Briefing Notes: In Defense of Short-Term Thinking

Published: December 15, 2019

“If you want something badly enough, you can do anything for 30 days.” — Matt Cutts


Last week, it was about goal-setting — or rather, commitment-setting — for the new year. Once you’ve settled on those 2020 commitments though, what you do next is crucial.

After all, the starting gate is littered with goals that fizzled out without supporting strategies or plans (ugh).
That was never my problem. I’m a planner ☺️ Something else was the issue. But I didn’t understand what it was until a couple of years ago when I discovered Brian Moran’s “The 12-Week Year”.*

It shed light on where the bottlenecks were and turned my process – both for my work and personal life – upside down.

See, I used to be in favor of annual planning. Trained from all those years in corporate America. That 12-month long term planning was a bear. By contrast, the 12-Week Year process helped me think in shorter time frames (30, 60, 90 days).

Think about it. There are a lot of unknowns past 90 days. Lots of “This may or may not happen.” Lots of “I don’t know yet.”

Makes for spotty planning. I used to end up with holes and “If this, then that” plans. Which often enough, proved to be inaccurate as other unforeseen things cropped up.

Plus, as Moran pointed out in the book, we tend to believe that we’re going to have ‘more time’ sometime later. This idea that our calendars will better, our plates less full, farther out in the year.

“I’m busy now, but I’ll have more time next month” (or in the spring, or the summer, etc.). I don’t know about you, but I regularly catch myself saying something along these lines.

So, the 12-week year process encourages me to stop thinking of annual plans. Instead, it provides a method that helps me focus on what I want to achieve in the next 90 days (or 3 months, 12 weeks).

Here’s how I’ve adopted the 12-week year for my purpose:

  • Articulate my long-term vision (what I refer to as the “Big Picture”)
  • Identify a milestone goal(s) that will help me move forward to that Big Picture (what do I want to achieve in 90 days); max 3
  • Break down that milestone goal(s) into projects, max 3 per milestone goal
  • Regular reflection and measurement of progress

Try on the 12-Week Year process for size. Grab the book. Or scroll further down this email for a shorter alternative 😜


More on the wisdom of short-term goal-setting: Watch this lighthearted TED Talk by Matt Cutts, where he talked about his experience of setting and pursuing goals in 30-day cycles. Hey, as Matt says: “If you want really something badly enough, you can do anything for 30 days.”


Whut?! In addition to the book I referenced above? Try this article by Mike Schmitz on the 5 common mistakes that causes the 12-week year process to fail. On the way to discussing the traps, he also ends up explaining the process. Voila. A whole book, condensed.


“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.” — Brian Moran, The 12 Week Year


If one of your 2020 goals is to start (or get serious, finally) with a Side Business 👉🏻 Heads Up: I’m hosting the Start Your Side Biz Mastermind in January 2020. This run will be a small cohort of about 3-5 individuals. We’ll focus on clarity (of your idea), strategy (that works for you and your life), and action plans (following the 90-day process, of course). Stay tuned for additional information in the coming weeks.


We’re neck-deep in the 🎄season. For most, this involves holiday office parties, gift-giving, secret Santas, cooking up a storm and hosting holiday dinners, caroling (HAH! Does anyone ever still do this?!?)

What’s your personal holiday ritual?

Me, I watch Love Actually, my official holiday movie. Every year. It’s become a tradition.

Hit ‘reply’ and do share your personal holiday ritual. C’mon, you’ve reached this far on the email! 😉

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A former management consultant and IT leader, Lou Blaser is the editor of Briefing Notes and the host of the Second Breaks podcast. She is also the author of Break Free: The Courage to Reinvent Yourself and Your career. Lou’s work is focused on helping experienced professionals navigate an evolving work landscape so they can continue their impact and relevance in a changing world.

The world of work is changing.

Stay smart about it.

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