Cory is CEO of Galbraith Communications.
Dr. Stephen R. Covey is best known for being the author of “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” First published in 1989, the book was named by Forbes Magazine as one of the most influential management books ever written.
A master of time management and productivity, Covey would move on to write other best-selling business books and become a sought-after motivational speaker.
Although Stephen Covey died in 2012, his books and courses remain as popular as ever. What he had to say about leading a more productive life is well known, but amazingly, very little of his advice is actually practiced.
As a result, in this post, I take some of Covey’s better known quotes and teachings in the hopes that we can adopt them to start 2015 on the right footing for a more productive and fulfilling life.
Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent and not enough time on what is important
Covey often referred to his diagram of the four “quadrants” (categories) showing where we spend our time. Much of our work days are spent in the “urgent” quadrants. However, what is really important is seldom urgent. Therefore – effective as of day 1 in 2015, let us move as much time as possible into the “important but not urgent” quadrant.
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The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities
This supports point one, moving those important items onto the daily to-do list. But let’s avoid putting those items at the bottom of the list where they are unlikely to get done. Instead, put them at the top. Covey knew that important and not urgent items are usually big items, so let’s also be sure to break these down into smaller pieces so as not to become overwhelmed – tackling only one piece a day.
I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions
Here, Covey reminds us that external factors are not what shapes our career and life, but how we respond. Let’s start the year by vowing not to blame the outside world for our plight, but rather, to accept what is, and focus instead on making the decisions we need to make, to move ourselves forward.
I teach people how to treat me by what I will allow
Put in another way, “I won’t take any nonsense!” One of my friends is a professional writer. He is also very good-natured. As a result, he is taken advantage of because clients will delay paying him, believing he will not protest. His challenge in 2015 is to follow Covey’s words and draw a clear line between what he will accept and what he will not. Similarly, we should all teach others where that dividing line exists.
Begin with the end in mind
This was one of Covey’s 7 “habits”. Whenever I struggle with how to start a project, or even how to begin an article like this one, I resort back to Covey’s advice and first think about how I want things to end. In the case of projects, I outline the desired results first and work my way backwards to determine the logical opening stages. We can apply this same approach to the entire year 2015. How do you want the year to end? Now you know how to start it.
Trust is the glue of life
It’s the most essential ingredient in effective communication. It’s the foundational principle that holds all relationships
As we start the year, let’s practice the things which build trust: honesty, transparency, doing what we say we’ll do, and making others part of any decisions that affect them. Too often, I rush people into projects without first laying down that all important foundation of trust. Business is all about one person trusting another.
Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply
Unfortunately, many of us do the opposite, myself included. In our world of hurried schedules, listening is not easy. But it’s one of the most powerful ways of building trust, nurturing relationships and in the end – being more productive. The New Year will be different from the old if we just listen more, and respond only once we’ve understood.
Steven Covey did not view himself as a “guru” and in fact, was embarrassed by that term. Rather, he saw himself as a teacher and someone whose mission was to inspire others.
Let’s follow his wise and sound advice to set ourselves up for a most productive year ahead.