I remember when I was assigned to read the book entitled, “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” by Stephen R. Covey. I was a student in grad school and was struggling with balancing my graduate studies, a full-time job, and a growing family. I remember feeling so overwhelmed and unproductive. When I read the title on that book, I remember thinking to myself, “I don’t have time to read a book about being more effective! I just need more time!”
Looking back, it’s easy to see the struggle I was dealing with, but sometimes when you’re in the middle of everything, it’s really difficult to see.
I did read the book, eventually, and I had to write a paper on how the book impacted my life. I don’t have the paper anymore, and I don’t remember what I wrote, but I would love to re-write that paper today.
Reading this book began a process in me that continues today. The book caused me to look at myself first, and to figure out how to work SMARTER. Up to that time, I had focused on how to work HARDER.
I’m not afraid of hard work, but I’ve learned a lot about myself: what motivates me, what I’m good at, what challenges me and what things I like to avoid. I’ve learned my habits, my weaknesses and my rhythms.
There are some simple lessons from this book that I wish I would have understood back in 1989. It took me a while to really understand things and then to apply them to my life.
Let me share three things with you. Maybe you can learn them quicker then I did:
#1) Figure Out What’s Most Important
In Covey’s book, he talks about “Putting First Things First”. The challenge is to figure out what is most important to you, and prioritize your time doing that. We all waste so much time and energy doing things that aren’t important, or doing things that others can do, and sometimes do better. Figure out what your most important role or task is, and do that first. Eliminate the distractions that keep you from doing that important thing.
#2) Figure Out How To Listen
Covey calls it, “Seek First To Understand, Then To Be Understood”. I used to think that if I talked louder and pushed harder, others would follow. I’ve learned the value of listening first, hearing people’s hearts. If you don’t start listening, often you’ll never get a chance to. I ask a lot of questions and I listen.
#3) Figure Out How To Keep Growing
Covey calls this, “Sharpening The Saw”. I need to be continually growing, being stretched and renewed, always learning and developing in all areas of my life. When I become stagnant, my effective leadership ends. How do I stay in places where I am forced to grow, learn and develop? How do I avoid the feeling that “I know it all”?
There are so many other lessons that have taken me decades to learn and apply to different areas of my life.
If you want to be more productive, don’t start doing more. Learn to work SMARTER. When you do this, you’ll be amazed at what happens.
To purchase Covey’s book, CLICK HERE It’s still a timeless book that will challenge you and teach you to work smarter.