7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey is a classic. It is simply written, full of principles, and yet practical and applicable. In the book, Covey describes three principles for personal living, three principles for relationships, and one final principle that builds on them all. I’m going to offer each one, with a paraphrase that explains what I think Covey means by it, then comment on what it means to me.

Be proactive. Don’t react to events. Take initiative.

To me, this means two things. First, don’t be a victim. Bad things do happen, and “the law of attraction” won’t save you from them. What is in your power is how you react to them. Second, have a bias for action. If you have a tough decision, do something that will give you more information to make it. If you have a huge task, break it down into steps and tackle the first one.

Begin with the end in mind. This can be restated as understanding your mission before you start.

This is for me the most difficult of the habits to master. Knowing what will truly make you happy is hard. Spending a load of time on something and then realizing it doesn’t mean anything to you can make you feel like a victim. Maintaining self awareness helps. Periodically taking time to think about things is a must.

First things first. Prioritize the most important things. Deal with the urgent things that are important, but avoid the urgent tasks that aren’t (AKA time wasters).

Covey advocates elaborate daily planning with a schedule. To me, this is overkill, and is also very hard to maintain. I prefer to use Kan Ban, a technique pioneered on the Toyota factory floor, which maintains a simple backlog of tasks in priority order.

Next come the habits dealing with realtionships.

Think win/win. When dealing with others, always seek mutual benefit. Be willing to walk away if win/win can’t be achieved.

For me, this often involves walking away. Don’t get attached to what you think is the right way to do something. Giving someone what they don’t want, even if they should, doesn’t help you. Keep offering to help with things that benefit them that also interest you.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood. Listen and understand the point of view of another before attempting to get them to understand yours.

This is hard for me. My best advice is to always ask questions to clarify what someone is saying. When you are sure you understand them, then try to give them your own understanding.

Synergize. Use each other’s complementary strengths.

Synergy truly is what can turn a mediocre team of great individuals into a great team. A big part of synergizing is being open about what you’re not good at. Trying to do it all yourself can be wasteful. Learning from someone who has knowledge you don’t is better. Disseminating that knowledge to the whole team, when it’s something they all need to know, is best.

Sharpen the saw. Take time to hone your skills, to improve.

Retrospect on where you are strong and where you need to improve. Learn new skills. A friend of mine who is a principle architect spends some time each year to learn a new programming language. Think about what you want to do in the future, then take the time to improve in the areas you’ll need to.

There is much more to Covey’s work. The 7 Habits is worth reading if you haven’t.

About jimbelton

I'm a software developer, and a writer of both fiction and non-fiction, and I blog about movies, books, and philosophy. My interest in religious philosophy and the search for the truth inspires much of my writing.
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