Why Businesses Would Get a LOT More Done If We Switched to a 12 Week Year

Most of us view the 365 day year as a natural execution cycle. There’s a fatal flaw in annualized thinking….we’d be more motivated and productive if we redefined our year to last just 12 weeks.

Think back to the last significant goal you set for yourself, personal or professional. How long did you give yourself to reach it? We love to use the 365 day year as a natural execution cycle because it’s comfortable. It gives us 12 long months to make things happen, which makes us feel like we have plenty of time to accomplish our goals…and that’s the problem.

When you believe you have 12 months to complete a task, it’s all too easy to waste one, or two, or three, or more of them telling yourself you still have plenty of time to catch up. Annualized thinking kills urgency. But when you’re trying to reach important goals, whether personal or professional, every week counts, every day counts, every moment counts.

When you redefine the concept of a year, your life will change. A year is no longer 12 months; it is now only 12 weeks, followed by the next 12 Week Year, ad infinitum. Each 12 week period stands on its own.

Here are six reasons why switching to the 12 Week Year is more effective than staying on the 12 month plan:

It reduces uncertainty and defines actions. Most annual plans are objective based, not action based, because it is nearly impossible to predict the action needed four or more months out. They’ll tell you what has to be achieved, but they don’t specify how. That’s problematic, because when the “how” is not clearly defined, you lose a sense of scope and can easily take on more than you can physically execute.

It sparks a vital sense of urgency. Have you ever worked in an organization that relied on a year-end push? During the last few months of the calendar or fiscal year, everyone in the company works like gangbusters, completing important projects and tying up loose ends. The difference between success and failure for the whole year can hang in the balance during the last 60 days, and usually, results spike upward as the days left in the year dwindle to zero.

It gets you focused on the most important things. A year is a long time, and we tend to feel that we should be able to accomplish a lot in 365 whole days. That’s why everyone from individuals making New Year’s resolutions to corporations laying out yearly goals tends to put too many objectives into their annual plans. That’s also why execution fails. As you try to work toward a dozen different goals, you become disillusioned, spread thin, and frustrated: a recipe for mediocrity rather than greatness.

It makes keeping commitments easier, which leads to consistent results. At the beginning of the year, it’s all too easy to make promises and commitments. “Sure, honey, we can finish the basement this year.” “Of course our department will reduce its operating costs by 20 percent this year.” Frequently, though, we fall short of our personal and professional commitments. And the time frame for which they are made is often at fault. Over the course of 12 months, we may encounter unforeseen obstacles, other priorities may crop up, or our interest may wane.

It’s much easier to say you’re going to do something—and then do it—within a 12 week time frame.

It makes you proactive instead of reactive. The popular advice that urges us to “live in the moment” is generally sound, because this moment is where the future is created. However, living your life in the moment can be done in two very different ways: reactively or proactively. If you are reactive in the moment, you risk taking suboptimal actions because the primary drivers of your actions are input triggers—the phone rings, the email dings, a new task appears, someone knocks on your door, and off you go to solve the problem du jour. When you live reactively, it’s difficult, if not impossible, to stay focused on high-value activities.

Finally, the 12 Week Year makes your life more meaningful. Too many people (and even entire companies!) live their lives by default, not by design. Stuck in a reactive rut, they allow their priorities and goals to be determined by outside forces. You know how it goes: You spend your evenings doing housework and home improvement projects because you feel your house should look a certain way…even though you’d rather be spending the time with your spouse and kids. Or you spend time and money getting a professional certification because your boss recommends it…despite the fact that you don’t feel drawn to that particular area within your field.

Too often, people build their plans around goals that someone else thinks are important. If your personal or professional plan is not meaningful to you, then you will struggle to execute it. Fortunately, because of the focus and proactivity that the 12 Week Year fosters, you’re much more likely to think about what matters most to you and then purposefully choose to do it. On top of being more productive, you’ll be more fulfilled, content, and engaged.