I’m in Week 7 of my 12 Week Year experiment, and it’s time for an update to let you know what’s working, what’s not working, and what I appreciate.
I’ve mentioned before that I expected to absolutely despise these 12 Weeks. I’m a Meyers-Briggs INFP so didn’t expect the rigidity of this system to be a fit. (Although I’ve really tried to understand the Enneagram, I still am at a lost about which number I am. But for the sake of this post, assume I’m the one that hates schedules and rules and routines.)
Knock my socks off, half-way through my first 12 Week Year, I’m loving it!
Clarifying Time Boundaries
The 12 Week Year is helping me succeed in one area I often have failed at in the past: Stopping. When I was interning at a church in the late 1990s my supervisor told me, “There will not be one single day when you will ever be done with all your work.” Being in my mid-twenties, I thought to myself, “Maybe he’s just not doing things right.” Ha! There is always things to do on my work to-do list.
Using the 12 Week Year has helped me set down work. Putting specific tasks in those little half-hour boxes helps me make a choice at the end of each time block: Shall I keep working, or shall I move onto another task? It sounds so, so simple — but I’ve found stopping before I’m done a difficult thing.
The Timer Is My Friend
The 12 Week Year book doesn’t emphasize the use of a timer, but for me the combination of my pre-planned week along with liberal use of the timer on my phone has worked beautifully. When I begin a new task time block, I carefully decide how much time I want to devote to that task. If I’m set aside an hour for my Buffer Administration time, I’ll often set a timer for 42 minutes to challenge myself to see if I can get through the important stuff in that shorter time.
When the alarm goes off, I then make my next choice. I can stop that task and move on, I can hit snooze and work for a few more minutes, or I can choose another amount of time I want to devote to the tasks. This has been working spectacularly for me, in a way the Pomodoro Method never quite has (remember, I hate rules and schedules and routines).
During my first week, I scheduled a dinner break each day. This would help me be able to take a step back and made a careful decision about how I wanted to spend my evenings. It’s been a great success! Of course, I ate dinner before the 12 Week Year. But I would often continue working until I was exhausted and hangry before I gave up and stopped working.
Now, when it is time for my designated Dinner Break, I set down my work and go downstairs while I still have some energy and creativity. What we eat for dinner has improved, and I have actually noticed a shift in our engagement with one another at dinner. We have better conversations and stay at the table longer when I hold myself to this Dinner Break.
Since the Dinner Break was working so well, last week I added in a Lunch Break. Ta-Da! Having a lunch break is amazing! I didn’t realize how often I just kept plowing through the day, grabbing a bite of something when I could no longer stand it. Now, most days I take a break both to eat and move a bit, even if it’s just a quick walk out front. With my lunch break, I’ve nearly eliminated my afternoon slump.
Getting Comfortable With Regular Evaluation and Imperfection
The authors of the 12 Week Year warn their readers that the designated weekly evaluations are often one reason people do not do the 12 Week Year. At the end of each week, you review whether you accomplished each of your tasks for that week. Ideally, this is done in a group. But between COVID and being Zoomed out, I do this alone.
I’ve come to look forward to and even enjoy my end-of-the-week evaluation. I was thankful to learn from the book that if a person completes 85% of their tasks, it is likely they will reach their goal. So I do not expect perfection at the end of the week. I take a moment to congratulate myself on getting done those things I got done. Then I look at what I didn’t get done. Does it still need to be done? If so, what needs to change so I can do it next week? I almost never move an undone task to the next week as-is. I edited it to make it more possible the next week. For example, when the weather got raining I didn’t hit my exercise targets two weeks in a row. That third week, I changed my task to “research online workouts” instead of doggedly expecting me to get outside for walks when the weather was bad.
When Plans Fall Apart
A few weeks ago my well-planned week fell apart in a rather catastrophic way. Once a year I spend a week as a reader for the General Ordination Exams. I planned my reading time into my week just fine. The following week, I had 17 evaluations to write. I planned on 10-15 minutes per evaluation, but then found out that each evaluation needed 30-45 minutes. Ug! After several minutes of wailing and gnashing of teeth, I took a breath and made a plan. Since I had my week in front of me, it only took a few minutes to move some important things around and to choose not to do some other things, and then within about 10 minutes, I had cleared the rest of my day. I plowed through all the evaluations and got them done ahead of time. At my end-of-the-week evaluation, I did not beat myself up for the things left undone on my list. Instead, I was proud of the way I was able to flex and get done what needed to get done. I moved an undone task into the following week, and that was that.
I was talking to a nun friend of mine about how surprised I am that I enjoy following the 12 Week Year plan. She reminded me that I had asked her to pray for my “wholehearteness” a while back. I wanted to be more intentionally and fully present to what I was doing in every moment. She reflected that by following this 12 Week Plan, it was allowing me to show up and be more present both in my work as well as during my personal time. Who knew?
Do you take meal breaks?
How do you manage when your plans go up in smoke?
What helps you live whole heartedly?