There are 2 books which impressed me the most: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People from Stephen R. Covey and Flow from Mihály Csikszentmihályi. Both of these books impacted significantly my way of thinking. I can only suggest them to everyone from all ages, gender or positions.

Since I participated at a training about the 7 habits, I decided to write a recommendation for Covey’s book.

7 habits

First of all, I would like to clarify that the title of the book may be misleading. It seems to be only about effectiveness, which I would rather connect to work. It’s true that you can read about it, but the private life is also as much important in this book as professional. It can help you to find the balance between your private and professional life.

According to Covey, effectiveness can be reached implementing 7 habits into our lives. These habits are based on strong principles and form our characters. Before you start wondering if it is a philosophical book, I can assure you that it is not. Hundreds of examples and practical tasks help the understanding. Actually what I really got out of this book is changing paradigmas. Sometimes it is enough just to change your point of view if you want to be more satisfied. The book helps you to do it.

I collected one important thought related to each of the habits. The following list is not the summary of the habits, I just chose the one thing I subjectively loved the most in that chapter. I would like to give you an idea about the habits.

“I must” or “I would like to”?

How many times do you say you must do something? Like you wouldn’t even live your life according to your own decisions, but according to external factors. We tend not to take responsibility for our actions and decisions. However, if we look at these sentences well, in the end it is always our decisions what is behind them. For example “I must go to a tennis competition”. Isn’t it something that you want to do? Isn’t it rather that you would like to go to a tennis competition? The second sentence expresses better your responsibility. (Habit 1: Be Proactive)

Your Own Funeral

When I first read this book, I was 22 and it was quite shocking to think on my own funeral. But actually this task helped me to think through my priorities and how I want to live my life. Now it’s your turn. Think on your own funeral. What the people would tell about you? How would your loved ones, colleagues, acquaintances remember to you? What would you like to hear? It will be easier to create your personal mission statement if you think on your long-term goals. (Habit 2: Begin With th End in mind)

The Time Management Matrix

Covey interprets the time based on the urgency and importance of your tasks.

time management matrix

This diagram could be familiar to you if you read my previous post about time management, but it’s not the same.

The first quarter contains all of your important and urgent tasks, which you need to resolve immediately, such as activities with short deadlines, critical situations. If you spend much time in this quarter (managing tasks of this quarter), than you’ll feel you’re always just putting out fires and sooner or later you’ll burn out.

The second quarter is about your important, but not urgent tasks such as prevention, relationship building, recreation, planning. If you focus on these, it will affect the other quarters as well, it gives you perspective and also opportunity for a balanced life.

The third quarter contains your not important, but urgent activities, unexpected phone calls, e-mails, some of your meetings. If you spend much time in this quarter, it means you keep in mind short-term goals. You’ll feel yourself as a victim, like you wouldn’t control your life.

The fourth quarter contains activities which are neither important, nor urgent, the time wasting activities, some e-mails, routine tasks. If you spend much time in this quarter, you can even loose your job. It also means that you expect the satisfaction of your basic needs from someone else.

If you want to be effective and satisfied on the long term, you need to concentrate on the second quarter activities which are important but not urgent. You should start your weekly planning with these activities, insert them firstly into your weekly agenda. (Habit 3: Put First Things First)

The Third Alternative

It is a common point of view that if I win, than you will loose. The win/win way of thinking is based on the principle that everybody can get enough, and one person’s victory doesn’t mean the other’s loss or damage. It means that we believe in the third alternative which is not your way, not my way, but even a better one, a higher level. (Habit 4: Think Win-Win)

This Is Exactly What Happened to Me!

How many times we want to express our empathy saying: I know how you feel. Or: this is exactly what happened to me. When we do this, we are placing our story into the other person’s story, we project our film to someone else’s film. What would happen if next time we just tried to understand the other person without thinking on what to say next or what to ask. We should listen with empathy, using empathic attention for understanding. Our conversations could become deeper and also our relationships. (Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, then be Understood)

Appraise the Differences

If everybody was the same and thought the same way, it would be hard to imagine any development. We can only create synergy, if we build on our differences. This is how the result will be more than just the summary of each pieces. This is true also in situations when you have conflicts. Instead of being angry at the other person why he/she doesn’t think the same thing you do, appraise these differences, build on them and create synergy. (6th habit: Synergize)

Take Your Time to Reload

The following story shows the importance of physical, mental, spiritual and social/emotional renewal. Imagine that you walk in the wood and see someone working hard, sawing the trees. He seems tired, so you suggest him to have a little rest and sharpen the saw. He says he doesn’t have the time for it, he’s too busy sawing. Don’t be too busy to sharpen your saw, take your time to renewal, even work will go easier. (Habit 7: Sharpen the  Saw)

These thoughts were collected together to give you an idea about this book. There is so much more behind each habits. The great thing is that all the habits can be implemented into our everyday lives. You may already be master in one or two habits. Read the book and find it out!

*Reference: Stephen R. Covey (2013) The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, New York, Simon & Schuster