Breakthrough performance occurs when we do something different that produces significant gain. It means accomplishing far more in less time and multiplying your level of effectiveness. To reach breakthrough performance, you first need to define what a breakthrough looks like for you. Write down what a breakthrough would be for you. Be specific. For example, if breakthrough performance means higher production, then quantify how much higher, or if it means more free time, quantify how much more.
Now I would like to share with you a system called periodization, which will help you reach your breakthrough goals. Periodization is actually an athletic training technique developed in Eastern Europe; it’s used to increase an athlete’s capacity in a particular discipline or skill so he can achieve breakthrough results. Lance Armstrong credits this technique with helping him achieve greatness in the world of cycling.
Putting it into practice
A barrier to high performance is our thinking regarding annual goals and plans. Have you ever noticed that the end of the year tends to be the most productive time in our industry? We are striving to make our goals and qualify for MDRT, clubs and conventions. It’s an exciting time of year when we push aside all our unproductive activities and focus on revenue-generating activities.
Periodization captures the energy and focus of that year-end push, while eliminating the trap of annualized thinking. Periodization redefines a year: 12 weeks—or a period—now equals one year. And there are not four periods in a year. There is just one period, which is followed by the next. Now that might seem like a matter of semantics, but it’s not. It’s a fundamental shift in how we view time. At its core, periodization is a structured approach that fundamentally changes the way you think and act.
With this system, a period is a year; a week is a month; and a day is a week. There is no more first quarter and second quarter; there is only this period and the next, and so on. The key is that execution now happens on a daily and weekly basis, instead of on a monthly and quarterly basis. And every 12 weeks you get a fresh start—a new year.
Periodization is critical for success—it creates a focus and an urgency to execute tasks in the moment. But it is more than just a new way of tracking time; its true power comes through a set of core disciplines and principles. Let’s look at how you can begin implementing periodization through the five disciplines:
Periodization redefines a year: 12 weeks—or a period—now equals one year.
Vision is the starting point; you must be clear about what you want to create—what you want your life to look like in three years. Then you need to envision what your business needs to look like to align and enable your personal vision. It is the personal vision that creates an emotional connection to the daily actions that need to happen in your business. If you’re going to create a breakthrough, you’ll need to move through fear, uncertainty and discomfort. It is your personal vision that keeps you in the game when it gets difficult.
Effective planning allows you to think through the best approach to achieving your goals. Studies have shown that planning saves time; it also keeps you focused.
Most plans are not constructed with implementation in mind and therefore break down during execution. An effective period plan has three levels. First it should identify the overall goal for the period. Next it should lay out specific strategies—usually three to five—that are measurable. Then, for each strategy you need to develop tactics—the daily to-dos that have due dates and assigned responsibilities. The period plan is structured so that if you complete the tactical to-dos on a timely basis, you accomplish the strategy and achieve your goal. Twelve weeks is a long enough period of time to get things done, but short enough to create and maintain a sense of urgency. And a period plan provides a road map that eliminates delays and demands immediate action.
3. Process control
Process control is a series of tools and events that keep you on track and ensure that the strategic activities get done. One such control is the weekly plan, which is simply a derivative of the period plan. For example, at Shoemaker Financial Advisors, Jim Shoemaker and his managers each create a weekly plan every Monday morning. They take the first 30 minutes of their week to review the previous week and plan the upcoming week. By doing this, Jim and his team can structure their week to ensure that their strategic priorities get worked on and that each manager is contributing in a meaningful way.
Measurement drives the execution process. Effective measurement provides comprehensive feedback that you need for informed decision-making. You find out what works and what doesn’t, which allows you to adjust your actions each week to better align yourself with your vision and plan objective.
5. Time use
If you are not in control of how you spend your time, then you are not in control of your results. The most effective time-management system I’ve seen is called performance time. It uses “time blocking” to help you control how you use your time during the day. Two examples are strategic blocks and buffer blocks.
A strategic block is a scheduled, three-hour block of uninterrupted time. During this block you accept no phone calls, faxes, emails or visitors. You focus all your energy on the preplanned items—the strategic and moneymaking activities. You will be astounded by the quantity and quality of the work you produce.
A buffer block is a period of time you set aside in advance to handle all unexpected events. For some, 30 minutes to an hour once a day is sufficient. For others, two separate one-hour blocks may be necessary. By grouping together activities that tend to be unproductive, you reduce the inefficiency and take back control of your day.
Be sure to read the second part of this article, “The Principles of Periodization.”
This is an excerpt of a longer speech given at the 2006 MDRT Annual Meeting. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Brian P. Moran is founder and president of Strategic Breakthroughs. He works with industry leaders and producers to improve performance. Contact him at 517-699-3570 or firstname.lastname@example.org.