You can have all the knowledge in the world, but if you don’t do anything with it, it’s useless. It’s not what you know, it’s what you do with what you know—and doing it with a sense of urgency—that will enable you to accomplish what sometimes seems unattainable.
That was my takeaway from having been introduced to the book, “The 12 Week Year: Get More Done in 12 Weeks Than Others Do in 12 Months,” by Brian Moran and Michael Lennington. Moran, founder and CEO of The Execution Company, has come up with a list of nine tips for getting more done in far less time, and for really doing something with all that knowledge. Check this out:
Envision a future that’s worth the pain of change. The number one thing that you will have to sacrifice to be great, to achieve what you are capable of, and to execute your plans, is your comfort. Therefore, the critical first step to executing well is creating and maintaining a compelling vision of the future that you want even more than you desire your own short-term comfort. Then and only then can you align your shorter-term goals and plans with that long-term vision.
Live with intentional imbalance. How many articles, books, and blog posts have you read that emphasize the importance of establishing work/life balance? A lot, right? But where much of the advice on creating work/life balance goes wrong is around the idea of equality. Often, we’re told what we need to do in order to spend equal time in each area of our lives. The result is often unproductive and frustrating. Life balance is not about equal time in each area; life balance is more about intentional imbalance. At different times in your life, you will choose to focus on one area over another, and that’s perfectly fine, provided it’s intentional. Life has different seasons, each with its own set of challenges and blessings. Think about what could be different for you if every 12 weeks you focused on a few key areas in your life and made significant improvement.
Make sure you’re committed, not merely interested. I heard a humorous anecdote about commitments involving a chicken and a pig at breakfast time. The chicken has contributed the egg and is therefore merely interested in the breakfast; the pig, however, contributes the bacon, and is thus completely committed. Kept commitments benefit both parties involved by improving relationships, strengthening integrity, and building self-confidence. Commitments are powerful and, oftentimes, life changing. When you’re merely interested in doing something, you do it only when circumstances permit, but when you’re committed to something, you accept no excuses, only results.
Put hard (and short) deadlines on what you need to get done. The annual execution cycle many organizations embrace lulls people into believing that they can put things off—critical activity—and still accomplish what they desire, still achieve their goals. It sets one deadline, year-end, which in January—heck, even in July—still feels too far away to spur you into action. But consider the rush of productivity that occurs when a deadline you have to meet draws closer. In many companies, during the final five or six weeks of the year, a frantic push commences to end strong and to kick off the New Year with gusto. It’s an exciting and productive time. The problem is, this urgency exists for just a handful of weeks in a 365-day year—but it doesn’t have to. When a company sets deadlines for every 12 weeks rather than every 12 months, that excitement, energy, and focus happens all year long. And this strategy works with all goals, not just business goals.
Write down your plan. It lets you make your mistakes on paper. A “plan” in your head isn’t really a plan. It’s wishful thinking. Often, life gets in the way, and if you don’t have a written plan, you will almost certainly drop the ball in the first few days. The world is noisy, the unexpected happens, distractions arise, your innate desire for comfort tugs at you, and you lose focus on the things you know you should do. But if you sit down at the start of your 12 weeks and write out your strategy, it forces you to think through potential pitfalls up front.
Give each goal its own set of tactics. The way your plan is structured and written impacts your ability to effectively execute. Effective planning strikes a working balance between too much complexity and too little detail. Your plan should start by identifying your overall goals for the 12 weeks. (Yes, you may have more than one goal during that time frame.) Then, you’ll need to determine the tactics needed to meet each goal. Tactics are the daily to-dos that drive the attainment of your goals. Tactics must be specific, actionable, and include due dates and assigned responsibilities.
Take it one week at a time. To guide you on your journey to completing your tactics and meeting your goals, you’ll need weekly plans. Your weekly plan encompasses your strategies and priorities, your long-term and short-term tasks, and your commitments in the context of time. It helps you focus on the elements of your plan that must happen each week to keep you on track with your goals. Your goals, in turn, keep you on track with your vision. Everything is powerfully aligned.
Keep track of your efforts, not your results. You’ve probably heard or read the mantra “What gets measured gets done.” It’s true: Measurement drives the execution process. After all, can you imagine the CEO of a large corporation not knowing the numbers? As the CEO of your own life and business, you need to know your numbers. But don’t measure your results (how much commission you earned)—instead, measure your level of execution (the number of sales calls you made). You have greater control over your actions than your results, and your results are created by your actions.
To measure your execution, you need to know to what degree you followed through on each week’s tactics. This allows you to pinpoint breakdowns and respond quickly. Unlike results, which can lag weeks, months, and in some cases years behind your actions, an execution measure provides more immediate feedback, which allows you to make game-time adjustments much faster.
Block your time. Many of us engage each day on its own terms. In other words, we satisfy the various demands of the day as they are presented, spending whatever time is needed to respond without giving much thought as to the relative value of the activity. But you can regain control of your day through time blocking. Basically, you block your days into three kinds of blocks—strategic blocks, buffer blocks, and breakout blocks. A strategic block is uninterrupted time that is scheduled into each week. During this block you accept no phone calls, no faxes, no emails, no visitors, no anything: You do only the activities on your plan. Buffer blocks are designed to deal with all of the unplanned and low-value activities—like most email and voicemail—that arise throughout a typical day. Breakout blocks provide free time for you to use to rest and rejuvenate.