Planning that actually works

I've been using the 12 Week Year system (from the book by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington) for the last couple of years in my own work, and for the last year with my clients, particularly with my Mastermind group

What I love about the 12 Week Year is it combines big picture aspirational visions with nitty gritty everyday implementation, whereas many other systems I’ve used before lean very heavily one way or the other, so that it’s either all a bit airy fairy and nothing actually changes, OR it’s all about tracking and accountability but you haven’t got the right, exciting and inspiring goals in the first place.

Using this three month time frame taps into a straightforward reality, which is that we can’t consistently make big, noticeable changes in one day or one week, but at the same time, we can’t reliably look into the future as far as a year from now, because there’s so much uncertainty and change involved by the time you’re looking more than a few months into the future. So, what I like is that at a 3 month horizon, you’re balancing making some fairly big shifts with staying within parameters you can be reasonably certain about.

You start by getting really clear on a big picture vision for what you really want your life to be like in the future. Then you start making that more concrete, creating a vision for where you want to be in ten years' time and then you work out where you'd need to be in three years' time, to be tracking towards that ten year vision. Then finally you pull your focus right back to what changes you could start making right now, in the next few weeks, that would put you in position to move towards your bigger vision.

You then pick 3 goals to focus on for your 12 weeks, and make sure that they're within your direct power to achieve, that they tie into your big picture vision of how you want your life to be, and that they're pitched at a realistic stretch from where you are now.

Then you work out how you're going to track your progress and stay accountable.

On a practical level, by restricting yourself to two or three goals and just focusing on them for those 12 weeks, you make sure your efforts don’t get diluted.

You’re still running your normal to-do list, however you normally do that, but you’re adding in a separate column for your 12 week goals. Depending both on what the goals are and what kind of person you are, you may want to split down the goals further into weekly action points and they may vary from week to week - or you may just want to check in each week with the broader aspiration and not get too granular about planning out in advance exactly what steps you will need to take in which order.

The first element of setting your 12 Week Plan in motion involves tapping into your deeper purpose in life and creating a big picture vision - and also looking at your values and strengths. The next steps are to create first a 10 year vision and then a 3 year vision for where you want to be, and to use these to make sure that your goals for your 12 week plan are pointing in the right direction to help you move towards first the 3 ver the 12 weeks for each goal - which metrics are you going to track? How will you hold yourself accountable? What will you do if you start drifting off course? What kinds of support can you call in for yourself?

And then you dive in and start making more progress in 12 weeks than you may have done in the previous year. Why does it work? Because it forces you to be really intentional, to think about how you want to feel as much as what you want to achieve - and because it focuses equally on vision and on implementation.