• September 2013

Would You Get More Done If You Switched to a 12-Week Year?

By Brian P. Moran
The 12 Week Year

Think back to the last significant goal you set for yourself, personal or professional.

How long did you give yourself to reach it? Chances are you said something like this: “I’m going to lose 30 pounds this year,” or “I’m going to increase my sales by 15 percent this year,” or “Our company is going to open five more branch locations this year.”

We love to use the 365 day year as a natural execution cycle because it’s comfortable. It gives us 12 long months to make things happen, which makes us feel like we have plenty of time to accomplish our goals.

And that’s the problem: 12 months is too much time—12 weeks is far better.

When you believe you have 12 months to complete a task, it’s all too easy to waste one, or two, or three, or more of them telling yourself you still have plenty of time to catch up. Annualized thinking kills urgency.

But when you’re trying to reach important goals, whether personal or professional, every week counts, every day counts, every moment counts.

It’s not that we don’t have good ideas, good intentions, and the know-how to turn our plans into reality. We do. The problem is we’re slack on execution.

Ultimately, effective execution happens daily and weekly and on a consistent basis. To perform at your best, you will need to get out of “annual mode” and stop thinking in terms of a 365 day year.

Here are six reasons why.

1. It reduces uncertainty and defines actions. Most annual plans are objective based, not action based, because it is nearly impossible to predict the action needed four or more months out. They’ll tell you what has to be achieved, but they don’t specify how. That’s problematic, because when the “how” is not clearly defined, you lose a sense of scope and can easily take on more than you can physically execute.

2. It sparks a vital sense of urgency. Have you ever worked in an organization that relied on a year-end push? During the last few months of the calendar or fiscal year, everyone in the company works like gangbusters, completing important projects and tying up loose ends. The difference between success and failure for the whole year can hang in the balance during the last 60 days, and usually, results spike upward as the days left in the year dwindle to zero.

3. It gets you focused on the most important things. A year is a long time, and we tend to feel that we should be able to accomplish a lot in 365 whole days. That’s why everyone from individuals making New Year’s resolutions to corporations laying out yearly goals tends to put too many objectives into their annual plans. And, according to Moran, that’s also why execution fails. As you try to work toward a dozen different goals, you become disillusioned, spread thin, and frustrated: a recipe for mediocrity rather than greatness.

4. It makes keeping commitments easier, which leads to consistent results. At the beginning of the year, it’s all too easy to make promises and commitments. “Sure, honey, we can finish the basement this year.” “Of course our department will reduce its operating costs by 20 percent this year.” Frequently, though, we fall short of our personal and professional commitments. And the time frame for which they are made is often at fault. Over the course of 12 months, we may encounter unforeseen obstacles, other priorities may crop up, or our interest may wane.

5. It makes you proactive instead of reactive. The popular advice that urges us to “live in the moment” is generally sound, because this moment is where the future is created. However, living your life in the moment can be done in two very different ways: reactively or proactively. If you are reactive in the moment, you risk taking suboptimal actions because the primary drivers of your actions are input triggers­the phone rings, the email dings, a new task appears, someone knocks on your door, and off you go to solve the problem du jour. When you live reactively, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to stay focused on high-value activities.

6. It makes your life more meaningful. Too many people (and even entire companies!) live their lives by default, not by design. Stuck in a reactive rut, they allow their priorities and goals to be determined by outside forces. You know how it goes: You spend your evenings doing housework and home improvement projects because you feel your house should look a certain way…even though you’d rather be spending the time with your spouse and kids. Or you spend time and money getting a professional certification because your boss recommends it…despite the fact that you don’t feel drawn to that particular area within your field.

More information is available at www.12weekyear.com.

Brian P. Moran is founder and CEO of The Execution Company, an organization committed to improving the performance and enhancing the quality of life for leaders and entrepreneurs. He has served in management and executive positions with UPS, PepsiCo, and Northern Automotive and consults with dozens of world-class companies each year. As an entrepreneur, he has led successful businesses and been instrumental in the growth and success of many others. In addition to his books, Brian has been published in many of the leading business journals and magazines. He is a sought-after speaker, educating and inspiring thousands each year. Brian lives in Michigan with his wife, Judy, and their two daughters.