The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran: Summary and Notes

The 12 Week Year “We mistakenly believe that there is a lot of time left in the year, and we act accordingly. We lack a sense of urgency, not realizing that every week is important, every day is important, every moment is important. Ultimately, effective execution happens daily and weekly!”

Rating: 7/10

Related: Who Not HowPeriodizationDeep Work30 Days

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The 12 Week Year By Brian Moran Short Summary

The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran is a book that will radically change the way you plan for your life and work. Dish the 12 month year and instead focus on the 12 Week Year. Why? Because you can get more done in 12 weeks than in 12 months with the right mindset, goals, and strategy. The 12 Week Year has worked its magic for companies, scores of people, and it can improve your life too. A great book on boosting your performance over the short-term.

The Challenge

To execute successfully, it is important to have a strong emotional connection to the outcome.

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

The important actions are usually uncomfortable ones. And the secret to living up to your potential is to value the important stuff.

The way to do this is to create a strong emotional connection with the goals you are trying to achieve.

Vision is the starting point of all high performance. Barriers to physical performance exist in the mind.

“You must be clear on what it is you want to create. Most people focus primarily on their business or career, but business is just part of life, and it is actually your life vision that gives traction and relevance to your business.”

To tap into the incredible power of a personal vision, you need a future that is bigger than the present. Your business vision needs to be anchored on your personal vision.

When things get hard the connection between your personal and business vision will help you to focus.

“When you think about a compelling vision, the neurons that fire in your brain are the same neurons that fire when you act on your vision. What that means is that you can literally train your brain to act on your vision just by thinking about it.”

Throw-out The Annual Plan

After creating a vision you need to formulate a plan. A plan has the following benefits:

  • Reduces mistakes
  • Saves time
  • Provides focus

12-week planning has three additional and distinct differences from annual planning:

  1. Is more predictable than 12-month planning. The further you set your plan in the future, the less predictable it becomes
  2. More focused. Annual plans have too many objectives and this can cause failure in execution
  3. More structured. Most plans are never implemented because they don’t have a good structure

Your goals are going to define success for the 12 Week Year.

“If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up someplace else” – Yogi Berra

One Week at a Time

The actions that we take create our long-term results. While we plan for the future, we act on the day.

If you want to be truly effective, your daily activities must align with your long term vision, strategies, and tactics.

“The physical universe will not respond to your desires, no matter how passionate or intense they are. The one thing that moves the universe is action.” “An ounce of action is worth a ton of theory” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

To know what your future holds, look at your actions.

A weekly plan will translate your 12-week plan into daily and weekly action. Your weekly plan should cover your strategies and priorities.

Your long term and short term tasks and your commitments in the context of time.

Confronting the Truth

Scorekeeping will provide you with a knowledge base that will guide decisions and lead to better performance and success. Scorekeeping will let you know whether what you are doing is effective.

“Measurement builds self-esteem and confidence because it documents progress and achievement.”

The data simply focuses on achievements. It is not concerned with effort or intentions.

“In God we trust; all others must bring data.” – W Edwards Deming “As the CEO of your own life and business, you need to know the numbers. Measurement provides important feedback that allows you to make intelligent decisions.”

An effective measurement system captures both lead and lag indicators. Lag indicators include things like income, sales, commissions, pounds lost, and so on. Lead indicators are things that produce end results. They include things like sales calls and referrals.

“The most important lead indicator you have is a measure of your execution. Ultimately, you have greater control over your actions than over your results.”


Your supply of time is completely inelastic and perishable.

When you are not purposeful about how you spend your time, you leave results to chance.

“When you spend your time with intention, you know when to say yes and when to say no.”

Block out regular time each week to deal with strategically important tasks. Examples of performance time:

  1. Strategic blocks. A three-hour block of uninterrupted time that is scheduled into each week
  2.  Buffer blocks. Time set aside to deal with all the unplanned and low-value activities like email and voicemail
  3. Break out blocks. Time for resting and reflection

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.”

Accountability is accepting that you have a choice. That everything that you do in life is a choice. It is small thinking to see accountability as a have to rather than a choice.

With such a mentality you will only produce a minimum of results.

“When you understand that true accountability is about choice and taking ownership of your choices, everything changes. You move from resistance to empowerment, from limits to possibilities, and from mediocrity to greatness.”

Interest Vs Commitment

Commitments improve relationships, strengthen integrity, and builds self-esteem. Commitment is a state of being bound emotionally and intellectually to a course of action.

The ability to keep commitments is fundamental to effective execution. The difference between interest and commitment is that we only do the things we are interested in when we feel like it. But with commitment, we make no excuses.

Keys to successful commitments:

  1.  Strong desire. A clear and personally compelling reason will make you do things
  2. Keystone actions. A few core activities account for a majority of your results
  3. Count the costs. Counting the costs means being ready to commit time, resources, and so on
  4. Act on commitments, not feelings. If you learn to do the things that you need to do despite your feelings, you will surely be successful

Greatness in the Moment

 “In our efforts to not miss anything, we unwittingly miss everything.”

When our attention is spread over various subjects and conversations, we apply very little of ourselves to any individual activity. This can result in feelings of being burned out, exhausted, frustrated, and disconnected.

To make the most of your time, be present in the moment. Your thinking will be clear, and decisions will come easily.

You can neither change the past nor act in the future. All you have is the eternal right now.

Results don’t confirm your greatness. They are simply confirmation of it.

Achieving a work-life balance is difficult for most people.  Too much time spent on a single activity has the potential to create burnout.

To achieve life balance, you need to be purposeful in how you spend your time, energy, and effort.

The Execution System

The eight elements that are fundamental to high performance are:

  1. Vision
  2. Planning
  3.  Process control
  4. Measurement
  5. Time use
  6.  Accountability
  7.  Commitment
  8. Greatness in the moment

Applying the 12 Week Year will be uncomfortable because change is uncomfortable.

There are five stages that people go through when changing their behavior:

  1.  Uninformed optimism. This is the first stage and the most exciting as we imagine all the benefits that we are going to get from change
  2.  Informed pessimism.  This stage is characterized by a shift into negative emotions. At this stage, the benefits don’t seem important and the costs of change are not that apparent
  3. The valley of despair. Most people give up at this stage. They abandon the reason they wanted to change in the first place
  4.  Informed optimism. The like hood of success at this stage is higher. The benefits of your actions start to bear fruit
  5. Success and fulfillment. This is the stage where you complete the cycle and enjoy the full benefits of the change process.

If you are going to create lasting change in your life, you need to push through the pain, of change, and the valley of despair.

Your vision will provide you with a line of sight to help you overcome challenges and execute.

When creating your vision, focus on three-time horizons:

  1. Long-term aspirations
  2. Mid-term goals about three years to the future
  3. 12 weeks

Pitfalls when creating a vision:

  • You don’t take the power of vision seriously
  • The vision isn’t meaningful to you
  • Your vision is too small
  • You don’t connect your vision to your daily actions