Originally published on 12 March 2007.
I found the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People (aff) sitting on the desk when I went to a temp assignment. Having little to do that week, I read it straight through. It was exciting. Here was a book talking about achieving goals, of not letting important things slack, and for maintaining relationships. I was fascinated by the thought of doing a mission statement and looking at my roles, then planning my life based on those.
What the System Offered
The 7 Habits opened up a world of new thinking for me. In the first habit, “Be Proactive”, I realized that I was in charge of my life and destiny. Habit 2, “Begin With the End In Mind”, got me to think about the type of life I wanted to be remembered for, and to identify the roles I play within my life. Habit 3, “Put First Things First”, showed me how self-discipline was the basis of living my life according to my values. It also showed me about setting goals based on my roles. This is also was the habit that talked about the four quadrants of Urgent/Important.
Habits 4, 5 and 6 (Think Win/Win, Seek First to Understand, Then Be Understood, and Synergize, respectively) I read through, but didn’t see an applicability to my life at the time. But Habit 7, Sharpen the Saw, showed me the importance of taking care of me and allowing myself to regenerate.
How I Used This System
I went at this system head-first. I spent days listing my roles. I listed all my family roles (child, cousin), as well as my job (teacher, programmer), and other commitments (church member, fraternity member, environmentalist). I spent weeks defining a mission statement. I spent a month defining my goals. And I felt empowered.
Next I entered all of it into my DayTimer, following the sheets laid out in the book. I diligently tried to work on each goal each week.
The result? All the “trivial” stuff in my life piled up (like laundry, shopping, etc), and I got overwhelmed by the amount of work involved in maintaining my roles.
What I learned from the 7 Habits Days
It is important to know how you fit into your life
Knowing your relationships and commitments is an important first step to knowing what else you can do. It is also important to know what you can do without, and which relationships need to be pruned.
Sharpening the Saw is important
If I don’t take care of me with recreation and spiritual activities, the rest of my life suffers. These are not just nice things to do, but necessary.
Trivia Cannot Be Ignored
Things may not be important, but they must get done. Unless I can afford a staff to take care of those trivial things, my life becomes harder to manage. In other words, there are times when the laundry must be done, and the refrigerator cleaned out.
The 7 Habits Got Me Looking At Things In A New Way
Reading the book really opened my eyes to the power of proactive action. I wish that I could say that it stuck after the first reading, but being raised as a reactor, it has been a difficult habit to break. I realize this is an important concept, though, and most of the other systems I have experienced since then contain this principle. It is slowly sinking in, and I find that I like life a lot better when I am the one driving the car rather than letting the auto-pilot do it.