Compartmentalizing Growth: You and the 12-Week Year

The Urban Monk

Ask most entrepreneurs the secret to their success, and before they say generational wealth, they’ll likely say “compartmentalization.”

What that means simply is the ability to break down information and tasks into discrete parts.

For example, “writing a book” is a huge undertaking.

But picking the names of the ten main characters and writing an outline are two separate parts of that journey that are much less overwhelming.

Interestingly, modern psychology considers compartmentalization to be a defense mechanism.

This is because compartmentalizing opens the pathway and allows forward movement.

In fact, it’s often found used in responses to trauma — it allows the traumatized to designate a space in the brain for dealing with the distracting issue so that they can perform unrelated tasks without the poison of trauma.

So while it’s often considered the most valuable skill in business, and a powerful coping strategy, it’s also become a hack for reaching your goals.

The Western world doesn’t make life easy.

The 40-hour work week was designed for one-income families because home-making was considered a full-time job.

Spare time meant hobby time. The world wasn’t so congested.

Now, there are plenty of positives that have come with modernization.

But one of the negatives — and it’s something you either find yourself saying or find yourself hearing constantly — is that there isn’t enough time to do everything you want.

Enter: the 12-week year.

What is it?

It’s the bastion of high achievers.

That doesn’t mean you have to be registered to the rat race for this to benefit you — it just means it was developed by people struggling to scurry faster than their corporate counterparts.

Here’s the concept: most people, especially the particularly ambitious, are already tired.

Adding more work and more productivity seems to be a recipe for disaster. And when you start to think of your goals in macro terms measured by years…

It all gets a little overwhelming and even harder to tackle.

So the 12-week year gives you bite-sized goals.

It effectively shortens your “year” to just three months.

Urgency intensifies, purpose clarifies, distractions minimize, and victories maximize — that’s the pitch.

And if we think about reaching goals in terms of building habits — things we must start doing and then keep doing over and over to see results — there’s plenty of science that confirms setting smaller, shorter, more attainable milestones.

By breaking down goals into manageable, three-month ventures, you avoid disappointment and discouragement at not seeing progress fast enough, and the inevitability of failure when you try to do everything at once (which you probably know from experience doesn’t work).

How to Do It

Pick a few of your goals.

Only a few, now. If you overcrowd your goals, your focus thins.

If you’re having a hard time picking just a few… consider why you want to improve what you want to improve.

Is it necessary for your health? Will it create security for your family? Is it to help you become more well-rounded?

Weigh the whys and let your measurement help you decide.

Once you’ve chosen your one-to-three goals, and you’ve chosen with passion, break them down to their first steps.

For example, if one of your goals was to learn how to code, commit three months to studying online and learning HTML, the most basic coding language.

If your goal was to be able to run a 5K marathon, commit three months to running twice a week.

If your goal was to learn a language, commit three months to using an app and learning the grammar and vocabulary basics.

Then for the next three months…

Track everything that you do in the service of that goal. You see, everything you do is building a habit, with or without intention.

And when you’re not paying attention to what you’re doing…

You’re not paying attention to what habits you’re building.

And at the end of the three months, assess and evaluate.

Since you originally set a concrete goal and not a vague goal — like “get healthier” or “be a coder” — determining whether or not you made it should be pretty simple.

Then up the ante for the next three months.

Rinse and repeat.

By the end of the year, you should find yourself having completed a slew of quantifiable, measurable goals.

And remember — perfection isn’t possible.

If you slip up, have grace for yourself. Miss a week of running? Pick it up again the next week. Fall behind on your language app? Block out an extra hour to make up for it.

There’s always another week.

If you enjoyed these thoughts and think we’ve got something in common, I have a feeling you’re going to love the streaming service I launched last year — by wellness purveyors for wellness seekers. Here’s two weeks free — on me.



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Pedram Shojai

Pedram Shojai

NY Times Best Selling Author, filmmaker, and founder of