A review of my first ‘Twelve Week Year’

Century follows century, yet events occur only in the present; countless men in the air, on the sea, yet everything that happens, happens to me…

From The Garden of Forking Paths by Jorge Luis Borges

As mentioned in this post, I embarked on a ‘twelve week year’ in October, so I thought a quick write-up might be instructive for anyone else considering it. There are several good arguments for the system, but foremost is that a year is simply too long a time horizon; yearly goals are usually too abstract, and easily fall to the wayside in the face of unexpected (or even expected!) disruption. The twelve week span allows you to keep your goals in mind much more reliably, and setting measurable tactics and lead/lag indicators means you can iteratively update your goals within the timeframe. Despite this, I found that even in a couple of months my priorities shifted, and other events took over towards the end. I would still say that it was worth doing, and plan to start another ‘year’ in February, after a winter fallow.

I had three goals for my first twelve week year:

Each goal had associated tactics on a week by week basis, and I dedicated specific two hour blocks each week to the first two. I put the website together on wordpress, and most of the work (and expense) came in getting professional headshots done, after which came the relatively simple tasks of choosing a layout, writing a fresh bio, and setting up a mailing list and integration with an events calendar. I had planned to include some recordings as well, but that proved a little difficult to sort out, for reasons I’ll go into below. The website is basically an online business card at the moment, but it’s a good start, and also has benefits at the level of simply taking myself more seriously as a jobbing musician.

My second goal came in at 50% execution, with three each of blog posts and mixes [1, 2, 3; 1, 2, 3]. As with the website, this goal was essentially curtailed in mid-November, when I was simultaneously hit by a heavy cold, and the semi-predictable busyness of extra music work in the run up to Christmas, including a very enjoyable and successful concert with my choir. I was particularly pleased with the first blog post, on mental polyculture, and the second mix, which was based on a party playlist and therefore included a few things I might not have played otherwise.

The third goal was not so easy to measure, but I probably hit about 50% execution there too. As an example of how priorities can drastically shift even within a twelve week span, my gym buddy moved up north, leaving me without our shared gym subscription, and I switched over to guided home workouts, using FitnessBlender (which I have used on and off for years and love!). Illness aside, I have at least settled into an exercise pattern which mostly fits in with my life, of doing workouts in the morning two or three times a week, and fitting in a meditation session before bed.

An important part of the system is the weekly review, which I had been doing anyway after reading GTD last year – I usually did mine on a Saturday, but have now moved it to Monday morning in the interests of saving Saturdays for unscheduled fun. The percentage scoring can seem a little silly at times, but in a way it demonstrates that you are at least getting something done. Although I didn’t complete each goal in the way I initially envisaged, all of them have resulted in interesting output and some new connections. Several people I met at the Sensemaker workshop last week said that they were enjoying my blog, to which I say – please let me know if you’re reading and enjoying! It makes me many times more likely to write more posts (and hopefully better ones).

Overall, despite my misgivings about rigid productivity systems, I found my first twelve week year to be fruitful and enjoyable. As with all such things, the mindset you use to approach it is key. You have to be able to let go of uncompleted or unrealistic goals, and be continually open to unexpected outcomes and opportunities. I’ve decided to bring the twelve week year into my broader toolkit of personal productivity, and I’m looking forward to trying it again in February.

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