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Amberley Romo

Book Reflection: The 12 Week Year

I recently read “The 12 Week Year” by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. As I said in my 2023 year in review:

While not a ground-breaking premise, this has flipped a switch in me. I don’t have goals for 2024. I have goals for the first 12 weeks of 2024. It’s short-term enough to feel immediate, but long-term enough to see change. I’m not going to post specifics about those here, but I will post about the bits I want to in my 2024 year in review.

The content of the book itself was a bit fluffy and fairly repetitive. Again, the idea of shorter time horizons and realistic goals with measureable tactics isn’t exactly ground-breaking. But something about the specific prescribed time horizon — 12 weeks — clicked for me.

If you happen to have read some of my year in review posts, you may notice that I struggle with year-long goals — or as the authors call it, “annualized thinking”. My priorities change, or I simply lose track of them. Frankly, I’ve accepted that my attention span can’t handle year-long goals.

My takeaways for the first 12 weeks of this year

I’ve boiled down what I’ll take into my next 12 weeks as follows:

Reflect and establish goals

Or in my case, “goal”. I’m sticking with a singular goal to account for the fact that I know my attention span will divert me in other directions. Setting multiple goals would definitely set me up for failure — a single one gives me a bit of breathing room as I test out this approach.

I landed on the goal I chose from working through YearCompass at the end of last year — reflecting on 2023, and looking ahead to 2024.

Define tactics to work toward goals

The strategy recommends identifying tactics that mix both lead and lag indicators:

Lead indicators are the things that happen early in the execution process. They are the things that drive the lags. Most people are pretty good at tracking the lag indicators, but the opportunity for growth is usually the greatest with the lead indicators.

Some of these tactics are executed on a daily basis, some a few times a week, some only once or twice during the 12 week period.

Review daily and weekly

The book recommends defining a “Weekly Plan” and then having a “Weekly Accountability Meeting” (p. 106).

Personally, I created an extremely lightweight daily review template that requires less than a minute, but is flexible for further reflection on the days I want it.

I also created an (also extremely lightweight) overall tracker for the 12 week period for a more bird’s eye view, to review on a weekly cadence. The important thing here is the execution score — am I actually doing the things I’ve defined to help me meet my 12 week goal? What it’s not is an opportunity to completely revisit the plan I’ve committed to. Of course if something ends up being wildly out of alignment, I can. But usually (at least for me) I know what I need to do — I just need to “work the plan” with consistency. This supports that.

Commit for the 12 weeks

Leading in from the following point — the idea is to work the plan. One point in the book that struck me was about “planning” feeling productive:

The book describes the “Emotional Cycle of Change” (ECOC) from psychologists Don Kelley and Daryl Connor (p. 71) — five stages that people move through emotionally when changing their behavior:

  1. Uninformed optimism (the “burst” of energy and optimism at the beginning)
  2. Informed pessimism (the reality of the effort sets in, and you may begin to question whether it’s worth it)
  3. Valley of despair (when most people give up — at this point folks are most likely to revert to prior, “comfortable” behavior)
  4. Informed optimism (you are beginning to see results from your actions and effort, which is reinforcing)
  5. Success and fulfillment (changes have become routine, and the benefits of your actions and efforts are realized)

Silly as it may sound, this makes me think of the movie Apollo 13, and a line that has become a classic in my family — “work the problem”.

The way this translates usefully to me is to trust in the plan I laid out, “work the problem”, and evaluate the results at the end, rather than constantly reverting back to the more immediate gratification of planning — which alone feels productive, but bears no fruit without working the plan.