THE 12 WEEK YEAR with Michael Lennington

Listen to the interview.

Michael Lennington’s new book [co-authored with Brian Moran], The 12 Week Year, offers a new way to think about time and how you use it. In a nutshell, plan your goals in 12 week increments rather than 365 day years. When you do so, you’re far more likely to feel a healthy sense of urgency that gets you focused. And whether your goal is of the business or personal variety, you’ll get far more done in far less time—and you’ll feel a lot less stressed and a lot more in control.

Read on for a few tips on how you can better tackle life’s big to-dos:

Envision a future that’s worth the pain of change. The number-one thing that you will have to sacrifice to be great, to achieve what you are capable of, and to execute your plans, is your comfort. Therefore, the critical first step to executing well is creating and maintaining a compelling vision of the future that you want even more than you desire your own short-term comfort. Then and only then can you align your shorter-term goals and plans with that long-term vision.

Live with intentional imbalance. How many articles, books, and blog posts have you read emphasizing the importance of establishing work/life balance? A lot, right? But where much of the advice on creating work/life balance goes wrong is around the idea of equality. Often, we’re told what we need to do in order to spend equal time in each area of our lives. The result is often unproductive and frustrating. Life balance is not about equal time in each area; life balance is more about intentional imbalance.

Make sure you’re committed, not merely interested. There is a humorous anecdote about commitments involving a chicken and a pig at breakfast time. The chicken has contributed the egg and is therefore merely interested in the breakfast; the pig, however, contributes the bacon, and is thus completely committed. Kept commitments benefit both parties involved by improving relationships, strengthening integrity, and building self-confidence. Commitments are powerful and, oftentimes, life changing.

Put hard (and short) deadlines on what you need to get done. The annual execution cycle many organizations embrace lulls people into believing that they can put things off—critical activity—and still accomplish what they desire, still achieve their goals. It sets one deadline, year-end, which in January—heck, even in July—still feels too far away to spur you into action. But consider the rush of productivity that occurs when a
deadline you have to meet draws closer.

Write down your plan. It lets you make your mistakes on paper. A “plan” in your head isn’t really a plan. It’s wishful thinking. That’s because life gets in the way, and if you don’t have a written plan, you will almost certainly drop the ball in the first few days.  The world is noisy, the unexpected happens, distractions arise, your innate desire for comfort tugs at you, and you lose focus on the things you know you should do. But if you sit down at the start of your 12 weeks and write out your strategy, it forces you to think through potential pitfalls up front.  

Give each goal its own set of tactics. The way your plan is structured and written impacts your ability to effectively execute. Effective planning strikes a working balance between too much complexity and too little detail. Your plan should start by identifying your overall goals for the 12 weeks. (Yes, you may have more than one goal during that time frame.) Then, you’ll need to determine the tactics needed to meet each goal.

Take it one week at a time. To guide you on your journey to completing your tactics and meeting your goals, you’ll need weekly plans. Your weekly plan encompasses your strategies and priorities, your long-term and short-term tasks, and your commitments in the context of time. It helps you focus on the  elements of your plan that must happen each week to keep you on track with your 12 Week Year goals. Your goals in turn keep you on track with your vision.Everything is powerfully aligned.

Keep track of your efforts, not your results. You’ve probably heard or read the mantra “What gets measured gets done.” It’s true: Measurement drives the execution process. After all, can you imagine the CEO of a large corporation not knowing the numbers? As the CEO of your own life and business, you need to know your numbers. But don’t measure your results (how many pounds you lost or how much commission you earned)—instead, measure your level of execution (the extent to which you stuck to your diet and exercise plan and the number of sales calls you made).

Block your time. The 12 Week Year is designed to help you spend your time with more intention. That said, many of us engage each day on its own terms. In other words, we satisfy the various demands of the day as they are presented; spending whatever time is needed to respond without giving much thought as to the relative value of the activity. Moran says you can regain control of your day through time blocking.


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