Review of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey is an excellent book.  I have used it for years and found success beyond what I could have done without it.  Other great books by Mr. Covey related to this are First things First and the 8th Habit.

As a 7 Habits practitioner for many years, here is an overview:

  • Effectiveness is a balance between production and production capability.
  • Think of production as golden eggs and production capability as the goose.  There are no golden eggs if you do not take care of the goose.

State of Dependence: others take care of me

  • Habit 1:  Be Proactive
    • It is your responsibility to make things happen; get busy and reprogram yourself.
    • You are the programmer.
    • You are never a victim, if its broke, it’s your fault.
  • Habit 2:  Begin with the End in Mind
    • In the perspective of your entire life, what do you want to accomplish?  These are the wildly important things.  These are first things. These are priorities.
    • Write your program.
    • The Eisenhower Matrix is introduced and broken into 4 quadrants.
    • You are seeking to identify important but not urgent things and get to work on them.
    • To do this, you need to not work on anything unimportant.  In today’s world of work, everything is declared urgent.  Learn to say no to the unimportant.
  • Habit 3:  First Things First
    • Do first things first and second things not at all.
    • Execute your program.
    • Optimize and execute around priorities.

State of Independence: private victory achieved; I take care of myself

  • Habit 4:  Think Win/Win
    • Have an abundance mentality where there is enough for everybody to win.
    • Avoid win/lose and lose/win scenarios.
    • Seek win/win or no deal and move on.
  • Habit 5:  First Seek to Understand, Then to be Understood
    • Listening skills go a long way towards lessening resistance to your plan.
    • Make sure you hear and understand what others are saying.  The extended team may have red herrings you need to dismiss or may have the key ingredient your plan is missing.
  • Habit 6:  Synergize
    • 7 Habits calls this is the “3rd solution”, your ideas, plus ideas from others makes for the best plan possible.

State of Interdependence:  public victory achieved, we take care of each other

  • Habit 7:  Sharpen the saw
    • This is the habit of renewal.  You need to renew yourself in each of the dimensions below everyday.
    • Always work with a sharp saw.  If your saw is not sharp, it will take you longer to saw down your trees.
    • This habit powers all of the others, creating an upward spiral of capability.
      • Sharpen the Saw Physically:  Take care of your physical body: Sleep, Nutrition, Exercise, Water.
        • Exercises and fortifies Habit 1:  Be Proactive
      • Sharpen the Saw Spiritually:  Cultivate your spiritual side.
        • Exercises and fortifies Habit 2:  Begin with the End in Mind
      • Sharpen the Saw Mentally:  Continual honing and expanding of the mind.
        • Exercises and fortifies Habit 3:  First Things First
      • Sharpen the Saw Socially:  Build and maintain relationships.  Maintain a positive emotional bank account with others.  Do not bankrupt the account by making too many withdrawals.
        • Exercises and fortifies Habits: 4, 5 and 6: influencing and dealing with other people.

Evaluation from personal experience:

  • Pros
    • Applies in all circumstances and offers a way forward most of the time if you are stuck on something.  It gets your creative juices going and you can derive options.  Just review the habits and you can find an actionable way forward.
    • Is effective and works after substantial investment in effort to understand and practice the habits.
    • Powerful web of habits that all align in a beautiful way.
    • Habit 1 is a punch in the face: Be Proactive.  You are responsible for your own life and are not a victim.  It is your responsibility to make things happen for yourself.
  • Cons
    • It is too big to load onto your mental stage all at one time.  You can’t keep it in your head.  I wrote them out everyday for years to get them to sink in.  I have them memorized, but it takes considerable time to even state them.
    • The book is a difficult read. I spent years reviewing and summarizing the concepts into a workable format for myself.  I have never met another individual who understands the entire message.
    • Upper limit: limits spontaneous action if you try to process everything on your plate with these steps.  Hence, it becomes more of a background activity and reminder rather than a front line tool.  if you have time to think, then these steps are helpful.
    • As pointed out by David Allen in Getting things Done, 7 Habits is an optimization methodology that is hard to execute on when dealing with many issues that are overwhelming you day to day.
    • Too many steps, many not needed for every situation.  It is hard to load onto your mental stage quickly and easily.
    • Not fast enough.  You cannot intellectualize every moment.  Chaos will punch you in the face if you cannot operate quickly enough.

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