How do you plan your day? Your week? Your year? Most likely, business planning and performance goals are laid out for an entire year.
The fact is, a year is just too long for most people to plan for. In January, you psychologically think you have plenty of time to complete your goals … after all, you have a full 12 months! There’s no sense of urgency.
But then, two months pass … six months. Half the year is now gone, and you haven’t focused properly on your goals. You have no doubt done some things. You have an annual plan, after all.
If you didn’t accomplish what you were hoping to do up to this point, and you’re behind … well, that’s fine, you tell yourself. “I still have half a year to get things done!”
There is this magical thinking that you will somehow become more productive in the second half of the year.
The calendar turns to November, and now you are stressing out. You see the end of the year. Deadlines are looming. You are super focused and work at a manic pace to meet performance targets.
Then comes Christmas and the New Year. Okay, you didn’t get everything done you were hoping for. However, with January looming, you begin to have this high again. Next year will be better! You can start fresh, and you have high expectations for yourself.
It’s now a new year. You are energized for a few weeks. But the winter is long. It’s plenty of time to December to get your new business goals accomplished. You begin to slow down and relax.
Do you see the pattern emerging?
The 12 Week Year Concept
The most important concept in the 12 Week Year is in the name … instead of setting goals annually (as in, periods of 52 weeks), you shift your focus to periods of 3 months, or 12 weeks.
Thinking in terms of a 12 week year is the most important psychological “hack” to increasing your productivity.
Instead of going through this manic cycle of being your most productive the last three months of the year, you have this energy, focus and productivity ongoing and renewing every 12 weeks.
The result of thinking in these shorter time periods is a heightened sense of urgency and focus. A deadline is always in focus. It is no longer “over the horizon.” 12 weeks gives you a long enough time to get things done, but a short enough time to see your looming deadlines. Every week is now important.
The 12 Week Year is based on a book and training by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. Putting it into practice was a game-changer for my business and way of thinking. I use it in not only for my business planning, but to achieve my personal goals as well. I highly recommend picking it up. You can find it pretty well in any bookstore or Amazon.
Planning and Executing Your First 12 Week Year
First, you have to actively shift your mindset to accomplishing your goals in 12 weeks.
Next, work backwards and develop structured tasks on how to reach these goals.
There are eight steps to this process. Let’s plan everything now!
Step 1: Map out your grand vision and goals
Begin your planning far, far out. I’m talking about 10 to 15 year aspirational goals. What is the ultimate vision for yourself? This includes your personal life, family and your business.
By visualizing your grand vision, you need to desire this over the short-term discomfort of doing hard work. It is one thing to write down uncomfortable tasks, such as filming a video of yourself. It is quite another to actually DO IT. Be emotionally connected to your vision! Print out a picture and keep it at your desk. Remind yourself constantly of it.
Then, think of your 5 year goals. To achieve your grand vision, where do you have to be in 5 years?
Finally, focus in further to 3 year goals. What do you have to do to accomplish your 5 year goals?
Step 2: Your 12-Week Objectives
What can you break down and accomplish in 12 weeks to get towards your 3-year goals?
This is where the magic starts to happen. What you need to do identify the top 1 to 5 objectives that will have the greatest impact towards fulfilling your long-term goals. One to three objectives per 12 week period is best.
Too many objectives and you risk introducing too much complexity and doing too many things. The goal is to be intensely great working on a few things rather than being mediocre, spread out and unfocused doing a lot of things.
Step 3: Brainstorm lists for each goal
Break down into tasks what you need to do to achieve your 12-week goals. Don’t worry about the order. Brainstorm and write down everything you can think of that you have to do to achieve a certain objective in 3 months time.
For instance, if you have a personal goal of losing 15 pounds in 12 weeks, what tasks do you need to do?
If you want to make a business income of $2,000/month, what are all the tasks you need to do to reach that?
Step 4: Weed out the unnecessary tasks
Step 3 was brainstorming all the tasks you need to do to achieve your 12-week goals. Now it’s time to identify the critical tasks and remove those that you don’t really need to do to still accomplish your goals.
For instance, if you are launching a new website, you may have “Design a logo” as one of those tasks. Having a logo is nice, but not critical to achieving your goals. Cross it out and only focus on those tasks absolutely necessary to make an income. You can do that in your next 12 week period once every other critical element is complete.
Step 5: Order and assign your tasks
Now that you have a shorter, more focused list, move them into logical order and assign due dates to them.
If you have a business partner or a team, you can assign tasks to other people as well. Outsourcing your tasks is a very effective way to supercharge the growth of your business, and this planning technique easily incorporates that.
Step 6: Add your tasks to your plan
Now is the time to begin organizing everything into a plan. Using a simple spreadsheet, create 12 columns for 12 weeks. Label them Week 1 to Week 12, with your dates.
Now, combine your business, personal and any other tasks to each week. As you add them, you can begin to see the big picture of your 12 week year. If you find some weeks are too intense, adjust your plan accordingly.
You’ll notice that 12 x 4 adds up to 48 weeks, leaving you with 4 weeks. I actually divide everything into 13 weeks, leaving the last week as a mini-break or to play catch up!
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Step 7: Build your weekly plan
Now is the time to build down to the micro details. For example, what exactly will you be doing on Monday morning, the 3rd week?
In this final step, using the information in your spreadsheet from Step 6, build out ALL 12 weeks at once into a calendar format. This accomplishes two things:
- You lock your tasks in, and so know EXACTLY what you need to do on a certain day.
- You can see the big picture of how doing these tasks will lead to you accomplishing your goals at the end of 12 weeks.
Use Google calendar, Google Docs, an Excel spreadsheet, or your favourite planning software to add and lock these tasks in. Have the ability to print them out on a daily, weekly or monthly basis, so you can easily refer to them.
By adding all your tasks at once, they are also measurable. You now know that doing task A will lead to task B, which leads onwards to completing a certain objective.
By spending time and energy writing these 12 weeks out, you are now locked in and invested to accomplish it. You are more confident, better organized, and more focused to do them, because you know that by doing them you will accomplish the goals you set out to do.
Step 8: Scorecard and Review
At the end of the week, you will review what you have accomplished. Don’t expect to accomplish everything! You are not a machine. Strive for excellence, not perfection. If you complete 60% – 85% of your tasks, then you will likely still achieve most of your 12 week goals because of the flexibility built into the system.
There will be times where you will have a bad week and not perform well. That’s okay. Everybody, at one time or another, struggles with their tasks. This process isn’t about being perfect. It’s about getting things done, and if you accomplish a majority of your tasks, you are still ahead.
Next week, I will talk about how to actually construct your week, with the concepts of time blocks, making it flexible, and how to still get a lot done even if you work a full-time day job!