According to Brian Moran, author along with Michael Lennington, of The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks than Others Do in 12 Months, the reason New Year’s resolutions fail is simple. “The number one enemy of most New Year’s resolutions isn’t feasibility, a lack of know-how, or even a lack of motivation,” Moran says. “The number one enemy of most resolutions is time.”
A year is just too long a time to accomplish one’s goals. In January, it’s easy to procrastinate when you have another 11 months in which to get to work. Even in mid-July, there’s still plenty of time to make it happen; there’s no real urgency. The next thing you know, the holidays are looming, and it’s too late. There’s nothing left to do but pin one’s hopes on the coming year. “For many people, this depressing chain of events recycles on a yearly basis because far-away deadlines allow — even encourage — us to be slack on execution,” says Moran.
Here’s where the “12 week year” comes in, a system based on a shorter time horizon that can deliver results. With this approach, you no longer have the luxury of seemingly endless time stretching out before you. Each 12-week period stands on its own. As a result, each week, each day, each second counts and the day of reckoning looms.
Moran offers seven ways to alter the way you, or your clients, think about your goals:
- Realize that success happens now. According to Moran, most people see success as something that happens in the future. “Success is all of the little things you do throughout the year to make your goals happen.” Fulfillment of a goal is found in the fulfillment of each step along the way to that goal.
- Throw away your yearly planner. If you map out your entire year on January 1, and unexpected delays crop up early on, you may be tempted to throw in the towel entirely. Planning this far out requires many assumptions that may not prove valid. “Once you realize that there’s just not enough predictability to make annualized planning effective, the 12 week year begins to make a lot more sense,” explains Moran.
- Keep score from Day One. When you immediately begin measuring your progress, it becomes apparent that every moment counts. Accounting for your time in this way brings urgency in a way longer-range planning does not. “Effective scorekeeping prevents you from rationalizing lackluster results and forces you to confront the reality of your situation. The sooner you confront reality, the sooner you can shift your actions toward producing more desirable results.”
- Be honest with yourself. Do you have a habit of ditching commitments? It’s all too easy to make grandiose promises at the beginning of the year. Given a long time horizon, our interest and commitment have time to wane, and we soon forget about our goals.
- Think in terms of “want to.” When we set goals for ourselves, they can turn into burdens, which we come to despise. “I have to work out at the gym,” “I have to save money.” After a while, we grow to resent such strictures. “When you look at tactics as choose-tos instead of have-tos, you’ll notice a big change in your attitude and motivation. Instead of feeling burdened and put-upon, you’ll feel empowered.”
- Be proactive instead of reactive. Yes, you’re busy, and it’s difficult to get everything done in the course of a day. But the truth is many of us lose focus to our environments: the phone rings, an email comes in, someone knocks on the door. When you are constantly reacting to things, it’s easy to neglect high-priority activities. “Making the reactive-to-proactive switch won’t be easy. You’ll have to become more comfortable with saying no.”
- Celebrate your 12-week wins. Many businesses throw yearend parties to acknowledge their successes. Apply this concept to the “12 week year,” and reward yourself when you accomplish your goals. “Especially for goal-driven people, it’s tempting to always look at what lies ahead and not fully appreciate the ground that has already been covered,” Moran says. “It’s not uncommon for individuals and even entire organizations to have mentally given up on their goals before October.” With a shorter time horizon, you and your clients have repeated chances throughout the year to finally make your resolutions a reality.
— Read 18 Reasons Americans Are Afraid to Retire, on ThinkAdvisor.
Melanie Williams is a freelance writer, editor and copy editor living in the Denver area. Previously, she worked in the film and publishing industries.