Most people say they want to be more productive. I get it, you want to get more done. The problem is that you don’t want to get some random ‘more’ done. What you really want is to get more of the right stuff done.
For that reason I don’t say I want to get more productive, I say I want to get more effective.
About 4 years ago I started to make a proper plan for my business got more effective. That simple act of being a bit more intentional meant that I more than doubled my revenue and had a 6 figure business.
Sitting four years later, I still have that 6 Figure business, but it hasn’t grown that much. It’s time to move past having any plan and in to having highly effective plan.
This effective plan is where The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington comes in.
In this book we will show you how to increase your current results by four times or more, in a very short period of time. You will learn exactly what it takes to perform at your best every day. We will unwrap the secrets of top performers in a way that allows you to align your thinking and your actions to produce staggering results.
The one key that you need to get this four times increase in your results is execution. Not run of the mill average execution, but intentional planned out daily execution. Steps planned out and taken regularly towards your goals.
You can be smart and have access to lots of information and great ideas; you can be well connected, work hard, and have lots of natural talent, but in the end you have to execute. Execution is the single greatest market differentiator. Great companies and successful individuals execute better than their competition. The barrier standing between you and the life you are capable of living is lack of consistent execution.
The 12 Week year is going to teach you how to execute on your dreams. It’s going to help you get the goals you have on paper and then build a plan to systematically accomplish them.
Moran and Lennington break the book up in to two main sections. Part one gives us an overview of what The 12 Week Year process looks like. Part two gives us the tools we need to put The 12 Week Year plan in to practice in our life and work.
The first curve ball that Moran and Lennington throw at us is that building annual goals is a flawed process. Are goals important, yes. Setting them for a standard 12 month year is not what’s going to get us the results we want. They call this annualized thinking.
Another flawed premise with annualized thinking is the notion that, sometime later in the year, we will experience a significant improvement in results. It’s as if something magical will happen in late September or October that will result in a substantial increase. If we can’t produce a substantial increase this week, why do we think we can do it for the entire year?
We’ve all heard, and likely been a statistic, that gyms have the highest attendance from January to maybe the middle of February. After that the willpower needed to get up early to hit the gym is exhausted. We stop going and fall back in to the old patterns.
Or maybe you’ve been the business owner who sets out an ambitious income goal for the year. You work hard for a few months at the beginning of the year and are doing well. Then things get a bit over busy and you kind let things go on auto-pilot. You look up in October and realize you’re off track for your goals and with a few months of effort manage to hit them.
Imagine what could have happened if you had put in a full 12 months of focused effort.
Now Moran and Lennington would contend that many people don’t fall in to this second scenario. As quoted above, if you’re not producing results now what’s going to change later in the year to make some exponential change in your work?
Often nothing, and yes I’ve been there.
The thing with using their 12 Week Year plan is that it’s all action. If your goal is more sales, you write down that you want to make 3 new contacts a week and at the end of the week you’ve either done it or not. If you’re staying on track then you’ve talked to 36 new people in a 12 week cycle and some of them will have turned in to sales.
Without a compelling reason to choose otherwise, most people will take comfortable actions over uncomfortable ones. The issue is that the important actions are often the uncomfortable ones.
When you realize in the second week of 12 that you’re not getting the three people you look at ways to talk about what you do more. You find networking events and show up to talk about what you do. Because the action is clearly defined and measurable, you’re either doing it or not. You can’t fool yourself on auto-pilot.
It’s these clear consistent actions that will get you to the goals you want.
Your current actions are creating your future. If you want to know what your future holds, look to your actions; they are the best predictor of your life.
Moran and Lennington tell us that time control is crucial to achieving what we want. Showing up and giving work ‘butt in chair’ time isn’t enough. They define 3 types of time blocks that each of us need in our ideal week if we want to succeed.
1. Strategic Blocks
This is a three hour block with no interruptions. No email. No calls. No text messages. In fact, take your phone and put it in another room or power it off.
Inside this block you work on the business. It’s not time to catch up on the client work you’re behind on. It’s time to plot the growth of your business. Do you have the assets you need? What is constraining your growth currently and how are you going to remove that constraint?
Strategic blocks concentrate your intellect and creativity to produce breakthrough results.
The authors say that you only need one of these blocks in a week because you’re going to keep it focused on the task at hand.
2. Buffer Blocks
Life rarely goes as planned. You wake up to an extra 50 emails that need to get dealt with. Something goes wrong with a client and instead of getting the tasks on your list done, you have to deal with a problem you didn’t anticipate.
That’s what the second time block is for.
Buffer blocks are designed to deal with all of the unplanned and low-value activities — like most email and voicemail — that arise throughout a typical day.
This has a dual use. First, it gives us time that’s planned for things we can’t plan for. Second, it puts a time constraint on the buffer. Given no time limit, we’ll look up after a few hours and realize that we did little of worth but answer emails.
You should schedule some buffer in to each day because there is almost always something that you didn’t plan for and still have to deal with.
3. Breakout Blocks
The third block of time we need in our week is the breakout block.
An effective breakout block is at least three-hours long and spent on things other than work. It is time scheduled away from your business during normal business hours that you will use to refresh and reinvigorate your mind, so that when you return to work, you can engage with more focus and energy.
This might be a bike ride or a hike or hanging out with the kids. I know you wonder how you’ll get everything done if you put a block like this in the week. You’re already maxed out. If you’re being effective and getting in some real deep work with the rest of your time then you have lots of time to have a break out block.
The goal is to exit this block feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the things you need to focus on.
Now with a firm understanding of how The 12 Week Year will work, Moran and Lennington move on to Part II, giving us the tools we need to implement a 12 Week Year.
Part II: Putting it all together
According to the authors there are eight fundamental elements to high performance. They break these items up in to 3 Principles and 5 Disciplines.
Accountability: This is the character to own your actions even when it sucks. It’s realizing that if you didn’t talk to 3 new people this week, that’s your fault and you need to build a plan to make it happen next week.
Commitment: Commitment is sticking to that personal promise you make to yourself. Not letting yourself off the hook even when no one else will know you gave yourself some slack.
Greatness in the moment: Greatness in the Moment is running that extra mile, making that extra sale email. It’s the little extra that champions give when everyone else figures they’ve done enough.
You become great long before the results show it. It happens in an instant, the moment you choose to do the things you need to do to be great, and each moment that you continue to choose to do those things.
Planning: Planning is the clarity and focus you get by defining the actions that will get you to your goal.
Process Control: Process Control is all about the tools and actions you put in your day to make sure that you’re spending your time on those items that will bring in the revenue you want, or accomplish the goals you set out.
Measurement: This is having the leading and lagging indicators you need to track to be a successful business owner.
Time use: Effective time use is about taking control of your time so that you use it on the right tasks instead of letting it spin out of your control like most people do.
With these 8 criteria defined we can dive in to the 5 main criteria needed for an effective 12 week plan.
5 Criteria for a 12 week plan
1. Specific and measurable
For each goal be sure to quantify and qualify what success looks like.
If you don’t define success up front, then it’s always easy to get to the end and say that were ever you happen to be is the goal you always intended. For an upcoming ultramarathon I could say that finishing is my goal, but my goal is to finish the 50km run in under 8 hours.
Don’t set a goal without saying what success looks like.
2. State them positively
Second, state your goals positively. If you’re trying to reduce mistakes you don’t say “Only have a 2% error rate” you say “Aim for 98% effectiveness”.
3. Make sure they are realistic
With my ultramarathon I could say my goal is to win it, but I’ve never been built like a lean runner. I’ve always been built like a weight lifter or rock climber. With 8 months training under my belt it would be more than a stretch goal, it would be unrealistic. Now I do have one training run planned that’s about the same distance and elevation profile which is also planned to evaluate my goal. If I can complete the 45km in under 8 hours then I need to adjust my goal to still be a stretch.
Your goals should be something you can accomplish if you put in the hard work needed.
4. Assign accountability
If you’re on a team then you need to know who is responsible for each aspect of a project. Leaving it up in the air ensures that everyone will feel it was someone else’s responsibility.
5. Be Time-bound
Deadlines keep things moving. In fact, I don’t care about an ultramarathon. I do want to move faster in the mountains and a deadline of racing an ultramarathon means I have a deadline. Having a time goal means I need to be specific with my training.
Deadlines keep things moving.
I’ll end this look at The 12 Week Year with 2 great quotes from the book.
Remember you have greater control over your actions than you do your outcomes. Your outcomes are driven by your actions.
We have all heard stories of people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions and blame others for their failures. It’s their parents fault, their boss’s fault, the fault of the conservatives or liberals, the cigarette companies, the fast-food industry – the system is out to get them. Whah, whah, whah! Someone or something else is always the cause of their failure. Our culture supports this victim mentality more and more. In fact, our legal system even promotes it. We now reward people for not taking responsibility for their choices and finding someone or something other than themselves to blame.
If you want to have the business you dreamed of you need to take these quotes to heart. You need to build an action based plan. You need to take responsibility for what’s happening in your life.
If business is slow, then you need to be honest with yourself about the number of failed projects you’ve had in the last 12 months. You need to put a better plan in to action.
No more “Whah, whah what…” for you.
The best recommendation I can give this book is that I’ve adopted The 12 Week Year planning process in my work. I’ve adopted it as part of my coaching.
And it’s working.
photo by: pasukaru76