A few weeks later, that same friend gave me a copy of the best-selling book The 12 Week Year by Brian P. Moran and Michael Lennington. The 12 Week Year is based on the revolutionary idea of redefining the period of time during which we want to accomplish goals from a year to a more manageable and short period of time: 12 weeks. Although the book is not specifically meant for lawyers, I found it to be a game-changer for how I look at my law practice, my professional goals, and my personal goals.
The book is divided into two parts. Part I is titled “Things You Think You Know,” and Part II is titled “Putting It All Together.” Part I is about resetting the reader’s mind-set and introducing concepts the reader should know before heading into Part II. Part II is about implementing these concepts, writing down goals, and creating a plan.
The premise of the book is to make manageable goals and to hold oneself accountable for implementing them in a short period of time, instead of an entire year. The book further breaks down the 12 weeks into weekly plans. “Weekly plans allow you to structure your activities so that you are focused on both the long-term and short-term tasks that are truly important” (p. 30). When I began my 12-week year and wrote my weekly plans, it felt like an epiphany. In the abstract, I always knew the importance of setting short-term goals that are like pieces of a puzzle that will eventually help me attain long-term goals. Actually creating a plan to attain those long-term goals however, was the challenge. As I kept reading the book, I became more and more excited at the possibility of learning how to implement my goals.
One of the concepts explained in the book that resonated the most with me is productive tension. “Productive tension is the uncomfortable feeling you get when you’re not doing the things you know you need to do” (p. 38). I was well familiar with feeling this way—knowing that I had ideas I wanted to implement but not having a plan to actually implement them.
The other concept that resonated with me was intentionality, which is covered in Chapter 7 of the book. “The reality is that if you are not purposeful about how you spend your time, then you leave your results to chance. Although it’s true that we control our actions and not our outcomes, our results are created by our actions. It stands to reason that the actions we choose to take throughout our day ultimately determine our destiny” (p. 39). Chapter 7 also provides time-management strategies that the reader can begin implementing immediately and effectively.
Part II of the book introduces more concepts and also functions as a workbook of sorts. There are places for readers to write their goals in several of the chapters in Part II. There are also tips for success and common pitfalls to avoid.
Chapter 14 walks readers through creating an effective plan and provides almost a checklist for things that a good plan will contain. The subsequent chapters inform readers what to expect and what to do in each of the 12 weeks in their newly acquired mind-set of a 12-week year.
Part II of the book is meant to be tailored to each reader to a certain extent. It is meant to be a guide, holding the reader’s hand through the 12 weeks and letting the reader know what to watch out for and how to stay in the mind-set of the 12-week year.
As a testament to the power of the new mind-set, I am glad to report that within my first few weeks of the 12-week year, I have been able to accomplish some things I have been wanting to do for years with my practice. One of them was to create a video for my website. Another was to install and start using some productivity tools to streamline day-to-day and repetitive tasks in my practice. I have been able to accomplish quickly some short-term goals that I had been putting off for years because I was too busy. In turn, these new tools have freed up more time for me that I can dedicate to my family and to actually practicing law.
One caveat about the book is that it often directs the reader to the website for the 12 Week Year online program and frequently mentions the program to the point that it can seem like a sales pitch. A seasoned solo practitioner can spot a sales pitch and move past it easily. Some might be bothered by it, but it was not a big enough part of the book to deter me from reading or taking the book seriously. If anything, the success stories of implementing a 12-week year motivated me more; I was glad to know that there are people and organizations for whom this had made a difference, and I was able to trust the concept and new experience more because of it.
To wrap up, I highly recommend The 12 Week Year to solo practitioners who have short-and long-term goals they wish to achieve, are serious about making a change, and are willing to make the commitment. While the book is not geared specifically to lawyers, it is geared to entrepreneurs and business owners, so solo practitioners will likely find the book helpful in their practice and life.