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Book:  The 12 Week Year

Author:  Brian Moran & Michael Lennington

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Moran, B. & Lennington, M. (2013). The 12 week year : get more done in 12 weeks than others do in 12 months. Hoboken, New Jersey: Wiley.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. Without a compelling reason to choose otherwise, people will take comfortable actions over uncomfortable ones. The issue is that the important actions are often the uncomfortable ones. In our experience, the number one thing that you will have to sacrifice to be great is your comfort. The secret to living your life to its potential is to value the important stuff above your own comfort. The critical first step to executing well is creating and maintaining a compelling vision of the future that you want even more than you desire your own short-term comfort, and then aligning your shorter-term goals and plans, with that long-term vision. (pg. 19)

  2. Measurement drives the execution process. Can you imagine the CEO of a large corporation not knowing the numbers? It's no different for you and me. Measurement provides important feedback that allows you to make intelligent decisions. Effective measurement captures both the lead and lag indicators that provide comprehensive feedback necessary for informed decision-making. Lag indicators represent the end results that you are striving to achieve. Lead indicators are the activities that produce the end results.  While most companies that individuals effectively measure lag indicators, many tend to disregard lead indicators. An effective measurement system will have a combination of complementary lead and lag indicators. (pg. 34)

  3. We have all heard stories of people who refuse to take responsibility for their actions and blame others for their failures. Someone or something else is always the cause of their failure. Our culture supports this victim mentality more and more. In fact, our legal system even promotes it. We now reward people for not taking responsibility for their choices and finding someone or something other than themselves to blame. In spite of the perceived benefits, people with a victim mindset pay a terrific price. A victim allows his success to be limited by external circumstances, people, or events. As long as we continue to be victims of our experiences, we will experience life as a struggle and others as a threat. (pg. 143)


Other Key Ideas:

We're not talking about quarterly planning – remember that's the part of the outdated annualized thinking model. With 12 week planning, every 12 weeks stands alone; every 12 weeks is a new year and a fresh opportunity to be great. The first thing that is different with 12-week planning is that it is more predictable than 12 months planning. The farther you plan into the future, the less predictability you have. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to determine what your daily actions should be 11 or 12 months into the future. With a 12 week plan, predictability is much greater. You can define what actions you need to implement each week over the next 12 weeks. (pg. 26)

Consistent action on the critical tasks needed to reach your goal is the key to getting what you want out of life. Your current actions are creating your future. If you want to know what your future holds, look into your actions; they are the best predictor of your future. You want to predict your future health, look at your current eating and exercise habits. You want to predict the health of your marriage, looking at your interactions with your spouse. You want to predict Your career path and future income, look at the actions you take each business day. Your actions tell the story. (pg. 30)

The only way to know if you are achieving is through measurement - that is, keeping score. A common misconception is that scoring damages self-esteem, but research indicates the opposite: measurement builds self-esteem and confidence because it documents progress and achievement. (pg. 33)

We urge you to strive for excellence, not perfection. We have found that if you successfully complete 85% of the activities in your weekly plan, then you will most likely achieve your objectives. Remember that your plan contains the top priorities that will add the most value and have the greatest impact. In other words, you only need to be 85% effective on the top priorities to achieve excellence! (pg. 37)

Buffer blocks of time are designed to deal with all of the unplanned and low value activities - like most email and voicemail – that arise throughout a typical day. Almost nothing is more unproductive and frustrating than dealing with constant interruptions, yet we've all had days when unplanned items dominate our time. The power of buffer blocks comes from grouping together activities that tend to be unproductive so that you can increase your efficiency in dealing with them and take greater control over the rest of your day. (pg. 41)

In our efforts to not miss anything, we unwittingly miss everything. Our attention is spread over various subjects and conversations that we actually apply very little of ourselves to any individual activity. We feel stressed out, burned out, exhausted, frustrated, and disconnected. In the end, this approach practically guarantees that we will be mediocre by virtue of the fact that nothing gets our full attention. You are most effective when you are mentally where you are physically - when you are present in the moment. When you're present in the moment, your thinking is clear and focused, decisions come easily, and you move through tasks almost effortlessly. (pg. 56)

Measurement is helpful and necessary. Without measurement there is no way for you to know if you are making progress. Without a measurement there is no way for you to know what adjustments would be productive. Without measurement it's virtually impossible to hit your goals. Remember, you have greater control over your actions than you do your outcomes. Your outcomes are driven by your actions. Your weekly plan and weekly scorecard are focused on your actions. The scorecard measures whether you did what you said your most important goal was for the week. As a result, your weekly scorecard is the most accurate predictor of your future. If you faithfully complete the critical actions on a daily and weekly basis, the results will come. So the process is less about the end result in more about the daily actions. (pg. 122)

In 2011 the average American spent 2.8 hours a day watching TV. That's 12% of our lives - and that number does not include the hours spent on entertainment devices such as smartphones and tablets. We often watch TV to escape and relax. We do it partly because it's easy; we don't have to do anything except change the channel. TV may be beneficial in some ways, but helping us to live a life of significance isn't one of them. Spending leisure time doing comfortable tasks is healthy in moderation, but when we consistently choose comfortable activity, we are going to live life far short of our capabilities. Eventually the excessive time we spent maximizing comfort in the moment leads to inevitable delayed costs and unrealized achievements. (pg. 130)

To become fit requires discomfort, to earn a significant income requires discomfort, to become great at anything, requires you to pay the price. To accomplish what you desire will take sacrifice. The number one thing you will need to sacrifice is your comfort. To become great, you must choose to allocate your time to your greatest opportunities. You will have to choose to spend time on the difficult things that create your biggest payoffs. You will need to guard your time intensely, delegating or eliminating everything possible that is not one of your strengths or does not help you advance your goals. (pg. 130)

In the book Switch, Chip and Dan Heath point out that when your perception of the magnitude of a big change shrinks in your thinking, you are more likely to achieve your goal. It is important to note that the ultimate goal doesn't shrink; it is just your thinking about it that matters. There are two ways to shrink change: First, limit the initial investment in time, and second, set progress milestones that are quickly within reach. By doing this, you're thinking about the magnitude of your change shifts, and you can get “unstuck,” and begin to act. (pg. 173)

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