Reaching Your Goals via the 12 Week Year System

The Problem of Yearly Planning

The 12 Week Year

Every January millions of people create lists of resolutions that will go largely undone. Each year businesses and organizations create goals they would like to accomplish, but don’t.

Brian Moran asks, “Why?”

Moran believes focusing on yearly goals limits us. He observes that most people don’t do much with yearly goals in the first part of the year. After all, we rationalize, we have plenty of time. So, we plod along with goals hanging over our head, believing we will get to them eventually.

Around November we realize we have some goals that may not be met, so we scramble around doing everything we can to attain them. We end up stressed out and not doing our best work. Our goals suffer, but so does everything else.

A Twelve Week Year

Moran suggests that viewing twelve weeks as a year, provides a better system for reaching our goals. After following this system for about six months, I agree. The concept is simple, but powerful.

An AsianEfficiency article breaks down the 12 Week Year system as:

  • Create a compelling vision of the future,
  • Plan what strategies and action steps will get you closer to the future, and
  • Measure your execution to keep on track.

They are correct to admit the 12 Week Year is simple in theory, but not in execution. This article outlines my attempt to implement the 12 Week Year.

Six Steps

Brian Moran’s 12 Week Year system has helped me move forward on several goals and projects. I view the system as six steps:

1. Determine your goal(s)

If you don’t know where you are going, any old road will get you there. The first step is to know where you want to go. You may have a macro vision of where you want your life to go, but for the 12 Week Year you need to dial it down some. What could you do over the next twelve weeks that will move you closer to your macro vision?

Accomplishing one to three goals would be plenty. Remember, each twelve week period you will be focusing on a new goal. Instead of looking at a few goals a year, you focus on a few goals over twelve weeks.

Goals are driven by vision and values. Without knowing what your vision or values are you will struggle with goal creation. If you aren’t sure of what you want out of life (vision) or what’s truly important (values), I suggest you find some resources that can help you determine both your vision and values. There are plenty of online resources for purpose discovery. Here’s a Forbe’s article giving six ways that can help you.

Knowing your purpose provides direction which helps you determine which goals are worth pursuing. Once you know your vision and values, you begin to gain clarity, enabling good goal creation.

2. Break Goals/Projects into Actionable Tactics

Once you have your goal, it must be broken down into actionable “tactics.”

Most goals are too big in scope to “do.” David Allen discusses the impossibility of “doing” a “project.” Most goals are closer to Allen’s concept of a project than an actionable step. You can not “do” a project. A project must be broken down into several single actions which can be done. The same can be said for a goal.

Break your goal down into multiple action steps!

3. Assign Weekly Tactics/Rituals

The power a productivity system is doing. Planning is needed, but if you never get around to ‘doing’, you will spin your wheels, never reaching your goal. Assigning each tactic as a weekly accomplishment milestone ensures that you continue moving forward.

In a 12 Week Year, you have rituals and tactics. Activities done every day such as drinking 64 oz of water or having a morning routine, are rituals. Rituals are powerful because they become a part of who we are. Once rituals become habits, we no longer have to extend as much energy. While rituals are to be performed every day, tactics may be only performed once or a few times during a 12 Week Year.

For three goals you may have a few tactics to perform, along with daily rituals. When trying to drop a few pounds, a daily ritual of exercise will move you toward your goal. To create a series of videos, one of your weekly tactics may be writing the script, creating a presentation, or shooting the video. If you are making sales, you may have a certain amount of calls you want to make.

Moran talks about lead and lag indicators. Goals, for the most part, are lag indicators. He suggests focusing on the lead indicators because we have more control over them. We can’t control whether someone purchases our product (lag), but we can control how many sales calls we make (lead). By focusing on the lead indicators, the lag indicators will follow.

4. Keep a Weekly Scorecard

Once you know your tactics and rituals, the next step is to do them! Action moves us forward. Tactics are basically the lag indicators, or, in other words, the work we must do to get us to the goal we desire. The weekly scorecard answers the question, “Are you doing the work?”

The weekly scorecard tracks how successful we are at accomplishing our tactics and rituals. If we do well, we move toward our goal, if we do poorly, we are stuck where we’ve always been. The scorecard measures movement.

Moran says that if you perform 85% of your weekly tactics/rituals you will meet your 12 week goal. I’m finding that even if I don’t hit 85%, I’m at least moving toward my goal. I might not make the goal, but I’ve made headway toward my goal.

The scorecard requires some math. Basically, you divide the “actions performed” by the “actions required.” Each time you “do” a tactic or ritual, you count it as a point. Don’t do the action, then no point for you. Each week you add up the action points and divide that number by the number of possible actions.

For example, you commit yourself to drink 64 oz of water every day, exercise 6 days a week, read 5 days a week, set a meeting date, and talk with Joe about Project X. Adding up all the rituals and tactics, you have 20 actions. If you drink 64 oz of water for 7 days, get to the gym 5 days, read 5 days, talk to Joe, but fail to set a meeting date, you end up with 18 points. Some quick math shows you hit 90% of you weekly tactics. Congratulations!

5. Make Adjustments

While I attempt to hit 85%, sometimes I don’t. One of the nice things about the system is the ability to reassess as you progress. If my success rate is 60%, I have the opportunity to determine what obstacles or challenges got in the way. Am I trying to do too much? Am I not using my time well? I can then attempt to change some things.

One potential issue may be that the system is not weighted. In my example above, drinking water may be important to my overall health, but missing a day or two of drinking water may not be as important as failing to talk with Joe. Depending on the importance of that discussion, I may hit 90% of my weekly milestones, but undermine my ability to move forward. Setting priorities is important, but may be overlooked.

I have not thought through how to weight the scorecard, giving more important tactics a higher value, but I’m sure it could be done. Perhaps having a “priority value” that is used as a multiplier could help. Nevertheless, the scorecard gives insight into areas of reluctance and procrastination.

I’m in my 2nd series of goals. Over the past few weeks I have had training events and vacation. During this time, I’ve found it difficult keeping up with my tactics and rituals. There’s one of my rituals, logging my food intake, that I really don’t want to do. Neglecting food logging really brings my success percentage down.

I don’t want to log my food. However, five weeks ago, I made a commitment to myself to lose weight. My past self decided to log my food intake to help with weight loss. My current self does not want to do it.

I have a choice. I can either decide that my past self was wrong, give my present self a break by taking that ritual off my list, OR, do my future self a favor by logging my food now, so in a few months I will be closer to my ideal weight.

Both options are valid. One choice leads to change and health, the other option keeps me at the status quo. Three days ago I started, begrudgingly, tracking my food intake. This struggle shows the power of the 12 Week Year system at work!

6. Stay Accountable

One area of Moran’s system I haven’t implemented yet, is the weekly accountability check-in. He says this is one of the most powerful parts of his system. If you are interested in a weekly accountability meeting (WAM), drop me a note. We can do it via video.

Action Steps

  • Take a look at the 12 week year website
  • Get Brian’s Book
  • Spend time working on your “Why” (vision/values)

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