One of the things I’ve noticed with setting goals is that you set a goal for maybe a year out, or two years out, three years out. Then almost inevitably what happens is you’re like okay, today these are just OK results but in the future it’s going to be way better.
For example if it’s like business and you’re looking at sales goals you’re like okay maybe we’re not producing much profit now, but you know we set this one year goal and it’s just going to kind of go way up at the end of the year, then all of a sudden we’re going to be crushing it. Or maybe it’s the same thing but with a personal financial goal.
I think now more than ever it’s hard to predict the future. Also setting these goals for that long of a period of time it’s like, it’s hard to know what’s going to happen three months from now much less 12 months from now.
So I read a book called The 12 Week Year and to me it’s been super beneficial. You can go out to read the book. It’s a good book, but I’m going to give you the overall idea and what I’ve been using to plan especially business goals but also some personal stuff.
The idea is that you take it down, and the time period is somewhat arbitrary but 12 weeks is the way they teach it. I think the biggest distinction here is you know a lot of times you may set quarterly goals, but the idea is that this is optimal for building up to a bigger one-year goal.
So you basically take a one-year goal, you divide it in four, and then maybe have a little bit of different variations for each of these. So then you have this one little chunk, that builds to the next chunk, that builds to the next chunk, and everything’s supposed to work out at the end.
The 12-Week Year
The difference here and the reason they call a 12-week year is that you’re taking the 12-week as a distinct chunk. It’s not necessarily building up to anything else. You want to achieve a measurable impactful outcome at the end of those 12 weeks.
So say for example, in business, you’re like okay in the next 12 weeks what would actually matter if I accomplished it? It really helps to start with a long-term vision. This doesn’t mean you have five-year goals, and three-year goals, and one-year goals. You just have a general idea of what is the big thing I’m after long-term.
What You Want to Accomplish
Once you kind of clarify that for that area of your life, or your business, the next piece is okay for the next 12 weeks what do I actually want to accomplish? Plus what would that do for me in my life like what would be different if I accomplished this? Say for example if it’s in business and you’re like okay I want to get this new product live and I want it to be selling at least a thousand dollars a day. So you’re like what would this do for me?
Maybe you’re so dependent on one other product that’s in a declining market and so you’re like if I just get this one live then I’m going to be able to have better diversification. My business is going to be worth more, and I’ll be able to sleep better at night. So that may be an actual goal that you want to accomplish.
So you have a specific outcome you want to accomplish in those 12 weeks and that’s the outcome you’re after. Then what you do is you start having tactics each week. The way this typically looks is basically you end up with your 12 week goal after filling this out. This is kind of the top section, so you would write down whatever that goal is and then basically you have a set of individual tactics.
The idea is that you’re kind of thinking ahead of time is what is it actually going to take for you to get there? You’re not worrying about that later or each week trying to figure out okay, what do I need to do? This helps you kind of pace yourself.
So you may say okay tactic one. I need to do this by the first week. Okay tactic number two, I need to do this each week. This could be like monitoring your advertising or you know working with employees or something like that. Think, I need to do this every single week. I need to do this for only one week. Then add a few more, week three, week four for example and then you end up with a whole list of these. I typically end up having like 10 to 12-ish for a goal you don’t want to go too overboard.
The idea is just that each week you already know what you’re going to do. You just show up for that week and you’re like okay I need to pull off these two because this is my week one. I also need to do this one each week and then week two comes along. This one hopefully is done and then you pull off your week two and then also the one you’re doing each week.
What this does is you end up with an actual plan for how you’re going to achieve what you want to achieve, rather than just kind of hoping that it happens. So the way I believe they teach it in the book is only to have like one to three of these big goals for this 12-week period.
I think you’re perfectly fine if you just have one, I typically end up with about three and I think my current phase right now I have four, some personal and some business oriented. To me this has been hugely beneficial. I think it’s actually moved the businesses I’m involved in forward because we’ve been very focused on actually accomplishing these meaningful outcomes.
I already have a plan when I go into the week. It helps make sure that I’m not deluding myself and thinking like okay I’m gonna achieve this goal, but then maybe I don’t think about it this week. Maybe I don’t think about it next week then also you get to week number nine and you’re like oh crap now I really need to figure out what I’m gonna do.
This forces you to actually each week keep chipping away at it which I think is what makes this so valuable. The big thing is making sure this is actually a real outcome you want to accomplish, not something that’s built into something in the future. To me this very tactical approach has helped a ton, and for the businesses I’m involved in it has produced real meaningful outcomes.
Warren Buffett Advice
You know one of the stories you hear about Warren Buffett a lot is, I believe one time he was on the plane with a pilot of his. The pilot was basically asking him for some advice and the pilot was like how do you be more successful? Warren Buffett was like okay cool so what are the top 25 things you want to accomplish in the next year? The pilot starts writing them down and rattling them off.
After that you know Warren Buffet’s like okay what are the top five? So he circles the top five and he’s like all right all the rest, this is your not to do list. For a lot of us we want to try to cram as much stuff in as possible. When you really think about what it’s going to take to get there, by creating a plan like this, then you can see you don’t have all the time in the world.
So all those things that maybe aren’t as important are the things that you need to focus on not doing until those top ones are done. I think that applies perfectly here, so you know Tony Robbins says this big quote that he always talks about a lot, it’s you know “progress equals happiness.”
You know as long as you’re making progress in something then that can contribute a lot to happiness. It’s when we kind of stagnate or we feel like we’re not growing when we’re not as happy. So this is one way to kind of force progress on yourself and to make sure that it’s happening every single week.
He also talks a lot about you know picking like top four one year goals for different areas of your life. His framework’s a little bit different, he obviously knows a lot about what he’s doing but I have tried almost everything and I like this format right now better than just about anything. So hopefully this helps!
Go out there, give this a try for areas of your personal life, maybe your personal finances, or an area of your business potentially, some other sort of personal thing, maybe your health or something like that. I’d love to hear how it goes so give this a try and if you want check out the book it’s called 12-week Year.
Matt Clark is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Amazing.com, a serial entrepreneur, and investor. He’s been featured on Forbes, CNBC, and Entrepreneur.com.