My Journey Through The 12 Week Year
Last year, a blogger friend introduced me to a book called The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months. The idea was fascinating. I think I read the whole book on a flight back from Germany for a business trip. Took all sorts of notes. Stepped back into life and…promptly forgot about it.
This page contains affiliate links – they don’t cost you a penny, but they sure help to pay off those student loans! For more information, please see my disclosure page.
Then a few weeks ago, the gals on the Wit + Wisdom podcast were talking about getting their Powersheets for the new year, and I started thinking about getting on a goal-setting program again. See, I don't really need a “planner;” I'm happy using iCal/Google Calendar for my appointments and CoSchedule for my editorial calendar. And I tend to not use planners because I want a little more flexibility. But I knew I needed to make a plan to make consistent progress towards my goals, even if it wasn't a traditional planner. I've been working on my first book for a while now, by which I mean I keep getting distracted by other things. I've committed to some deadlines for promotion, though, so I need to get this baby finished! Enter The 12 Week Year. I picked up the book (Ok, my Kindle), did a quick refresh, and was reminded why I got so excited about this in the first place. I immediately made plans to implement this program both at my day job and here in my writing/speaking business.
One of the components of the 12 Week Year program is the WAM – the Weekly Accountabilty meeting with a partner or a group. That's where you all come in. I'm going to be sharing my progress each week so I can get some accountabilty and so you can have a taste of whether this program will work for you.
What I like about The 12 Week Year So Far
There are a few things that draw me to this plan. First, the idea of a relatively short-term goal gets me excited to finish. I'm also glad for the flexibility to easily reevaluate in 12 weeks to decide my next round of goals. If you're currently in school, you could easily modify this to a 10-week quarter or a 15-week semester. And…ok, this is a big deal. You don't have to go out and buy anything major. No fancy planner…technically you could even get the book at the library, but at $11.99 for the eBook, it's an easy investment to make. Or, like me, you might already have it. There is an optional workbook you can buy (I didn't) and an online software option, but you can do all of this with the book and a place to keep track of your goals and your progress.
Yeah, you have to start with a week zero. Why? The set-up is going to take some forethought. I spent a Sunday afternoon at Starbucks dreaming and goal planning and getting all set up for the week. When I did this at my day job, I split it over the course of a few days.
Choosing a Place to Keep Track
You might use a spreadsheet or Word document. At my day job, I'm using a free downloadable 12 week goal planner from The Goal Chaser. For my writing/speaking business, I'm using a composition book that I have set up in a bullet-journal-influenced-way. Ya'll, I'm pretty techy, but there is a satisfaction in crossing things off a list. So I started off by creating an index (Table of Contents) in my notebook and numbering the first 20 pages.
Dream Bigger Than 12 Weeks
The 12 Week Year has you start with your vision. First, you dream up (and write down) your big “aspirational” vision. What do you want your life to look like? Then, get a little more specific: what do you want it to look like 3 years from today? This should include professional and personal elements; even (or especially) the personal bits will affect the goals you set.
Pick Your 12 Week Year Goals
Next, the book will walk you through choosing 2-3 12 week goals. You want to choose goals that will contribute towards getting you to that 3 year dream. You also (generally) want them to be measurable. By nature of 12 weeks they are time-bound, so make sure it is something that you can stretch to do in 12 weeks. If your goal is too big for that time frame, choose a sub-goal that can be done in the 12 weeks, and that will keep you moving forward.
I chose two goals for my writing business:
#1 Self-Publish my Bible study book with 100 copies sold.
I didn't say “write the book in 12 weeks” only because I need to finish it sooner than that to meet some of the commitments I've already made, and because I've already done a chunk of it. And I definitely want to sell more than 100 copies, but since my book's Celebrate Lit tour doesn't start until January 15 (week 12), 100 was a good place to start. It's a stretch goal because of the time, but it should be doable.
#2 Begin Paying Myself a Monthly Salary of $100/month
Right now, this business costs money, it doesn't make money. That makes it a hobby, and while I'm trying to get out of debt, I can't afford hobbies that cost me money. That will start to change when I start actually selling things (like a book!), but I want to intentionally build on the revenue that is already coming in to get things in the + column. After the 12 weeks, I plan to earn much more than $100/month, but I wanted to choose a goal that gets me profitable but still leaves enough time to finish said book and get it prepared to really promote.
Choose Your Tactics
The next step is to choose your tactics: all the things that you will do to achieve your 12 week goals. I made a list for each goal, and noted which week each item needed to be completed, or whether it needed to be done weekly. For example, on the publishing goal, some tactics included:
- editing the e-book version
- submitting blog tour kickoff information to Celebrate Lit
- Recording the audio for online resources that will come with the book
- Creating a freebie from a sample chapter
- Scheduling guest posts to promote the book
For the pay-myself goal, I did a little back-of-the-napkin math to decide what I would need to do. I've just implemented Profit First, so 50% of my revenue will go to owner's compensation (paying myself). So to pay Joy $100, I need to bring in $200. Then I listed out all the ways I currently bring in revenue and the future opportunities, and came up with a plan to increase those to reach $200/month by January 20. Some of the tactics include:
- Do my Profit First Accounting Day and transfers on the 10th and the 25th of each month
- Review the Sway dashboard for sponsored post opportunities that might be a good fit (weekly)
- Brainstorm ideas for an online workshop
- Complete a blog post weekly
- Review the Ultimate Bundles schedule for affiliate opportunities that would be a good fit for my audience.
- (of course, getting the book published will contribute towards this goal as well).
Lead and Lag Indicators
Next, I had to choose how to measure my progress. The 12 Week Year talks about two types of measurements: lead indicators and lag indicators. Lag indicators are the end results. So your actual goal would be a lag indicator, but so would a measurement that shows progress towards that goal. For instance, if your goal was to lose 10 pounds, then pounds lost would be one of your lag indicators. They are called “lag” indicators because the results often lag behind the actual activity you're doing. You can exercise today, but you won't see the weight loss today.
Goal #1 Lag Indicators:
- Chapters written
- books sold
Goal #2 Lag Indicators:
- Revenue dollars
- Amount I paid myself
Lead indicators are things that happen early in the process, that contribute towards those end goals. Executing on your tactics would be one of the main lead indicators (and folks that get 85% of their tactics usually hit their goals). To use the weight loss example again, a lead indicator might be calories eaten or minutes exercised.
Goal #1 Lead Indicators:
- weekly execution score (of the tactics discussed above – more on this next week)
- Freebie performance
- interviews/guest posts scheduled
Goal #2 Lead Indicators:
- weekly execution of tactics
- new products created
- website pageviews
The Week 1 Plan
Finally, it's time to create your week 1 plan. I did this on a new notebook page: I created a list of all the tactics that were marked for week 1. I included checkboxes to show steps that were completed, and a percentage column so that I can give myself a score. The 12 Week Year also recommends planning an ideal week schedule with strategic blocks and “buffer” blocks to help create space to work towards your goals rather than just getting caught up in the day-to-day. I'll talk about those next week.
My Week 1 Plan:
I'll be back next week to share my results of this first week! In the meantime, jump in the comments below and let me know what goals you want to accomplish in the next 12 weeks!