7 Essential habits for personal effectiveness


Ever heard of the book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ by Stephen Covey? You should! We think it is one of the best, well, at least one of the best selling management books ever – an impressive 22 million copies were sold so far. Here’s the first vital lesson; the difference between being effective and being efficient. Being effective means doing the right things, whereas being efficient implies doing things right. What do you find important? Which are your personal values? Those are the typical questions you need to be able to answer in order to do things effectively, to be effective. The closer you are to your personal values, the easier you will find it to master Covey’s 7 habits of high effectiveness.

His first 3 habits apply to personal triumphs. They read as follows:

Be pro-active

A pro-active person is fully aware of his personal ability to choose, and subsequently is responsible for his or her own choices. Effective thinkers know they themselves are the product of their choices, and continuously look at what he or she can influence, instead of the passive thinkers - who consider themselves the victim, a product of its environment.

Start with the end in mind

This habit implies one has to be result-oriented. Keep your own values in mind when trying to construct the end of a story, albeit regarding business or personal 'stories'. Where will you be in 5 years from now? How will your career evolve? The closer you stay to your personal values, the more effective you will be. Try finding a balance in your environment. Without hurting or disadvantaging others around you, always make sure to live your own life. Dare to be authentic.

First things first!

Time management is the key word here. Effective people plan their week ahead. Best thing is to make a planning for the rest of the week before the week has started - on a Sunday for instance. Make sure to only schedule the important things (both business and personal related things). By only scheduling your 10 top priorities, you improve the chance of most of them actually being done. Effective people always do important things first; ineffective people rather prioritize urgent matters. Rate activities by A, B and C; ranking them from most important to less important. Leave time and space open for unexpected things in between, which always come up. Make sure your planning is realistic.

Covey continues with three subsequent habits that apply to triumphs of your environment:

Think win-win

When out to create sustainable relationships, always keep an eye on 'what's in it for the other'. Every person looks at a spectacle sitting in its own cinema, as Covey metaphorically puts it. The way we look at the world is a reflection of our own paradigms. our so called paradigms of life. They influence us in everything we do. The best attitude to getting things done and achieving certain goals is by being able to question one's own paradigms of life and if necessary, break with them.

A controller can be constrained by its paradigms - like worrying about budgets and financial quarterlies when you know they aren't feasible. In order to be effective towards yourself and others, is to break with these constraining paradigms. Create internal win-win relationships; the ultimate tool to mutual effectiveness. Moreover: maintain a zero-tolerance policy towards win-lose behaviour.

First: understand - second: be understood

Listening to other people properly is a gift unfortunately not many people are overly skilled with. Not surprisingly, because really listening can be a very hard thing to do. The key to influencing people is to make sure you set the right example. People need to feel you have been listening to them and therefore really understand them - if not, they will be too upset, offensive or reluctant to be influenced by you. Hence: you need to build on the mutual skill of empathic listening. This is how trust and openness is created within a dialogue or relationship. When you really understand the person opposite you, you can change a transactional occasion to a transformational one. Instead of sitting opposite each other facing a problem, you are now seated next to one another. In terms of mastering this vital custom, Covey offers one advice: practice, practice, practice.

Create synergy

Synergy equals 1 + 1 = 3, implying for the sum of things to be more than the two separate entities. It's definitely not a compromise, for that would be 1 + 1 = 1,5. Synergy implies a creative cooperation, for which mutual trust is a necessity. It's not your or my way which prevails or is best, it's our way. It's like music, really. By merging different sounds, wholly new different sounds emerge, creating a great song. Not my sound, not yours, but our sounds, our song.

Once you have mastered all these above habits, you have transformed from the I-world to that of the We-world. Welcome! And now, lastly, read the last vital habit connecting them all, according to Covey.

Take care

These habits all have one focus in common: take good care of yourself - mentally, socially, physically and spiritually. If you take the time to renew these personal dimensions, you will surely become a more effective person. It happens to be just this part of 'taking time for it' holding many people back. Shame, because taking the best care for yourself is the basis of all, and therefore an indispensible habit for any level of effectiveness.

The habits Stephen Covey describes are one ecosystem and cannot be seen as separate pieces of advice. Follow them all and find your effectiveness to improve significantly. Good luck!

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