to get the desired results, why would the same efforts achieve anything different in September or later in the year? This is flawed thinking, or, as the authors write, “It’s as if something magical will happen in late September or October that will result in a substantial increase.”
The Principle of Periodisation
Using the principle of periodisation, the authors developed a 12 week approach that allows people to “focus on the critical factors that drive income and life balance.” They believe that this approach to periodisation leads to longer-term goals actually being achieved because there’s a greater sense of urgency in all daily actions. By redefining the year as 12 weeks instead of 12 months, the buzz and energy once reserved only for end of year pushes is there constantly, driving actions to achieve goals with deadlines that are never more than 12 weeks away. Actions lead to results, and those actions get taken daily when the target is only weeks away.
The Fundamental Elements
According to the authors, there are eight elements that are essential to high performance. They are Vision, Planning, Process Control, Measurement, Time Use, Accountability, Commitment, and Greatness in the Moment. These are then split to give three principles and five disciplines.
The three principles:
Accountability is taking responsibility for an outcome, even when it’s not the intended outcome. The authors make a point of stating that accountability relies on each of us understanding that we have freedom of choice in the actions we take and also in how we react to circumstances and happenings out with our control. Accountability is ownership, and accountable people own the result of their actions, irrespective of the circumstances. They keep asking themselves, “What more can I do to get the result I want?”
Accountability refers to owning an action in the present, commitment refers to making a promise to perform an action in the future. They exist in tandem as commitment is a future effect of accountability. This principle drives personal success, helping you to keep promises made to yourself and to others, improve your self-esteem, and develop greater strength of character through growing as an individual.
3. Greatness in the Moment
The authors define greatness as the moment “an individual makes the choice to do what is necessary to become great.” This means greatness is not the result of doing or achieving something, it’s making the choice to be great in each and every moment.
These three principles determine your success in terms of the 12 week year, and by fully embracing them, you give yourself a solid foundation on which to build and grow. The five disciplines then provide a framework to guide every action you take as “effective execution is the path to accomplish the things you desire.”
The five disciplines:
Your vision paints a clear picture of what the future will look and feel like for you. It needs to encompass every aspect of your life, business and personal, and as such, it provides “a powerful emotional connection that promotes a sustained commitment and continual action.”
A vision on its own is not enough to make it a reality. A solid plan is needed to make a vision effective in terms of moving towards your goals. The authors state that an effective plan will include “top-priority initiatives and actions needed to achieve the vision, constructed in a manner that facilitates effective implementation.”
3. Process Control
The authors explain that process control refers to the “set of tools and events that align your daily actions with the critical actions in your plan.” This means breaking your plan down into daily actions and events, ensuring your time is spent doing the things that keep you on track to your goal.
Regular measurement of your process is necessary to determine its effectiveness. Without measurement, valuable feedback and insights concerning the outcomes of your daily actions become lost, making it difficult to ascertain whether tweaks in the process are needed to get the most out of it. Measurement allows corrections to be made.
5. Time Use
The authors point out that even though you might have a clear vision, a detailed plan, carefully thought out processes, and on-point measurements to analyse your results, you may still fail to reach your goals. This is because it all comes down to how you use your time. Unless you spend your time intentionally, distractions can steal your focus and limit your productivity. How you use your time is critical to your success.
All five disciplines are interconnected, and each one has an impact on the others. The authors comment that developing a clear vision is choosing to “live a life by design,” but if there’s no plan to guide actions, then all you have is “a pipe dream.” If there’s a vision and a plan but no process control in place, you’re likely to become frustrated as your results from day to day will be inconsistent. If there’s no measurement of your process, there’s no way to determine its effectiveness, and even with all the above in place, if you’re not intentional in your use of time, then you’re not controlling your day, your day is controlling you.
Staying On Track
The main attraction for readers of this book is the promise of getting more done in 12 weeks than others get done in 12 months. It’s a promise that’s backed up with case studies detailing the experiences of companies and individuals who have taken on board the principles and disciplines of the 12 week year and made things happen for them. However, the authors acknowledge that this process involves a complete change in thinking in relation to time, and therefore it’s a change that’s likely to present challenges along the way. To help with this, they openly discuss the pitfalls you may face, not least the common need for instant gratification, and keep putting forward reminders that continuing to follow the visions, plans, and processes you have in place will help you to overcome such obstacles and keep you on track to achieving your goals.
Hitting targets or milestones four times each year rather than just once after a big year-end push is highly motivational, and whether the rewards are professional or personal, shorter intervals from one celebration of success to the next encourages everyone to push harder and stay consistent in their efforts.
The authors speak from experience, having researched and coached their 12 week year concept for over a decade. The aim of the book is to teach readers how to get more out of life by showing them how to perform at their best in every moment of every day. They state that through their work with clients they noticed a pattern: success or failure was typically being judged on what had been achieved over an entire year. Changing this thinking to view the ’year’ as 12 weeks instead of 12 months leads to “staggering results” because the energy of the end of year push becomes energy that drives a top performance every day.
This book is an excellent resource for anyone looking to get more out of life, and anyone choosing to follow the authors clearly set out advice will not only learn how to make change happen, they’ll learn how to get things done by getting much more out of every moment of time they have. It’s more than a source of information, it’s a guide to doing what needs to be done because “effective execution is the path to accomplish the things you desire.”
Bio of the Authors
Brian P Moran is a motivational keynote speaker, widely recognised leadership thought leader, productivity expert, and bestselling author. He has over 30 years of experience and expertise as a CEO, corporate executive, entrepreneur, consultant, and coach.
Michael Lennington is a leading expert in the application of execution systems for individuals, teams, and entire organisations. His work is driven by a desire to help others overcome the thinking and action barriers that keep them from accomplishing what they are capable of.