Non-fiction, Personal Development

The 12 Week Year: Chapter by Chapter Book Summary

This awesome book can help you reset your life in 12 weeks, whenever you start implementing it. You’ll find here the book summary, chapter by chapter, along with quotes to give you an idea about its tone and content. I didn’t include in this summary what it advises on how to approach the twelve week year from a team’s perspective, as it wasn’t in my scope to reproduce the book – I only want you to understand the philosophy behind it and see if it’s something you want to apply for yourself. I loved it and actually started using it to achieve my goals this year.

Have fun discovering what it is all about and let me know if you plan on actually putting it into action!

Chapter 1 – The Challenge

The book’s goal is to help you increase your current results by four times or more, in a very short period of time, by teaching you how to perform your best every day.

Knowledge is only powerful if you use it, if you act on it.

The 12 Week Year, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

The premise of the book is that most people know how to achieve their goal, they just fail to execute on their knowledge.

Chapter 2 – Redefining the Year

The usual annual planning process limits performance because it only evaluates success annually. Evaluation is key to taking more action, better action. Shifting focus on shorter time frames helps in making every day count.

There’s nothing like a deadline to get you motivated.

The 12 Week Year, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

Let’s redefine a year:A year is no longer 12 months, it is now only 12 weeks. […] Each 12 week period stands on its own—it is your year. […] And just like you do at the end of a calendar year, every 12 weeks you take a break, celebrate, and reload.

The 12 Week Year, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

Chapter 3 – The Emotional Connection

Execution of a plan often requires stepping out of the comfort zone and trying new actions. The uncomfortable feeling of that may easily result in abandoning tasks. For that not to happen, the best thing to do is to tie an emotional stake with the outcome.

Without a compelling reason to choose otherwise, most people will take comfortable actions over uncomfortable ones.

The 12 Week Year, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

Create emotion for your plan by creating a vision of your future, a future bigger than the present, a clear future you can become passionate about. The most important thing is to start with your personal life. Your business vision is not an end in itself, it is just a means of achieving your personal goals.

In essence, the personal vision is the reason why we work in the first place.

The 12 Week Year, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

Our brains rewire according to our thinking. A compelling vision will help our brains stop resisting change and actually help us achieve our goals.

Chapter 4 – Throw Out the Annual Plan

Planning, like a good roadmap, is essential to reduce mistakes, save time and provide focus.

Twelve week planning is better than annual planning because:

  • it is more predictable
  • creates a stronger, faster connection between actions and results
  • it is more focused.

It is essential to choose only one to three critical tasks to focus on in your plan in order to achieve your vision.

Chapter 5 – One Week at a Time

Consistent action turns dreams into reality. What you do day-to-day is what actually counts.

To use your weekly plan effectively, you will need to spend the first 15 or 20 minutes at the beginning of each week to review your progress from the past week and plan the upcoming one. In addition, the first five minutes of each day should be spent reviewing your weekly plan to plan that day’s activities.

The 12 Week Year, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

Chapter 6 – Confronting the Truth

One key aspect of knowing you are successful or not is measurement. Measurement drives action, stimulates achievement and gives you a clear picture of where you are. In reality, you don’t have control of results, you only have control over your actions. That is what should be measured – whether you actually did the things you said would be the one to help you achieve your goals.

Given that your plan contains the most important actions you need to take, it is enough if you can constantly accomplish around 85% of your weekly goals. This will get you the results you want.

Struggling to execute will result in a productive tension – the uncomfortable feeling you are not doing what you are supposed to be doing. Faced with discomfort, you either quit, or you succeed in transforming this tension into taking action. Quitting is not an option.

Chapter 7 – Intentionality

Wasting time is inevitable if we don’t set a purposeful intention on how we spend it. For a better performance, the ideal would be to plan for uninterrupted time blocks of work:

  • Strategic Blocks – Three-hour blocks of time intended for strategic and money-making activities.
  • Buffer Blocks – 30 minutes up to an hour blocks of time for dealing with low-value activities.
  • Breakout Blocks – Three-hour blocks of time spent doing anything else but work, ideally planned during normal business hours intended to refresh your mind.

Chapter 8 – Accountability as Ownership

Accountability is not consequences, but ownership. It is a character trait, a life stance, a willingness to own your actions and results regardless of the circumstances.

The 12 Week Year, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

Accountability is founded on freedom of choice. It can’t be imposed. It isn’t a “have to”, but a “choose to”. When you choose to do something, it’s empowering and you give it your best.

The only real accountability is self-accountability and it comes from owning thoughts, actions and results.

Chapter 9 – Interest versus Commitment

Commitment is a personal promise. Keeping commitments builds trust and strong relationships.

Often interest wines down with time or difficulty.

When you’re interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstances permit, but when you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.

The 12 Week Year, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

Keys to successful commitments:

  1. Strong desire
  2. Keystone actions
  3. Count the costs
  4. Act on commitments, not feelings

It is difficult to commit to anything for a lifetime—even keeping a promise for an entire year can be challenging. With the 12 Week Year you are not asked to make lifetime or even annual commitments, but rather 12 week commitments. It is much more feasible to establish and keep a commitment for 12 weeks than to keep it for 12 months. At the end of the 12 weeks, you reassess your commitments and begin again.

The 12 Week Year, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

Chapter 10 – Greatness in the Moment

All we have is the present moment. The past can’t be changed and the future is uncertain. The present is all there is. That is where life happens. This is why greatness is not achieved when the result is achieved. Greatness is the effort we do now that we’ll pay out sometime in the future. Greatness is every difficult choice, every extra step we make now.

Results are not the attainment of greatness, but simply confirmation of it.

The 12 Week Year, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

Chapter 11 – Intentional Imbalance

Life balance is, usually, viewed wrong. It isn’t or it shouldn’t be about spending equal amounts of time on every aspect of your life. It should be about spending your time intentionally. Intentionally choose to focus on one aspect of your life and change as needed. The main idea is to first think about your purpose, then align your energy and effort to that direction. Your purpose will change throughout your life, that is natural, and you’ll adjust every time.

The 12WeekYear is a terrific process to help you live a life of intentional imbalance. […] Think about what could be different for you if every 12 weeks you focused on a few key areas in your life and made significant improvement.

The 12 Week Year, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

Chapter 12 – The Execution System

This system works because it creates clarity of purpose, focus and combines these with a sense of urgency.

3 principles that determine the effectiveness and success of an individual

  • accountability: “What more can I do to get the result?”,
  • commitment: keep your promises to yourself,
  • greatness in the moment: greatness is achieved when you make your choice to do what it takes to become great.

5 disciplines to use for a successful 12 week year

  1. Vision: create your clear picture of the future;
  2. Planning: focus on your top priority;
  3. Process Control: align daily actions with your plan’s critical actions;
  4. Measurement: anchor in reality in order to drive the process;
  5. Time Use: control your time in order to control results.

Change is difficult and uncomfortable. Acknowledge that this will be an emotional experience and that you will go through this “Emotional Cycle of Change”(paper by Don Kelley and Daryl Connor):

  1. Uninformed Optimism
  2. Informed Pessimism
  3. Valley of Despair
  4. Informed Optimism
  5. Success and Fulfilment
 "Emotional Cycle of Change"
“The Emotional Cycle of Change”- image from the book “The 12 Week Year”, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

The 12 Week Year is a “closed system”. That means that the best results will be achieved when everything described is applied. Only when applying it as a system, it has within itself the mechanisms for correction that will help you achieve your goals.

Chapter 13 – Establish Your Vision

A vision is the way to create progress and take action. A vision is necessary to create the emotional energy to move forward.

The most powerful visions address and align your personal aspirations with your professional dreams.

“The 12 Week Year”, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

In order to create your vision, you need to focus on:

  1. Long-term aspirations: these are the audacious ones!
  2. Mid-term goals (3 years): based on your long-term vision, what do you want to create in the next 3 years?
  3. 12 Weeks

Common pitfalls when establishing your vision:

  1. You don’t take the power of vision seriously
  2. The vision isn’t meaningful to you
  3. Your vision is too small
  4. You don’t connect your vision to your daily actions

Success tips:

  1. Share your vision
  2. Stay in touch with your vision
  3. Live with intention

Chapter 14 – Develop Your 12 Week Plan

There is a gap between knowing what to do and actually doing it. Working from a plan actually fills this gap, as it increases focus and eliminates distraction. Making the plan for only 12 weeks makes every day count. The plan should have a clear, specific and measurable goal to drive results in the current 12 weeks.

Criteria for how to write your goals and tactics to achieve them:

  1. Make them specific and measurable
  2. State them positively
  3. Ensure they are a realistic stretch
  4. Assign accountability
  5. Be time-bound

for each of your goals, define the highest-priority daily and weekly actions that you must take to reach that goal.

“The 12 Week Year”, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

There are various pitfalls you may step into, but to be successful with planning, the main ones to avoid are:

  1. Your 12 week plan does not align with your long-term vision.
  2. You aren’t staying focused
  3. You don’t make the tough choices – you don’t prioritise the tactics that get results and get distracted by the others.

Chapter 15 – Installing Process Control

A vision and a plan are not the only things one needs for achieving a goal. Relying on willpower to implement the plan is not enough. You need process control tools for support.

The first tool is the weekly plan. This helps organise and focus every day of the week. This should not be a to do list and should not be based on urgency. It should only be based on strategic activities planned in advanced to take place that week in order for you to achieve your goals.

The second tool is a support group. Find two to four individuals committed to meet for a Weekly Accountability Meeting. This is not about holding each other accountable, but rather creating individual accountability.

This is not a punitive session where we try to hold others accountable and dole out negative consequences or tongue lashing for those who are faltering. The WAM is used to confront breakdowns, recognize progress, create focus, and encourage action.

“The 12 Week Year”, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

The book will provide an actual meeting agenda and detail how to use it!

Your weekly routine should include scoring your week, planning your week and participating in a weekly accountability meeting.

Chapter 16 – Keeping Score

measurement doesn’t have to be complicated to be effective, but it does have to be timely.

“The 12 Week Year”, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

Measuring indicators means tracking both lag and lead indicators.

Lag indicators are the actual goals. Lead indicators are the actions that make the goals happen.

What are the lead indicators for your goals? Let’s say that you want to lose 10 pounds.The total weight goal of 10 pounds is a lag indicator because it happens at the end of the 12 weeks.A good lead measure might be the number of calories that you eat daily or weekly.Another might be the number of workouts you have each week, such as miles jogged, laps swum, minutes on the elliptical—you get the idea.Whatever indicators you decide to measure, be sure to track and record your progress each week of your 12 WeekYear!

“The 12 Week Year”, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

Scoring your week would mean to check how many actions you have completed from the ones you originally set out. If your goal is losing weight and you had to do 4 things every week in order to achieve your goal, but you only did 3 of them, that means you achieved 75% of your execution score for the week. You need a score of at least 85% to know you’re going in the right direction. Unless you achieve this score, you already know your goal won’t be achieved.

This means embracing measurements. Effort, distractions or excuses won’t matter anymore. You either achieve your daily and weekly scores or you don’t. It also means you get to shift your focus to actions instead of results. It is the actions you take that you measure.

Chapter 17 – Take Back Control of Your Day

You should know by now your strengths and weaknesses. Taken together, they are the ones that impact your ability to produce results. Instead of focusing on eliminating weaknesses, first concentrate on your strengths to produce achievements. Even more, try to create for yourself unique capabilities – one or two things you do best.

You also need to use time blocks to maximise your performance. Focus on just one thing at a time by scheduling in strategic, buffer and breakout blocks. Using time blocks, create your model work week that includes even low-value activities, but be sure to focus on your high value ones. Remember that being busy is not the same with being productive.

Chapter 18 – Taking Ownership

When we acknowledge our accountability, our focus shifts from defending our actions to learning from them. Failures simply become feedback in the ongoing process of becoming excellent. Unfavorable circumstances and uncooperative people don’t prohibit us from reaching our goals.We stand in a differ- ent way, thereby creating different results.

“The 12 Week Year”, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

Taking ownership of your situation is what empowers you to change it. If you don’t even think you are in control of what you can do, how can you do anything? You are not in control of your circumstances, but you are in control of your actions, of how you react to these circumstances. You need to shift your thinking from creating excuses to coming up with actions and solutions.

Some real actions that create accountability are:

  1. Resolve never to be the victim again
  2. Stop feeling sorry for yourself
  3. Be willing to take different actions
  4. Associate with “Accountables.”

Chapter 19 – 12 Week Commitments

Commitment: “The state of being bound emotionally or intellectually to some course of action.”

“The 12 Week Year”, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

In order to achieve your goals, you need to be aware of your real intentions – those stated and those hidden. Your desires of comfort, pleasure, satisfaction and relaxation need to be accounted for as they are often conflicting with your stated intentions. These are the commitment costs, costs you will need to pay in order to keep those commitments. To be successful, figure out the actions to take whose costs are bearable to you.

In the book you will find further exercises to help you work through the process of establishing commitments.

Even more than costs, there are other shifts in thinking one must make in order to keep commitments, like: saying no to people, delaying gratification and going full in, sparing no effort on the actions you need to take.

Chapter 20 – Your First 12 Weeks

We would all be great if we did not encounter resistance when pursuing our life’s intentions.

“The 12 Week Year”, by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington

Your first 12 weeks will be the most difficult and the most important. They will have you adjust your environment and daily actions, but if you apply these routines consistently for 12 weeks, your goal will, most likely, become reality. One key aspect, though, is to actually engage with this system, commit to it. Don’t just dabble.

Chapter 21 – Final Thoughts and the 13th Week

When the 12 weeks are done, assess your performance and decide what you want to do differently in the next 12 weeks. This is the aim of the 13th week – an opportunity to review results.

Change is difficult and though the 12 week year method will get you to your goals, it will not be easy. Whenever you meet resistance, remember the emotional cycle of change and go back to your vision. Choose the vision instead of short term discomfort.

Whenever you hit setbacks, get in touch with the community of 12 week year enthusiasts – the book will provide you with all the details about it.

✨✨✨The “12 week year” is available on Goodreads here.✨✨✨

2 thoughts on “The 12 Week Year: Chapter by Chapter Book Summary”

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