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Episode 11 | Achieving Your Goals With A 12 Week Year

Updated: Sep 20, 2021

“Without goals, and plans to reach them, you are like a ship that has set sail with no destination.” — Fitzhugh Dodson

On this week’s show, I will be discussing the concept of the twelve week year, how I used it to get out of a creative rut and how it can be used to focus your vision and complete goals quickly. It’s a bit longer than usual episodes but it’s filled with valuable and important stuff.

Before I go on to that though, in last week’s episode I set out to discount the myth that multitasking is somehow a more productive way of working than just doing one thing at a time.

The ONE THING AT A TIME PHILOSOPHY is not the easiest thing to do, and I perhaps find that especially true for creatives. As we constantly find ourselves thinking of more and more things we could develop or work on within ourselves or our creative projects, be they films or whatever, we often trip over the last idea we had with a fresh new one and short circuit it. Multitasking does exist of course, as any mother or father working from home with a toddler at their heels will confirm, but in productivity terms, it’s incredibly inefficient and as we get older we simply become less and less able to pull it off. If you missed the episode do scoot back and have a listen as it’s got some good food for thought in there but if you did and have been giving it a try, as always please get in touch via twitter or the website links and let me know how you are getting on.

If you have a particular element of your life or work that you are struggling with then please get in touch and I’ll see if I can work up a new episode to help you to deal with it.


Sadly I lost my brilliant dad at the start of 2017 and just a few months later I lost my amazing mum too. It was not a good year and by September I found that I was struggling to get things done in both life and work. I always seemed to be a step behind and I was firefighting my way through everything last minute, that’s if I got things done at all. I’ve talked about firefighting a few times here and YOU CAN WORK THAT WAY BUT what it does is that it takes your attention away from larger problems and those problems play heavily on your mind. It also makes your goals secondary to whatever the current problem is that you are dealing with.

It got to the point several times in the years leading up to my own first twelve week year where I had to just stop and those that follow my twitter feed will know this, I have to shut it down to allow me to focus on what is absolutely vital. The white noise that I talked about in episode 3, just saturated my thoughts with 10’s If not hundreds of small to large sized tasks and commitments and I got heavily bogged down and kinda lost. Of course, now I have ways to avoid this, but that’s really because I was able to get myself out from under a host of problems by committing to a 12 week year and in turn that started me on my way to high-level thinking.

It’s worth saying that even productivity systems can become white noise if you try to follow too many at once, but I found the 12 week year and basically, with a fairly thin understanding of it I threw myself in.

I’ll go into it in detail a little later but I usually describe it to others as taking your new year’s resolution, what you want to achieve by that same time the following year instead of putting it 12 weeks away. For example, let’s say you want to make a short film. You say. I want to write, shoot and edit a short film by this time next year that’s my vision, that tells a story that I want to tell, or you want to learn how to edit by this time next year, or you want to make a change in career by this time next year, or you want to lose a few pounds or here’s one, you want to launch a podcast by this time next year. Instead of saying by THIS TIME NEXT YEAR, the traditional way you instead put that goal just 12 weeks away.

So a twelve week year simply takes the focused energy at the start and end of a new year’s resolution - The first six weeks and the final six weeks of the year and misses out the middle bit. The 9 months of the year where you got distracted from your vision. It focuses your time and energy and makes achieving your goals a real possibility.

“People with goals succeed because they know where they’re going.” — Earl Nightingale

My goal when I set my own 12 week year up was to clear the decks of incomplete projects, unfinished personal matters and promises to help others out within that time and I largely succeeded.

I successfully killed off projects that were going nowhere, completed tasks that had been lying unfinished for well, some of them, years and I either end lined or escaped from all but two other matters. One was a project I’d been dragged into and that the producer simply wouldn’t let go, and I found myself in the end, out of politeness, agreeing to extend my involvement – I shouldn’t have done it but I did, and the other was an insurance claim for water getting into my house which in the end I simply had to concede to as a kind of half agreement with them a few weeks later – by that stage it had been two whole years unresolved and the 12 week year put real pressure on them. I learned that corporate matters like an insurance claim are very difficult to get working to your speed. Everything else though and I’m talking some 11 or 12 quite complicated matters, as well as many many smaller ones, got resolved within the 12 weeks.

Of note is that NONE of the people that I gave deadlines to for the release of my voluntary creative involvement, actually completed or indeed really even started their projects within the 12 weeks I gave them to do so. These were creative projects which I can only assume were started by people on a whim, and they had called me or invited me on board and this was before I taught myself to say no of course, but they never went anywhere. It’s not that they couldn’t keep up with the pace that I set, THEY COULDN’T EVEN TAKE THE FIRST STEP ONTO A PACE – THERE WAS NO PACE. I’d been sweating and giving up mental energy to these projects when the people who apparently were driving them were really just waiting for me to do it for them. That realisation and my higher level self’s acknowledgement of it made saying no to future involvements all the easier.

I did try another 12 week year just after the first, trying to pull together within it both this podcast and a web series and that 12 week year failed, well kinda failed and the reason was that I was:

1 – Uncertain of exactly what I wanted to do with this podcast and my goal was therefor unspecific,


2 – That the project I’d let slide on the previous 12 week year slammed right into my one and took all of the spare time that I’d worked so hard for, off of me. I had to manhandle that project to completion and if I hadn’t it simply would never have shot.

In effect, I dropped my own project in favour of someone else’s and killed my second 12-week plan myself. All really out of politeness. I’m quite aware as I work on these episodes that at times I may sound harsh, or unsupportive or negative even but I have deep regrets from wasting my time and energy with experiences like this, and I must tell you that giving up your own hopes and dreams to commit to furthering someone else’s vision, no matter how nice they are, is not a good thing for the soul.

I’m currently nearing the end of my 3rd 12 week year, and my goal with this one – to launch a podcast on the subject of productivity by the end of September 2018. How am I getting on?


So committing to and completing a 12 week year is really pretty difficult but if you can get through it, and NOT GET DISTRACTED you will achieve a hell of a lot. I present this episode as I know just how powerful it is and I absolutely believe in it.

The TWELVE WEEK YEAR IS a PRODUCTIVITY SYSTEM created by BRIAN P MORAN and his business partner MICHAEL LENNINGTON, outlined in a NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLING BOOK (link in the show notes) and an accompanying website of the same name that debunks traditional goal setting, using annual goals, as an ineffective goal-achieving approach. The 12 Week Year Is Not About Mustering More Discipline, Willpower, Organizational Skills, or A better Mindset, it is simply a focussed approach to goal setting which takes your long-term vision and brings it closer.

Please buy your copy through one of my Amazon Affiliate Links. I get a small cut and it helps keep teh podcast costs down a wee bit.

RESEARCH ON NEW YEAR’S RESOLUTIONS suggests that when you set one and commit to it on the 1st of January that it is very likely that you might put in a good effort towards that yearly goal for 5 or 6 weeks at the start of the year, hitting the gym or writing down ideas etc. but by the time you are 6 weeks in, that LIFE AND WORK AND OTHER MATTERS will have taken your focus and frayed it, diluted it and you’d probably have abandoned your goal to deal with what was immediately on your plate. It goes on to suggest that maybe towards the end of the year you pick it back up again, and say to yourself, well I must do that thing that I said I would, and you might return to the gym, or perhaps you may have decided just to let it go.


The 12 Week Year is a highly practical guide for taking you from thinking about the things you should be doing to push your business or your project or your life forward to actually doing those things.

I’m basing my next section on an article by Carrie Dils called How to Squeeze a Full Year out of 12 Weeks. I did a good bit of additional research but I really liked her conclusions.

There are 4 stages to this:

Firstly you must SET “PILLAR” GOALS

“Goals are dreams with deadlines.” ― Diana Scharf

Now I’ve kind of avoided getting specific on goal setting so far in this podcast but the time has come for you to start thinking long term. The whole point of higher level thinking is to intelligently move yourself towards your own goals be they short or long term. And you need to start thinking about it if you haven’t already – The question is this - What is your long-term vision for your life?

Where would you like to be true about your life in 10 years.

Would you like to be debt free?

Would you like to have a family?

Would you like to achieve a certain salary? Own a holiday home? Move your career to a significant place?

This will be your pillar goal. Take your time with this. Get to grips with it. I’ll revisit goals again and again on this show. For now, the idea is to pick 2-3 core goals for each 12-week cycle that serve your larger vision.

Did you know that - If you write a goal down the probability of you doing it goes up 80%? Write a compelling vision of the ideal future that you’re working towards.


Imagine getting a week’s worth of progress made in one day. Think critically about the tasks that are truly most important to your goals and spend your time on those things.

What can I focus on in the next 12 weeks that are in service of my Pillar goals?

Plan the daily or weekly tasks that serve those 2-3 primary goals and if your daily activities aren’t supporting those goals, you’re doing the wrong thing. Create habits to make taking regular action as easy as possible.

Here are some examples that serve my current goal of creating this podcast.

Create the website that supports the podcast.

Learn how to submit to iTunes.

Create test episodes to learn from.

And how have I tackled these?

I stopped my involvement in other peoples creative projects in order to focus on my goal.

I tried three different word press designers, wasted time with them, and I eventually took over and built it myself in Wix.

I researched how to get onto iTunes by following you tubers and listening to podcasts that talk about the subject.

I hired a friend with a podcast to advise me on creating this one, and I recorded tests and rerecorded episode 1 three times before settling.

I narrowed my focus, out with the day to day work of fight direction which is incredibly busy this year I must add and I focussed only on my podcast goals in my spare time. I deliberately avoided being drawn into other ideas and projects that took my fancy.


Planning is some of the most productive time you can have. You have to set focused tactical goals. Plan what strategies and actions will move you closer to your goal and your future success.

To achieve a year’s worth of work in the next 12 weeks requires a style of planning and execution that forces you to shed the low-value activity that keeps you stuck. Engage with the word tactical and don’t be afraid to say no to things that will distract you or slow you down.

You have to make a detailed plan, with dates to hit - and stick to it.

My detailed plan for his podcast has three elements to it:

1 Be ready by the 12th of September – My ideal launch date.

2 Have 15 episodes researched written and recorded by that date. Today is the 7th and I am on episode 11. I will put off recording 12-15 as I’m not in Glasgow so cannot complete. I will however complete by the 20th.

3 To launch with a website which will support the show and is simple to look at but offers the opportunity for expansion. The website planning is very complex in itself.

I have been getting up early - between5.30-6am in order to complete a little bit of work on the podcast every day. As I near the end, it is slotting into every spare moment that I can find, between risk assessments, travel and fights.


Make your goals SMART

That is (Specific. Measurable. Actionable. Relevant. Time-sensitive.).

If you can’t measure progress, how do you know how you’re doing? Keep score so you know what’s working and what’s not so that you can make adjustments along the way. It enables you to celebrate wins and consciously identify problem areas.

Here are some common problems that you may face along the way.

COMMON MISTAKE #1: Trying to change everything at once - This is the number one mistake people make.

Start with one thing and do it well. Once you get a few wins under your belt, you’ll gain skill and confidence with the system and you’ll be able to achieve even more.

COMMON MISTAKE #2: Not having a strong enough “why” You absolutely MUST have a compelling personal vision. This is the “why” behind what you want to accomplish and achieve. It provides the motivation to follow through and take action, even when you don’t feel like it. Don’t get caught up trying to please someone else or copy someone else. Find your own why.

COMMON MISTAKE #3: Not tracking your actions. This is important because you are what you repeatedly do. You are always building habits, either by intention or by accident. Tracking is a daily reminder that you’re growing.

COMMON MISTAKE #4: Going it alone - If you’re serious about achieving your goals, the best thing you can do is tell others about it.

There’s an African proverb that says, “if you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” So share your vision & goals with a friend or a colleague. In the productivity world, there’s something called an accountability partner. I’m sure if you put some effort into it you can find someone who it would be mutually beneficial to share with.


Brian P. Moran says in the 12 week year that “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.”

I’ve gone into some detail here but the book covers this topic very well. Follow the link in the show notes to get yourself a copy. It’s got so much value in it that I’ve really just had time to touch upon here.

In the interest of honesty, I have to admit that I have deliberately put back my launch of Film Pro Productivity from the 12 September to a bit later in the month. The reason for that? I’m directing fight sequences simultaneously on 3 different television shows now and one is on the Island of Shetland at the top of Scotland, one is on the Isle of Skye to the North West and the other is in Central Scotland, In Glasgow. I simply can’t make my own launch date as I have to follow the work. If I launched on the 12th, which tbh I can, then I would not be able to promote it. I have delayed a little to gain a lot.

This twelve week year episode is my first foray into the subject of goal setting. I hope that you’ve found it useful and inspiring.

“One part at a time, one day at a time, we can accomplish any goal we set for ourselves.” — Karen Casey


I’m not going to suggest that as a call to action for next week you begin a 12 week year – all I ask is that you think about how it could work for you and start deciding on your life and work goals. That’s enough for now.

Next episode I’ll be talking about Timewasters and How to deal with them – I’ll try and make it a shorter episode!

For now though, thanks so much for listening – and I urge you to take control of your own destiny, keep on shootin’ and join me NEXT TIME on Film Pro Productivity.

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  • If you’re struggling with something you think I can help with or would like to tell me how you are getting on then please get in touch via the contact page on the website. Alternately you can get me on Twitter @fight_director or follow the show @filmproprodpod

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Thanks: A Himitsu

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