Book Review: The Twelve Week Year

book reviews Jun 13, 2021


The 12-Week Year is a goal-setting and productivity book, so it's bound to SOUND good to me but be very, very hard to implement. By brain just doesn't work very strategically and I have never managed to permanently follow any routines or systems that I do not create myself.

That said, I think there is a lot of potential for positive change in following the basic outline of The 12-Week Year. So let's get into what it says and why I think it's so revolutionary.

The big idea of this book is goal setting in 12-week blocks instead of twelve month blocks. Twelve months is too long for lots of reasons: circumstances change, there is no immediacy, there is only one finish line, etc. Setting goals in twelve week blocks instead allows you to have that "final push" 4 times per year, keeps your goals fresh and top-of-mind, and allows for greater specificity. 

As with any goal-setting system, it's only as strong as your ability to set good goals. Your goals need to be actionable, realistic, and emotionally resonant. I know I've tried to talk myself into goals that were what I THOUGHT I should do versus what I really wanted to do. No matter what system you use to try to implement those goals, you are starting off on a shaky foundation if your goals aren't motivating to you. 

Once you've set your goals, every week of your 12-week year is broken into action items or tactics. A key feature of this system is accountability, which is accomplished by having a planning session each week in which you fill out your tasks for the following week and score yourself on the week you just finished. Rather than aiming for perfection, the book suggests that most people will meet their goals of they score and 85% each week. 

Other key ideas from the book

1. It's important to accept that setting specific goals means other things will not get done. I have trouble with this and hence get lots of little things done in lots of areas but no BIG things done. Accepting that some things that deserve your attention won't get it in some 12-week years is HUGE for me. 

If you get sidetracked, you will get behind really quickly. You only have 12 weeks, so any distractions will make it hard to catch up. This is another are in which I have a lot of room for growth.

2. The Emotional Cycle of Change. This is mind-blowing and so affirming to me. I've deeply felt all of these stages of emotion as I manage change in my life:

1. Uninformed optimism
This stage is the most exciting stage. You imagine the benefits but have not experienced any of the costs. Uninformed optimism sits above the line the land of positive emotion. You see all of the benefits of the change and none of the downside. You brainstorm and strategize for the future.

2. Informed pessimism
Uninformed optimism doesn’t usually last long. As you learn the reality of what it takes to change, positive emotions quickly sour with pessimism starting to set in. This stage is a shift to a negative emotional state. Here, the benefits don’t seem as real, important, or immediate, and the costs of the change is apparent. People question if the change is really worth the effort. You start looking for reasons to abandon the effort. But it gets worse.

3. Valley of despair
The lowest point of the emotional cycle is entrance into the valley of despair. This is when many people give up. The pain of change is felt and the benefits seem far away and unimportant. The quickest way to end the discomfort is to quit and go back to the way you did things before the change was introduced. The past doesn’t seem so bad at this stage.

If you quit here, you end up back at stage one and will have to start all over again. You will be able to persevere if you know why you’re making the change and have a compelling future vision of what you want to achieve.

4. Informed optimism
The fourth stage is informed optimism. The possibility of success increases and you are back in the positive emotional zone. The benefits of your actions are starting to bear fruit and the cost of change is feeling worth it. The key here is not to stop but keep going.

5. Success and fulfillment
Success and fulfillment is the final stage of the emotional cycle of change. Here, the benefits of your new behaviors are fully experienced and the cost of change is perceived now as worth it. The actions that were once difficult and uncomfortable are now routine.

3. The power of meeting your goals lies in the things you do weekly and daily, not the things you do once in awhile. These are referred to as tactics in the book and it's important to stick with your tactics week after week. 

4. While you will base your goals on what you want in your life, each 12-week segment should have a goal that will make an impact in your life, move the needle for you, etc. And that goal should be reached in the 12-week segment. Do not think of this as 4 blocks leading to one goal. It's 4 blocks of time per year leading to 4 major goals. That the power of this system. It speeds up your goals.

5. Determining your tactics for each week requires thinking about leading indicators and lag indicators. Leading indicators are the actions that you predict will get you to your goal. Lag indicators are the stats that show you have made progress or have reached a goal. If I want to earn $1000/month from, I might creating leading indicators like this:

1. Four Pinterest pins daily.

2. Instagram ad for lead magnet offer

3. Blog 3x week

4. One podcast appearance every 12 weeks.

My lag indicators:

1. I made $1,000 in income. 

Final Thoughts

I am so excited about the framework of The 12 Week Year that I'm going to host a Mastermind group using the book as a framework. We will set up our goals together and meet for a brief check-in every Monday morning for 12 weeks. Are you interested? Join the interest list here and I'll send you more details. 

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