Hi folks, I trust you’re well? I sincerely hope so.
This is the next blog looking at Stephen R Covey’s “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” which is something I’ve been exposed to over the past few years and it’s having a very positive impact on my life. If you’ve been following my blog until now, you’ll already know something about this seminal work.
This time we’ll be looking at Habits 2 and 3 which complete the Private Victory i.e. the ‘self-mastery’ part. These two habits are quite polarised in their ‘tone’ (in my view) but are vitally important.
I love Habit 2 “Begin with the End in Mind” because of its poignancy. When we did this on the programme, we were all bowled over by its intensity and reflective nature. It’s the habit of vision and hooks you in to your life’s meaning and purpose. I’m quite a spiritual person, so this sort of stuff sits well with me.
OK, imagine you have a length of velvet ribbon in your favourite colour, about 3 metres long. At one end is your younger self and at the other is you on your 80th birthday. You’re holding this ribbon nice and tight so you can see it stretched out in front of you. Think of this as the ribbon of your life! Now, imagine cutting it at the point of your age now. For example, if you’re 40ish (like me), cut the ribbon half way along. Set aside the bit that represents your life until this point. I say set aside, not because it should be forgotten (it should be celebrated) but your focus from now on is the remainder of your life. Now of what’s left of the ribbon, cut about a third and set that aside too; that represents you asleep. Finally, of the piece that’s left, cut off what you think represents all the things you do just to function, like eating, washing etc… The piece of ribbon you’re left with after that represents the rest of your life. What will you do with it? It should include whatever you do to fulfil your meaning and purpose. It doesn’t have to include work per se, but for most people, it will be a significant chunk of time.
Habit 2 – Begin with the End in Mind gets you to think about your roles and goals and encourages you to write your own Personal Mission Statement. It’s an incredibly powerful and sometimes emotional process; I certainly found it to be so when I did it. It’s a very personal thing and once you’re happy with it, can guide you through almost everything you do in life from now on.
To help you along, I don’t mind sharing mine with you. It is still being refined and updated but you’re encouraged to review this every time you plan your week. Like a compass, it gives you direction. So here goes, my Personal Mission Statement:
I want to be an inspiration to others and an agent of change. I would like to be thought of as somebody who is caring, empathic, supportive, fun, dependable, fair, honest, open, a role model and a great listener.
In my roles as Partner, Son, Brother, Uncle, leader, manager, coach, mentor and friend, I want to be one of the people (if not THE person) to whom people turn for support in times of need.
When I die, I want to be remembered as somebody who brought a great deal of joy, love, friendship and support to the lives of those who knew me as well as some who didn’t.
There’s more to Habit 2 than this and really this blog is intended to whet your appetite rather than try and summarise each habit fully, so I’ll leave this there for now. But I would encourage to you think about your roles and what sort of legacy you’d like to leave. Like I say, it’s very powerful stuff!!
OK onto Habit 3 which is more business-focussed and is about managing your time with integrity and execution. To kick things off, there’s a great quote by Johann Goethe which is “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”
There’s a lot of material in Habit 3 so I’ll focus on just the key points but this was the most useful habit for me and possibly the steepest learning curve!!! Covey uses a simple time matrix model which I’ve illustrated below:
Broadly speaking, Covey suggests you can split your time into things which are urgent and important or not. Using the matrix concept, things which are urgent and important are in Quadrant 1 and typically include deadlines, last minute tasks, emergencies, unplanned events etc.. This is known as the quadrant of necessity. Some of us feel we are in this quadrant a lot of the time and it can very de-motivating to have to be driven by these tasks a great deal of the time.
We’ll come back to Q2 in a bit.
Q3 tasks tend to be driven by other people so these are things which are NOT important to YOU but which are made urgent by others e.g. your manager giving you a task which is high on their priority list, but not yours. This is called the quadrant of deception! These are sometimes difficult to manage but you should be saying ‘no’ to these tasks as much as possible.
Q4 stuff is the quadrant of waste and excess and includes things we know we shouldn’t be doing but because we lose focus we end up doing them e.g. spending hours on Facebook or watching bad television with a pile of ironing staring at us (just like it is right now I might add)!
Q2 tasks are not urgent but ARE important and by this we mean they reflect your mission, roles and goals that you developed as part of Habit 2. Effective people live in this quadrant as much as possible. This is where you plan, prepare, learn and nurture your knowledge, skills and soul!!! It is sometimes hard to be here when Q4 tasks look enticing, but you will be much more effective in your work and life generally by thinking Q2 as much as possible. It also gives you time to cope with Q1 tasks as they arise, thus making you’re a very effective person to be around.
Using these principles and in defining your mission, roles and goals on a monthly, weekly and daily basis, you identify the most effective way to manage your time, with integrity. The programme takes you through this in more detail on a practical basis and I don’t propose to do that here since there are many systems to talk about. But, however you manage your time, be it a paper diary, specialised system such as Filofax or with technology, the most important things to remember are that it should be one system i.e. integrated, mobile and personalised. For example, I have a BlackBerry for work driven by Outlook, a PC at home and work, my own smartphone and a Tablet device. I sync my work Outlook calendar with Outlook at home, which also syncs with Google Calendars. This way I can get one central calendar with all my appointments on whichever device I am using at the time. I spend about 20 minutes each Friday planning the week ahead and I feel in control of my time, instead of at the mercy of others!
That’s all for now; in the next blog I will talk about something Covey calls the Emotional Bank Account which is the transition from private to public victory and it has totally rocked my world. You’ll love it; I promise.
Take care folks and look forward to your feedback.