The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People | Study Guide

Stephen Covey

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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People | Part 2, Habit 3 : Put First Things First (Private Victory) | Summary


Key Takeaways

  • Habit 3 is the physical manifestation of Habits 1 and 2. It is all about self-management, which hinges on independent will. One must act instead of being acted upon.
  • Different time management strategies like checklists, calendars, and prioritizing made popular over the years have ignored the most important issue, which is "not to manage time, but to manage ourselves." To do this requires focusing on relationships and results.
  • Imagine sorting a to-do list into a four-quadrant chart. Quadrant I is everything that's important and urgent. Quadrant II is everything that's important but not urgent. Quadrant III includes things that are urgent but not important, and Quadrant IV is reserved for tasks neither urgent nor important.
  • Most people spend all their time in Quadrant I, handling crises and deadlines. This behavior is ineffective and leads to a constant state of panic.
  • People who focus entirely on Quadrants III and IV "basically lead irresponsible lives." They neglect important work in favor of time wasters and pleasurable activities.
  • Spending the bulk of one's time in Quadrant II is the best way to manage time effectively. Quadrant II is where one builds relationships, plans for the future, and prevents crises. This is where the "first things" in "first things first" are located.
  • People just beginning to focus their efforts on Quadrant II must say "no" when it comes to requests from Quadrants I, III, and IV. Declining requests may mean missing out on something entertaining or interesting, but in the long run the investment in Quadrant II will pay off.
  • A weekly planning tool can help people focus on Quadrant II goals. Covey says, "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities." Covey has created such a planner, but other planners can be adapted to individual needs.
  • Organizing the week begins by identifying the various roles one plays, such as student, employee, parent, etc. Covey advises selecting one or two goals for each role and then scheduling them, reviewing the schedule each morning, and making changes as needed.
  • Covey calls his method of self-management a "fourth-generation tool." It differs from other theories of self-management because it is principle centered, conscience directed, tailored to one's mission, helps provide balance in life, and "gives greater context through weekly organizing."
  • Delegation is an important part of time management. Instead of micromanaging the person to whom work is delegated, the delegator should strive for "stewardship delegation," which is "focused on results instead of methods." The person to whom the job has been delegated can do whatever is needed to achieve the desired results.
  • Stewardship delegation requires trust from both parties. It turns the delegated individual into a boss and thus provides a more vested interest in the outcome of the project and guarantee of success. The delegator, however, must establish and explain guidelines, resources, methods of accountability, and consequences.
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