12 Week Year Overview

At work, your boss probably (hopefully) has a pretty good idea of what needs to be accomplished in the next few months. Many business owners have found that productivity frameworks, like the twelve week year, help considerably with productivity. There is a good reason for this – Parkinson’s law specifies that the work will expand to fill the time allotted to it. Systems like the 12 week year help reduce the amount of time available, meaning that (within limits) things get done in a more efficient manner and prioritized differently. A system like this is also helpful in the sense that you only have to have very detailed plans for the next quarter, rather than for the entire year. Since so much can change in a few months, it makes sense to organize your planning process in a way that allows you to plan in a more responsive manner. It also helps to provide urgency to your current priorities in a way that most companies only experience at the end of the year. Many organizations experience a spike of sales during the last quarter because people are trying to meet their yearly goals before the year ends.

So, what is the twelve week year? Essentially it is a system that is built on 8 ingredients of success – three principles and 5 disciplines. The three principles are accountability, committment, and “greatness in the moment”. This last one needs some explanation – it essentially means doing your best work to do what is needed, even if you aren’t feeling it in the moment. There are also five disciplines – having a clear, consistent vision, breaking your vision into a plan with priorities, using process tools to stay on track, using measurements for feedback, and effectively using your time. In a business context, these things work well due to having some portion of the supporting structure in place.

The twelve week year framework essentially helps with accomplishing your goals by treating a 12 week period as if it were a year. You have 12 weeks of focused and planned-out work, followed by a week for planning, reviewing, consolidation, celebration, and a little bit of a break. This cycle and overall structure is very useful when you are trying to be more personally productive, but you do have to modify things a bit to make it fit with your own life. In particular, barring a rather strange psychological makeup, you probably don’t have an adequate mechanism for enforcing process controls on yourself in your own life. You also have a bit more of a chopped up and unpredictable schedule in your personal life than what you would have in the office, so that has to be taken into account as well. Further, you may find it difficult to measure progress in some areas, and your workflow may be very vulnerable to disruption.

The structure of the twelve week year can help you a lot on being productive on your own personal projects, provided that you modify it slightly to deal with the less structured and more chaotic nature of your personal life. Because your personal life is probably not as structured as a business needs to be, some modifications will need to be made to provide appropriate structure. Additionally, because you probably do already have a full time job, this structure has to be modified further so that you don’t end up burning yourself out. Finally, it’s critical to rotate your focus between several different areas of your life over time in order to keep things balanced – your day job probably has one single function, but your personal life does not.

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