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The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran - Book Notes, Summary, Review

The 12 Week Year by Brian Moran - Book Notes, Summary, Review - Cover Image

Published: April 16, 2021

Reading Time: 9 min


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The 12 Week Year will fundamentally change how you think about goal planning and working towards those goals.

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Who Should Read This Book?

I would recommend this book to anyone interested in setting and working on goals.

Even if you have already read plenty of productivity or goal-setting books, this tactic of the 12 week year is extremely helpful and motivating.

Take the time to try it out for one or two quarters and you’ll quickly see the value in this approach.

How This Book Changed Me

The most prominent way this book has changed me is that I now follow the 12 week year model for working on goals and projects.

Since making this switch I have become motivated to continue making progress towards my goals. The shorter time-frame has allowed me to keep focused knowing the finish line is in sight.

I have also improved how I track my progress. I now have checklists and daily notes that I look over during my weekly review.

If I’m not doing well, I have the chance to reflect on why, make a necessary change and see how that affects the results.

My Top 3 Quotes That Resonated With Me

“Knowledge alone benefits no one unless the person acquiring it does something with it. And great ideas are worthless unless they are implemented.” - Aristotle p19

“If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right” - Henry Ford p71

“The choices that you make on how you spend your time, ultimately create your results in life.” p112

Book Notes

The Challenge

If you can consistently perform, ship, publish, create, you are setting yourself up for success.

Refefining The Year

  • When you focus your tasks + goals on a yearly level, it can seem like there is a lot of time to accomplish those things.
    • With that in mind, there is no sense of urgency to compete or even work on your goals until the last few months of the year, maybe.
    • The end of the year represents a finish line. A point where we reflect on our successes and failures. It’s at this time that the deadlines we’ve set come into focus. It’s when most of the work gets done or we realize we’ve failed.

“Knowledge alone benefits no one unless the person acquiring it does something with it. And great ideas are worthless unless they are implemented.” - Aristotle p19

  • Instead of thinking yearly, we should think quarterly → 12 weeks equals a year
    • The shorter time frame gives you a sense of urgency and motivates you to take action.
    • At the end of each 12 weeks is a chance to start again. If the last 12 weeks were tough and you didn’t accomplish your goals, you can try again in the next 12 weeks.

The Emotional Connection

  • When setting achievable goals that you’ll be motivated to work towards, you need to have a compelling vision. A plan for the long-term.
    • This will help you to generate short-term goals and tasks that align with your motivations.
  • Neuroplasticity is the capacity for our brains to change.
    • Your brain has the ability to change depending on how you use it.

Throw Out The Annual Plan

  • Work from a plan
    • It allows you to think through your work in advance.
    • You’ve done all the pre-work which saves you time when you start working.
  • For your 12 week year plan you should pick 1 or 2 goals to accomplish.
    • Break these goals down into tactics; the daily actions you work on to achieve your goals.
    • If you work on these tactics each day, you will accomplish your goal at the end of the 12 weeks.

One Week At A Time

  • The weekly plan
    • Break down your 12 week plan into tasks you can work on each week. Think of the weekly plan as 1 12th of your 12 week plan.
    • Review your weekly plan at the start of each day to determine your work.

Confronting The Truth

  • Measuring our results provides motivation to keep going.
  • If we see that we are doing poorly, we can look at why that might be the case and make adjustments.
  • Keep a weekly scorecard
    • This provides an objective measure of how well you’ve executed your weekly plan.
  • Remember that it’s not about being perfect, it’s about learning and improving.


“The reality is that if you are not purposeful about how you spend your time, then you leave your results to chance.” p42

  • Block out time each week to focus on your most important tasks. Do this first.
  • There are 3 components of performance time:
    • Strategic blocks - like deep work time. A 3 hour block of uninterrupted work time.
    • Buffer blocks - these allow you to deal with spill over or unexpected work.
    • Breakout blocks - at least a 3 hour block where you do something other than work.
  • Create a picture of your ideal week and build your blocks according to that model.

Interest Versus Commitment

  • “A commitment is a conscious choice to act to create a desired result.”
  • Commitment is powerful.
  • There are four keys to successful commitments:
    • A strong desire or a compelling reason to commit
    • Keystone actions that will produce the results your looking for
    • Consider the costs - time, money, energy, before you commit so you know what you’re getting yourself into.
    • Learn to do the things you need to do, regardless of how you feel.

The Execution System

  • Knowing something and doing something are 2 different things
  • Three principles of the 12 week year:
    1. Accountability
      • Taking ownership of your choices and what you want to accomplish
    2. Commitment
      • A personal promise you make to yourself
    3. Greatness in the Moment
      • You become great long before the results show it. You become great when you make a choice to do what is necessary to become great.
      • The results are simply a confirmation of greatness
  • Five disciplines of the 12 week year:
    1. Vision - Knowing clearly where you want to be in the future.
    2. Planning - A clear plan will help you to focus on the most important tasks.
    3. Process Control - The tools and systems you use to achieve your daily actions.
    4. Measurement - Accurately measuring your progress towards your goals will allow you to adjust as necessary.
    5. Time Use - Manage your time effectively to focus on your most important work each day.
  • Five stages of the emotional cycle of change
    1. Uninformed Optimism - you see all the benefits of change with none of the downsides.
    2. Informed Pessimism - you start to question if the change is worth it. The benefits don’t seem real or immediate.
    3. Valley of Despair - this is where you most want to quit. Everything seems unattainable. This is where you need a strong vision.
    4. Informed Optimism - the benefits of change are starting to show. Things are becoming more routine.
    5. Success and Fulfillment - Things are routine.

Establish Your Vision

  • A vision is your reason why.

“If you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right” - Henry Ford p71

  • Instead of asking How? ask What If? this shifts your mindset from impossible to possible thinking.

“Vision, when engaged properly, is the ignition switch and power source of high performance.” p74

  • Share your vision and goals with others. This public accountability will give you the motivation to continue when things get tough.

Develop Your 12 Week Plan

  • Taking the time upfront to plan will save you lots of time in the long run.
  • The more specific and measurable your goals are, the easier it will be to work on them.
  • Five Criteria For Creating a 12 Week Goal - follow the SMART goals technique
  • Based on your 12 Week Goal, create a 12 week plan which will act as a roadmap to reach your goal.
    • What are the one or two actions you should do each day/week to make progress towards your goal?
    • Define what the tasks are and when you should do them.
    • Consider where you might struggle and how you can overcome those struggles.

Installing Process Control

  • To ensure you succeed at doing your tasks consistently, you need to build a structure, system, and environment that fosters motivation. This means you won’t have to rely on willpower which often by itself isn’t enough for you to do your work.
  • Print out your weekly plan and look at it each day.
  • Check in on your progress weekly (during your weekly review if you follow GTD practices)
    • Score your week - how many times you executed your daily tasks. This allows you to be objective and see how effective or ineffective you were at completing your most important tasks.
      • You need this measurement to see if you are making progress.
    • Plan your week - what you will do next week.
    • Participate in a WAM (weekly accountability meeting) - like a mastermind?

Final Thoughts And The 13th Week

  • Perform a retrospective at the end of your 12 weeks.
    • Review the past 12 weeks and plan for the next.
    • Start, Stop, Continue

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