Geetanjali Mukherjee

Monday, June 13, 2016

Book Review: The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months

The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months - Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

The book’s basic premise is the following: we are all capable of accomplishing much more than we think we can, than we are at present. The goal of the book is implied by its subtitle - how to help you achieve more in the next 12 weeks than you can usually accomplish in 12 months.

I must admit I was pretty intrigued by the title and its premise, and then for some reason, initially put the book aside for the next few months. Maybe I was intimidated by the idea of accomplishing so much more than I was at present, or maybe because I thought I would have to confront my current bad habits. 

But then I came across this book again a few weeks ago. Perhaps as they say, when the student is ready the teacher appears. I truly felt frustrated at the time when I looked at my to-do list and saw the slow way in things were getting done. I had many more ideas than it seemed I could accomplish. I was stuck however at the execution phase.

And that’s basically what this book is about. The authors claim that most people lack success in accomplishing their goals not because they planned poorly, but because they failed in some in executing their plans. Although when I started to read this book I was sure that I was executing just fine, in fact I thought I was working harder than I had worked in a long time. But reading this book changed my mind. 

The contention of the book is that while most people plan in an annual manner, making goals for what they will accomplish in a year, a lot more work than we would like to admit gets done close to the end of the annual cycle. Sales quotas are met in a frenzy during November and December, and many other projects allowed to progress slowly pick up speed at that time of year. I too have to admit, that my first self-published book was published on Smashwords on December 17th 2013, because my goal in 2013 had been to publish my book and I scrambled to do it within the last few days of the year. 

Instead of depending on one year-end to galvanize us into action, the authors believe that we should follow a 12 week year plan, which importantly is not just a substitute for a quarterly plan. The idea is that we take the year-end of the 12 weeks as seriously as we would December or May (for those on the May - April cycle). The key to this it turns out is being much more deliberate about how we spend our time. 

The advantage of having a shorter planning cycle is obvious for businesses whose environment changes frequently - it reduces uncertainty, and helps to be clearer about the goals that are actually planned. For a creative professional, a shorter “year” means that you can be much more certain of the goals you’re setting for yourself. For instance, you may find it difficult to plan 10-12 months out what kind of projects you can take on, or what side projects you will have time to work on. But you probably have a much better grasp of what the next 3 months look like for your creative business, thereby allowing you to plan more realistically. 

Having a shorter planning cycle can be useful in other ways. As a creative (writer / painter / whatever), you could decide that this next “year”, you will focus on improving one specific skill. Maybe you take on a project dedicated just to that skill. Or a series of small projects or tasks. Or take a class. And next “year”, you could focus on another skill. I hope its clear that when I say “year” I mean the next span of 12 weeks. 

I love this idea, although of course it means significant re-framing of thinking is needed, since we are all so used to thinking in terms of a year. But the authors have successfully used their system to turnaround the way many companies work, and doubled or tripled their profits. In my case, I would love to be able to double or triple my productivity, which would in time pay-off in earning more money as well, but would also help me to get closer to many of my creative goals. 

I find that I tend to agree that setting a goal 12 months out actually makes you feel like you have all the time in the world. After all 12 months is a long time. In my case I tend to set ambitious goals - I will write and publish 4 books in 2016. And then come June, I am looking at how much I have done, and I am ashamed to say that I have not written and published 2 books, which would of course keep me on track. I justify this to myself, saying that oh I still have 6 and a half months to go, if I hustle. But this is such an easy trap to fall in, isn’t it? Part of the reason why those who join Nanowrimo get more words of fiction written in November than sometimes the whole year combined (which is a statistic I just pulled out of thin air) is because of the sense of urgency that time creates - “oh no, I didn’t write today, I am 1,667 words behind!” Imagine if everyday I didn’t write I told myself - I am 1500 words behind my annual goal. I might get more done then. 

That’s the point of this book. It helps you see how much more you could be doing, and then gives you tools and systems to help you become aware of why exactly you’re not that productive right now, and how you can accelerate that productivity. 

While I am still slowly ramping up my own levels of productivity, one thing this book (and a few others in the tough love, get more things done genre that I am reading currently) has done is helped me see exactly where I am going wrong, and provided a path to get there. So your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to make this year (2016) the most productive one yet. After all, you still have over 2 more “years” to go!

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