“The 12 Week Year” is a very good book and a very useful concept, especially for those who repeatedly struggle with accomplishing their yearly goals. Ups, I spilled the beans, but the main idea here is to set your goals and plan for them four times a year, not just once. And it makes all the difference.
This book was great for me in a few aspects and truly solid in several others. As usual, I’ll start my review with the dark side of things, however, the bright side is much brighter than those few shadows. Let’s dive in!
1. Self-help Fallacy.
I fully agree with the lessons from the book which say that your thinking is the true game-changer. Your beliefs and attitudes dictate your actions, which in the effect determine your results. Trying to change only your actions is usually a futile exercise. You will eventually fall back to your old thinking patterns and screw up everything.
Thus, “you need to learn how to manage your thinking and your attitude.” (That’s a direct quote from the book).
Here comes the fallacy: the author seems to think once he states this truth, his readers will realize their errors and somehow, magically, learn to manage their thinking.
The trouble is, the vast majority of people have no idea how to manage their thinking. Hence, they cannot implement the lessons from the book.
Setting goals is childishly easy compared to changing your thinking. Teach me to manage my attitude and I can implement lessons from any book, including this one.
The message goes like this: “I will teach you how to add and subtract numbers (set and accomplish goals); of course, I assume you already know how to calculate difficult integrals (manage your thinking).”
Well, it’s a common mistake. Practically all how-to books fall into this fallacy. And the advice in “The 12 Week Plan” is still golden. I just can’t help but notice the fallacy every single time it appears.
2. Helps Significantly Only for Yearly Goal Maniacs.
“In general, the more frequent a measure is, the more useful it is.”
Thus, when you implement quarterly metrics, you will get significantly better results than with following the yearly ones.
Here comes the ‘but:’ I pay the utmost attention to my daily metrics.
I measure my goals so often that quarterly goals seem like eternity for me. I do at least one session of HIIT workout a day. I gulp two glasses of water every morning. Each day, I write at least 600 words. I publish or republish at least one piece of content a day. I practice speed reading for 10 minutes a day. I make sure that I fast 14 hours every day.
And I track all of the above metrics (in fact, dozens more too) on a daily basis. I already use the useful metrics. I perceive yearly goals as lofty hazy dreams. I focus on here and now, every day.
1. Start with a Vision.
Even if you set just a meager quarterly goal, creating your vision at the beginning is the best thing you can do to accomplish your goals. Goals are future constructs that are loosely based on reality. You cannot use your hands or legs to feel them. You need to use your mind, an ‘organ’ that can reach out into the future.
Sounds like gibberish? Brian Moran said it much better. Read the book, it contains one of the best explanations (and how-tos) about the necessity of vision that I ever read.
2. Useful Reminders.
Plenty of what’s in the book wasn’t new to me. For example, the importance of even the tiniest actions or the utmost importance of daily actions. However, it was all said in a way that recalled those concepts from my mind and renewed them. It’s all good stuff.
I’m allergic to goals and planning. I hate their guts. Or maybe, had hated. 12WY made a big dent in my aversion toward goals and planning.
I always knew, at the intellectual level, that planning is useful. Somehow. My goals-related frustration was too high to really notice the advantages. But I’m a numbers guy and one sentence from 12WY penetrated my shell of frustration:
“If you take time to plan before engaging a complex task, you reduce the overall time required to complete the task by as much as 20 percent.”
If I can just sit on my butt and plan a complex venture, I can save 20% of my time spent on this venture. Wow.
I guess this is how I managed to write my books while juggling a zillion of other responsibilities and projects. From book #6 I always outlined the book and all the necessary steps to publish it.
I started planning my weeks. It improved my productivity. More on this a bit later.
I already quoted a few sentences from the book. Brian has a gift with words. The book is very quotable. My Kindle is full of highlights. As I mentioned, he can talk about the things I already knew in a way that refreshes those old lessons.
Brian goes the extra mile to explain what he means by some concepts that are crucial for his system, especially the ones that are misunderstood in general opinion.
He falls into the preacher mode, especially when talking about accountability. The way he understands it, no one can hold you accountable. You are responsible for your actions, no one else. You must be afraid of the consequences of neglect or those consequences won’t be meaningful for you. You need to have the desire to reach your goals, not someone else.
According to this philosophy, others can hold you capable for something, but not accountable for it.
The book itself wasn’t an ideal fit for me. I already knew the importance of daily actions. Even though I avoided deadlines like the plague and hate the artificial sense of urgency deadlines generate, I was able to accomplish many complex projects in the past. I did that by following my daily action plan with no fixed schedule.
I wrote and published my latest books within 10 months. I probably could’ve compressed that process to into four months. But I consciously chose the slower pace, I didn’t stress myself out of my mind and published the book nonetheless. If you diligently do your daily actions, the final result is just a matter of time.
I also lacked some edge in my actions. I’ve done my first 12 Week year plan and I attest it has made a difference for me.
However, I got most of the benefit by joining a group coaching focused around the book’s message. Accountability and peer support were really what made that difference for me. Dry knowledge without implementation and a meaningful setup rarely helps. Following the 20-80 rule, I say 80% of my results came from the group coaching and 20% from the content of the book.
I set three 12WY goals for myself and I made some progress with each of them. But I’m most amazed by the progress I made on my daily stuff. Thanks to planning out my weeks, I managed to do more on a daily basis. In less than three weeks I tackled about 15 unfinished pieces of content. I caught up all of my tracking activities and at least several months before 12WY I was playing the catch-up game all the time with those tasks. Very often, I lagged a week or two with my tracking. Nowadays, I’m rarely one day behind.
Implementing “The 12 Week Year” definitely moved a needle for me. My productivity improved by a significant margin. I eagerly anticipate what will happen in the rest of 2019 for me.