The great thing about having a 12 week year is that the deadline is always near enough that you never lose sight of it. It provides a time horizon that is long enough to get things done, yet short enough to create a sense of urgency and a bias for action. – Brian Moran, The 12 Week Year
Time is the most valuable asset at your disposal. You can always make more money. But the one thing you can never get back is your time. One of our biggest misconceptions about time is how long something should take. We don’t see that we are the ones who determine how long we think something will take. To our detriment, we usually overestimate the time and make slower progress towards our goals.
According to Parkinson’s Law, we fill the time allotted for a given task. Last year, when our content strategist Kingshuk was overseeing one of our first course launches, he had a long list of things that needed to get done. When we asked him how long it would take, he said two weeks. I challenged him to condense the timeline of the things that he thought would take 2 weeks and try to accomplish them in 2 hours.
- What if you only gave yourself an hour to do something that usually takes a day?
- What if you gave yourself a day to do something that usually takes a week?
- What if you gave yourself a month for something that usually takes a year?
A few months ago, a friend recommended a book called The 12-Week Year. The premise was simple: give yourself 90 days to accomplish a goal that would typically take a year. In his own 12 week year, my friend Steve Daar signed his biggest client and had one of his most profitable quarters ever.
In 2013, when I was working with my first mentor, and in 6 months we:
- We planned and sold out a conference,
- I published a book that became freakishly successful,
- We rebranded and redesigned a website.
In that process, we went from 600 dollars in the bank in June to $125,000 in the bank by December. While the results were nice, the most valuable lesson I learned from that period was about how fast we could move if we were deliberate.
The biggest problem with setting yearly goals is that you have no idea what your life or your business will look like a year from now. It also causes people to set gargantuan unrealistic goals, ultimately paralyzing them with fear and preventing them from taking any action.
Constraints Make Your More Resourceful
With any constraint, whether it’s time, money, or people, you’re forced to become resourceful. If you only give yourself 90 days to accomplish a goal, you’re forced to manage your time more efficiently. In the long run, resourcefulness is more valuable than resources. Resourcefulness is something you can rely on even when you don’t have resources.
Become an essentialist
If you want to accomplish a goal in 90 days, you have to say “no” to everything that’s not aligned with your essential priorities. This requires what Reid Hoffman has described as “relentless prioritization”. If something isn’t directly aligned with whatever you’re trying to accomplish, it doesn’t deserve your attention.
Manage Your Attention
The state of your attention determines the state of your life and most time management problems are attention management problems. Start by reducing the competition for your attention:
- Use distraction blockers like Rescuetime
- Work with distraction-free tools or in full-screen mode, so you’re forced to single task
- Unsubscribe from everything that is not adding value to your life
- Take a long break from using social media. During the 12 weeks my friend Steve signed his biggest client, he stopped using Facebook completely
Attention is the currency of achievement. Since you’re trying to achieve a goal in the next 90 days, treat your attention like gold.
Develop the Right Habits and Systems
Habits are the compound interest of self-improvement. What you do today plants seeds for who you will become a year from now and ten years from now. By the time I got my book deal in 2015, I’d been consistently writing 1000 words a day for almost three years. With any goal, there are going to be things that are out of your control. Habits allow you to focus on what you control: your effort and your actions.
Condense Timelines and Set Deadlines
Take a look at the time you’ve given yourself for something and condense it. When you condense the timeline for something, your behavior will inevitably change. Since you have less time, you’re likely to manage both your time and your attention more effectively.
When I signed the book deal for my first book, Unmistakable: Why Only is Better than Best, my editor asked me if I could deliver the manuscript in 6 months. We thought I was going to be revising and expanding my self-published book, so I said yes. By the time we finished the outline, it was clear that I’d be writing a brand new book from scratch. Because of the condensed timeline, my behavior changed, and I delivered the first version of my manuscript to her in 6 months.
There are times you already do this. You’ve probably noticed that you get more done on the days when your schedule is packed, or it’s the week before you go on vacation. Condensed timelines increase your velocity and momentum.
Measure Your Progress
Measurement drives the process. Effective scorekeeping is essential if you want to execute well and perform at your best. – Brian Moran
Visible progress is one of our greatest motivators and measurement improves performance. Unless you measure your progress, you’re going to have no idea whether you’re on track to hit your goal. By measuring your progress, you’ll get more insight into how you should be spending your days and when your behavior needs to change.
For example, let’s say you have a goal to hit 25,000 words in a manuscript, and one month in you’ve only managed to write 3000 words. It’s quite clear that at your current pace you’re going to miss the mark. You’ll have to write 11,000 words over the next two months.
Measurement gives you this kind of clarity, and a lack of clarity is the biggest inhibitor of progress toward your goals.
Design the right Environment
One of the reasons I’ve hammered the impact of environments so much in most of my writing is because I’ve seen just how transformative the right environment can be. Nearly everything I’ve mentioned above is in a way deliberately designing each of the 9 environments that make up your life. Your physical spaces, the equipment you use, and the apps you use to get your work done are all environments. Designing your life begins with designing your days, and you are the architect of those days.
When you only give yourself 90 days to accomplish a goal you’d typically give yourself a year for, you have a different operating rhythm. You’re less compelled by mildly entertaining distractions and more attracted to deep work. In the same way that a piece of paper catches fire in the hot sun when you place a magnifying glass over it, limiting your focus to what you could do in 90 days ignites the spark of achievement.