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The 7 Habits of
Highly Effective People

Stephen Covey's book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People offers remarkable insights into how to lead and manage one's life so as to become highly effective in both professional and personal spheres. Here is a list of the habits. Later I will write some more on this expounding each one.
1. Be Proactive
2. Begin With The End In Mind
3. Put First Things First
4. Think Win-Win
5. Seek First To Understand Then To Be Understood
6. Synergize
7. Sharpen The Saw

 The Seven Habits An Overview
In 1989, Stephen Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People started a landmark revolution in how we think about time and life management. In this book, Covey presents seven principles for developing effectiveness in our private and public lives. By developing these habits, one moves from being dependent on other people to being and acting independently. Then we learn how to move to the more advanced state of interdependence and successful Cooperation. As a part of the seven habits. Covey introduces important and powerful techniques of time management under the habit of "Put First Things First." It is necessary to understand (and Practice) all seven habits so that the tools of time management can be learned and practiced in their natural setting. What follows is a basic overview of these ideas presented so you can take better advantage of this tool you hold in your hands.
The habits themselves are based on some important principles. One such principle is that of P/PC Balance. "P" refers to production of desired results (such as achieving a particular grade in a course). "PC" refer to production capability or the ability to produce successful results. In managing our lives, we must be careful to balance not only the productivity of our lives but also the abilities to achieve these results. For example, we cannot ignore the activities which help build or maintain our health, finances, relationships, ability to learn etc., in our quest to do more, achieve more, and do all of this faster and more efficiently. Burnout is the inevitable result of P/PC imbalance!
Another basic principle important to understand the 7 habits is the Maturity Continuum. The 7 habits serve as a set of integrated approaches allowing us to move along the maturity continuum from dependence to independence to interdependence. Being dependent means that you depend on other people to take care you and your problems ("You take care of me"). Being independent means that you have taken charge of your life ("I am self-reliant"). Being interdependent means you combine your talents with others to create something greater together than any of you could do alone ("We can do it"). The first of these habits focus on achieving "private victories" which help move us from being dependent to being independent. The next of these habits relate to "public victories" which move us into the realm of interdependence where we can work effectively with others. The last habit ( Sharpening The Saw) encompasses all the others and ensures we engage in activities of personal renewal so that we can maintain our PC abilities! With these concepts as a background, we are now ready to review the habits.
Habit 1 : Be Proactive. The Habit of Personal Vision. According to Covey, this habit reflects our innate ability to take charge of our lives. We are not simply products of in-grained stimulus- response reflexes. We have the ability to take charge, plan ahead, and focus our energies on things we can control instead of reacting to or worrying about things over which we have little or no control. This habit allows us to rise above the ebbs and flows of the tides of our day-to-day lives and direct our lives.
Habit 2 : Begin With the End in Mind. The habit of personal leadership. In this habit, we begin each day, week, project, etc. with a clear vision of our direction and destination. This habit inculcates the ability to create our desired results mentally first in accordance to our guiding principles, and then maintain this vision throughout our daily activities. Part of the process of developing this habit is to develop a personal mission statement, philosophy, or creed. This mission statement focus on what you want to be and do. Your planning activities then can always be refer back to this mission statement so you can maintain a proper perspective on where you are headed and how you hope to get there. This habit is called Personal Leadership because Leadership is considered to be the first creation of your vision which is then managed in your planning and daily activities.
Habit 3 : Put First Things First. The habit of personal management. First Things are those things you find most worth doing according to your personal vision of your mission. We use these priorities to manage our time and events so that every day we are sure to keep these first things first in our lives. A key concept related to this habit is "Quadrant II Planning." The diagram at the end of this section is what Covey calls a "Time Management Matrix." The top of the matrix divides the blocks into things that are Urgent, and Not urgent, and the left side divides the matrix into Important and Not important. Here is a summary of the quadrants.
Quadrant I : Urgent and important. This quadrant includes those items that represent true crises (your mother has a stroke and you need to bring her to the hospital), deadline driven projects (a paper that has a deadline that can not be moved, and represents a substantial part of your grade) and other such truly important and pressing items.
Quadrant II : Not urgent but important. This quadrant includes items that are truly important in our lives (preparation, relationships, relaxation, self-renewal, etc.) that we truly need to do to maintain our PC abilities. Unfortunately, since they are not urgent ("Oh, I can put that off!") we tend not to do them. We procrastinate because they are not urgent. Unfortunately, if we do this long enough, this tends to create highly urgent crises which then force us back into Quadrant I and gives us less time doing quality activities. Upon reflection, most of us would conclude that our First Things fall in Quadrant II. Hence ignoring things, but we are setting up conditions so that we will have even less time to devote to these vitally important activities. If you don't take the time to plan for your paper and manage your time on that project you will find yourself having to stay up all night to get it done. And if that night is your significant other's birthday, boy are you going to regret having to spend time in Quadrant I that night.
Quadrant III : Urgent but not important. This quadrant contains those activities which appear to be urgent (or at least seem to demand our attention as such) but are really not that important. Examples include : needless interruptions, many phone calls, other people's minor issues (which they invariably seek to make major ones because they like to live in this quadrant!), among others. A good example is that of phone call's during your study time. Most of us are "Phone Addicted" and find ourselves unable to resist a ringing phone. If you really take notice, you will find that most phone calls are not important. If it is important the person will call you back! I find it invaluable to have a phone answering system and I use it to screen my calls. My friends all understand that I do this and leave messages. I get about 10-20 calls a day at my home. Only about 2-4 are truly important. The rest are usually sales people, or wrong numbers. Once in a while there are people I really don't want to talk to (obnoxious "ex" friends that refuse to realize they are "ex"!), and this prevents me from having to be polite and endure a conversation I really don't want to have. This is a quadrant we tend to fall into when we become "urgently addicted". We get a nice rush from the pressures of Quadrant I and the success we have in solving these issues. Unfortunately, we then begin to fall into the habit of mistaking urgent matters in Quadrant III which are not important as being important. Hence our precious time tends to drift into Quadrant III (since there are more of these items hitting in on our daily lives than any other) and we end up dealing with not very important matters most of the time. As a result our PC abilities begin to erode and hence our productivity rapidly falls off as well. This is the sure path to personal failure. The message is clear. Our First Things First planning should aim at spending less time in Quadrant II and moving that time to Quadrant III activities. This planner, along with the planning instructional materials, is designed to help you move in this direction!
Quadrant IV : Not urgent and Not important. Here we find items such as excessive TV watching, time wasters, busy work, some phone calls, "escape" activities and others. Obviously we don't want to these things in excess. The key is "in excess". Reading escapist literature (Romance, Doc Savage novels) is not bad in and of it self, but when taken to extremes (i.e. we spend all week finishing off that novel instead of going over our notes) the danger should be clear. The activities here all have a valued place as once-in-a-while rewards, if not used excessively!
In summary, spending less time in Quadrant III and IV will give us more time to spend in Quadrant II so that we can put first things first, with the added benefit that we will also be finding ourselves dealing with fewer Quadrant I crises.
Habit 4 : Think Win-Win. The habit of Interpersonal Leadership. In this habit, Covey advises us to get out of our win/lose way of looking at interpersonal relations ( I get mine you don't) and move towards a win-win attitude (How can we both get what we want). Too often we think of ourselves succeeding in terms of someone else failing. This has been promulgated by the competitiveness of our culture. Unfortunately in the real world., we have to cooperate a lot more than we have to compete. A win-win attitude seeks mutual benefit in all human interactions. In your courses most of them will not be graded on a fixed curve where only a set number of "A's", "B's" etc. will be given out. Most courses have a fixed grading scale where you are guaranteed a grade if you meet certain performance objectives no matter how many other students do the same. In this situation it is to your advantage to form wisely chosen study groups so that everyone in the study group is in a win-win situation. Hence everyone benefits from the association. Obviously sometimes this doesn't work out and someone in the group doesn't carry their weight. In that case you can spend some Quadrant II time in explaining to the person the benefits of thinking and acting win-win so that they (and yourself benefit). Other times the best win-win is to ask them to leave the group. They get a big hint about the consequences of their actions which could lead them to improve there activities and the group benefits as well. Covey suggests establishing a win-win agreement as a tool for creating an effective, long-term foundation. This agreement seeks to make explicit the following items: u Desired results - What is to be done and when (not how!) u Guidelines - The guidelines governing how the results are to be accomplished u Resources - Human, material, and other help available u Accountability - What are the standards for evaluating the performance and times of evaluation. u Consequences - What will happen as a result of achieving and not achieving the results. Many students do not perceive their interactions with professors as a win-win situation, but rather as a confrontational one. Believe it or not, the overwhelming majority of us are not "out to get you"! We have certain policies, exam structures, office hours, etc. to establish a win-win situation with you. We really are much happier when you succeed in our classes! In fact, look at your syllabi this coming semester and notice how much in them is representing a win-win agreement. It may begin to cause you to look at your classes in a different light!
Habit 5 : Seek first to understand, then to be understood. The habit of communication. We can't listen while we are talking! Unfortunately when we interact with people, we really do not listen in order to understand. Rather as the other person is talking, we are already framing our replies. In effect we are talking while they are talking. We are not listening. Covey suggests we engage in "Empathic Listening" which we do our best to get inside another person's frame of reference and see the world the way they do. This takes tremendous courage and ability, because we have to suspend our own frame works to do this. We in effect, make ourselves vulnerable to change. Keep in mind, however, that empathic listening does not have to mean you agree with the other person's views, just that you make an all out effort to Understand them. Before we can effectively make ourselves understood, we must first understand where the other person is coming from. Then and only then are we in a position to communicate in a way such that our own views can be understood. As an example, suppose you find yourself in a confrontation with an instructor over a grade. You should first give the instructor a opportunity to tell their side and try to truly understand their side. Perhaps there is a central piece of information you truly didn't understand about how the grade was going to be assigned, or why it was being done that way. Many times an instructor who sees that a student truly didn't understand is willing to encourage in a win-win agreement to resolve the situation. Complaining, and not listening usually gets you nowhere.
Habit 6 : Synergize. The habit of Creative Cooperation. Synergy refers to the fact that in most situations 1+1<>2 but 1+1=3 or more! That is, through creative cooperation(not giving in or compromise) two or more people can produce results far better than either could do alone. This habit draws upon the previous five. It allows us to be effective in an interdependent setting! The key to developing this habit is to value differences among people. We must have the humility to recognize that our own views are limited and preconceived, and that interactions with others of different values and mind sets allow us to reach creative solutions that are far better than what we could have achieved on our own. Inculcation of this habit removes bigotry and prejudice from our thinking and replaces it with respect and caring. A truly good liberal arts education is aimed at instilling just this very principle. College should be about having you confront your own pre-conceptions about the world and see that not everyone shares your views, that in many cases their views are equally valued, and in some cases better than yours! Intellectual, emotional, and philosophical arrogance is replaced by humility and cooperation.
Habit 7 : Sharpen the saw. The habit of Self-Renewal. This habit involves engaging in those activities which are aimed at preserving and maintaining ourselves! We should seek to have a balanced, systematic program of self-renewal in essentially four areas : physical, social/emotional, mental and spiritual.
Physical - in order to maintain our physical well being we need 3 essential components, nutrition, exercise, and rest. We need to educate ourselves on what constitutes good nutrition and plan our diets so as to achieve this. Fad diets do not work over the long run and can even prove to be dangerous! A regular exercise program is essential for good health. Unfortunately people can become overly excessive about this! We probably all know about the people who run 4 hours a day to "keep fit" as all other areas of their life fall apart because they don't have the time to put in to them! A 30 - 40 minute aerobic exercise workout three times a week is usually more than enough for a person in reasonable health. As with all other medical areas, be sure to consult your doctor about your own unique conditions. Rest is equally important. With out proper rest, the synthetic and renewal aspects of our physiology and biochemistry never get a chance to re-create ourselves. Sleep needs are highly variable in humans and differ as we go through our natural life spans. A general rule of 8 hours of rest and sleep seems to fit most people well. But be advised, some need more. Don't fall into the trap of losing your rest in a quest for being more productive by getting up "extra early" if this doesn't fit your physiology.
Social/Emotional - here we engage in activities which Covey says are aimed at making deposits into the Emotional Bank Accounts we have with others. An Emotional Bank Account is an idea which represents those social and emotional patterns we establish with others where trust, character, integrity, honesty, and caring can be either built up or broken down. How we treat others in our various roles either makes "deposits" into these bank accounts and thereby strengthens our relationships, or makes withdrawals from them and weakens our relationships. If we truly put First Things First, we tend to engage in activities which strengthen our relationships by doing those day-to-day things that build character, honesty, caring, etc. The goal of Quadrant II planning is to ensure that these activities do not get short-shifted and begin to wane. Commitments and keeping promises is important here.
Mental - Here we engage in life long learning through reading, writing, challenging ideas, and taking time to think. But you say "Wait a minute. I'm in college that's what I am doing already!". Well, not really. Your classroom learning is more-or-less imposed on you by the requirements of passing a course or getting a degree. What Covey has in mind here is continual mental self-improvement that is driven by your own desires to know and think about a subject you are not required to learn! This is what is meant by "life-long learning"! Most of you will be going into professional fields where this type of active, self-directed learning will be necessary for your continued professional standing. It is a useful habit to develop now. As an example, I read voraciously in many areas besides what I teach. In the past few months I have read on : Time management(Obviously!), Quantum Field Theory, Russian, Spanish, Existentialism, Deconstructionism, Post Modernism, Family Therapy, Pastoral Counseling, Psychology of Religion, Systematic Theology, Personal Management, Biophysical Chemistry, Differential Equations, The UNIX operating system, C/C++ programming, just to name a few. None of these deal directly with what I teach on a regular basis (save perhaps Time Management and this course). They all deal, however, in one way or another with my mission statement which is to gain an deep understanding of the fundimental questions of our existence. Now not everyone has the time, or inclination, to read as extensively as I do. But we all can fit in a little more reading! Keeping a journal and writing is another useful tool. It allows us to review our thoughts and experiences and maintain perspective on our lives. The daily record of events in your organizer is a good place to develop this habit. Watching educational or controversial programs is another outlet. Many localities have distance learning courses that are televised now where you can follow an entire academic course on TV!(I am learning Spanish this way). Courses on the internet represent an additional attractive alternative. Books on tape are an excellent source of information, particularly if you have long driving commutes. All of Covey's books (and more) are now on tape!
Spiritual - activities here include reading literature that inspires us (what Covey calls "Wisdom Literature") in whatever tradition you find most comfortable(I prefer the Mystical bent), through meditation or prayer, through organized church services, through spending time with nature. I am an ordained minister and run an electric ministry on the internet in which I offer various spiritual services. I am constantly reading various spiritually-oriented books, and seeking spiritually-centered materials the internet so I can better myself as well as offer better services to others. I am also currently enrolled in a home-study Doctoral program that will give me some training in spiritual counseling that is in tune with my specific religious proclivites. As my personal examples indicate, there are many opportunities for spiritual growth and development available to you, whatever your particular spiritual bent may be!
Well, there you have it, an overview of the 7-Habits with some additional insights thrown in aimed at helping you the student. I hope this precise helps you to get motivated so that you begin to use this planner tool. If you start organizing your life now, you will, indeed, find the time to " Live, Love, Learn and Leave a Legacy"!
Special Note: These notes on the 7 Habits were written for students in a Time/Life Management seminar. The basic ideas are all Stephen Covey's and hence are copyrighted by him. I have rewritten them with some specific examples relevant to students.
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