Tag Archives: success

Essential books for entrepreneurs: The 12 Week Year

As someone who implemented David Allen’s Getting Things Done methodology back in 2009, I’m no stranger to the review process. The weekly review is the element that keeps the system running. Over the years, I moved from just a weekly review to also implementing monthly and quarterly reviews. To top it off, an end of year review and goal setting day seemed to be a significant amount of personal time given to strategic thinking and planning.

Yet somehow, I still didn’t always achieve my most important goals.

The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran is an interesting take on how to achieve greater success and results, rather than being purely a productivity system.

Near the beginning of the book, Moran offers up this truth: there are always more ideas than you can effectively implement. Any entrepreneur or freelancer trying to build a business will have experienced this. It is more often than not the source of that subtle source of procrastination – with so much you could do, where do you start?

“The number one problem is a lack of execution”

Moran’s answer is to begin by getting rid of the annual goal setting process. His underlying reasons for this actually make a lot of sense. With a whole year ahead, it is easy to overestimate what you will do and fill your plan with projects that will never come to fruition. Twelve months feels like a long time, whereas twelve weeks is in the foreseeable future. You can complete a major project in twelve weeks, but you are less likely to attempt three or four that then linger with the faint whiff of failure associated to them.

Instead, the twelve week year is designed to give you a tactical framework to shift your mindset. It is a system that creates accountability, deadlines and focus on key opportunities.

By working only on activities that focus you on the main goals for that twelve week sprint, rather than a longer term vision, he argues that you will achieve as much – if not more – than you would with a set of yearly goals that continually get deferred until the final quarter.

The 12 Week Year does not dismiss vision and longer term strategy entirely. It is essential to have some higher level overview to determine which projects are the vital ones for the next twelve weeks.  The subtle shift is changing the emphasis so that a failure in the current twelve week cycle can’t be ‘made up’ later on in the end of the year. Instead, daily habits and actions build momentum to achieve the ‘end of year’ success in a quarter of the time. To make sure the days are planned with tasks that are actionable and measurable, rather than drifting through towards some vague goal, is essential to staying on track. It becomes about clarity and adding value, rather than simply completing a task list.

My one major criticism of the book is that it doesn’t give enough emphasis to the potential dangers of burnout. Renewal is hugely important, especially when you are working for yourself and there is no forced cut off time at 5pm where you forget about the day. As an entrepreneur it is more likely that your projects feel more like passions, which in turn means you are more likely to push on to the point of exhaustion.

This book encourages the reader towards working frequent cycles of high intensity activity, but doesn’t address the dangers of this in a balanced way. Working consistently on a project at a high level requires more than giving yourself  ‘a weekend off’ at the end of the twelve weeks to recover.

However, I’ve used The 12 Week Year to complete a significant number of projects that have been hanging around on my yearly goals list for a while now. The techniques have been proven to produce results. For anyone starting out who needs to take charge of their own career, or for those who want to finally achieve things they’ve been dreaming of for years, I would thoroughly recommend this book.


Life, Death and Achieving Goals

So, I have once again committed the cardinal sin of the aspiring author. Neglecting my platform building yadda, yadda, yadda. But now, as the crazy months of summer begin to fade, I thought it would be a good time to return. Because this week has been about reflecting on life, acknowledging death and celebrating achieving goals.

It is important, for this first time in my life, I am seeing these things and being grateful for them in a context where it’s not all about me. Yes, the past few months have been crazy, but that is because I have spent so much time helping other people do what they can to live out the best life they can offer themselves. My own dreams and aspirations certainly haven’t been on the back burner, as I’ve actually continued to be consistent about getting up at 6am each morning and doing my 1500 words. I’ve even taken the plunge and started submitting again. But I am also starting to appreciate the joy that comes from building a close network of strong relationships where everyone is invested in giving each other a hand up when they can.

sunsetAnd this celebration of living a good life was brought to a poignant reminder this week when I attended the funeral of a friend who had finally lost a long battle with a brain tumour. It was my first humanist service and it was quite beautiful. The clear emphasis on celebrating life rather than mourning and resenting death seemed so appropriate. Never ever had I seen her complain about her lot in life or do anything other than live each day to the very best of her capabilities. People always imagine they will be tirelessly strong and positive in these kinds of life-altering scenarios, but few actually are when the chips are down. It was an inspiration to see; even though it took death to make me really aware of it.

Finally, in the spirit of appreciation, my sister has achieved a goal she has been working towards and I am so proud of her. Not just for the success, but for the completion of such an immense task in the face of odds which would make a normal person throw their hands up and walk away. The outcome is fantastic, but for me the privilege has been watching her take the journey and letting me walk with her some of the way. When she cracks open a bottle of champagne tonight, I will also raise a glass here, no doubt in the direction of the old man’s urn on the windowsill there, because I know he would have loved the chance to be as proud of her as I am.