Revisiting Seven Habits

I’m rereading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People again. I don’t get a whole lot new out of rereading it anymore, although if I do it’s in the later chapters. I’d like to think this is because I’m progressing and getting the early habits under way, but it’s probably because I’ve occasionally gone to reread it and not made it through before picking something else up.

But it seems that aside from reminding myself of what I’d like to be doing, there’s always these tiny little things that motivate me right then. That shouldn’t be a huge surprise, I suppose, since the whole point of the book is motivation and Covey is a motivational speaker, but it’s nice that it happens. I never post about those little things because they’re usually really obvious, and sometimes the impact of really obvious things doesn’t come across well online.

This time around it was this:

What one thing could you do (you aren’t doing now) that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your life?

The first implication, of course, is “Then why aren’t you doing it?” — but the central thesis of the entire book is that there are many usual reasons that you’re not, and that it’s a lot of work to develop such that you can get past those. The second implication is that once you’re doing that, you’ll find another One Thing. And Covey’s explanation for why you’re not doing it is that it’s always a Quadrant II activity — “important but not urgent” — and the Quadrant I and III activities (“important and urgent” and “urgent but not important”) crowd out Quadrant II without effort to the contrary — but that’s detail. Just the seed of the idea is enough for now. If I’m not working towards finding and doing it, what am I waiting for?

(And while digging up the exact quote I thought of another three or four ideas I want to write about, but I know people can only take so much of Seven Habits, so you’re safe for now.)

2 responses to “Revisiting Seven Habits”

  1. I’m impressed that you can go back and re-read that book! Had to read it for a class and it just was like pulling teeth for me to get through it. I know so many folks that loved it, and all I could think was what a nice doorstop it would make.

  2. Hah! You won’t find me arguing in favour of Covey’s writing style, that’s for sure. It’s all about the content, and re-reading is the best way to remind myself of the things I’ve forgotten (or worse, misinterpreted over time, in a one-person version of the telephone game).

    I just think that he gets a lot right that a lot of self-improvement authors get wrong (mostly coming down to the character vs. personality ethic, if you remember that part). I tried Getting Things Done but for me it wasn’t more than “don’t waste mental energy on things you could write down” and “organize things simply”. I find that the problem isn’t one of paralysis and not knowing what to do, it’s about spending time on the wrong things in the first place. GTD happily lets you spend all your time outside of Quadrant II, and be really well-organized while doing so, but my problem is working on that Quadrant II time.