Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Covey’s 7 habits

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Update: I just recently realized that one reason the system Covey describes works so well. Perhaps as a result of evolutionary pressures, we are highly sensitized to urgent situations (whether important, like that bear coming toward us, or unimportant, like an itch we can’t quite reach), whereas situations that lack urgency are easily postponed and ignored day by day even when they are important (for example, making a will). 

Covey sets out a protocol that (among other things) ensures that you identify what is important (in terms of your own life and your own goals) and then has you put into your schedule each week steps toward important but not urgent goals, thus making sure the important things are accomplished even when they are not urgent.

There’s more to the approach than that, but that is one key benefit: a way to overcome a blind spot in our daily routines. /update

I’ve applied at various times the method Stephen Covey describes in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Restoring the Character Ethic. I initially found it helpful at a time when I was suffering  a terrific case of worker burnout. The cause, I eventually (with some help) realized, was that I had started “owning” thing over which I had no control—for example, decisions made by corporate, several levels above me. This led to the feeling of helplessness, which definitely leads to burnout (cf. Martin Seligman’s excellent Learned Optimism for more on how that works).

In reading Covey’s book, I learned how to separate things that I could not influence from things that I could, and once I focused my attention and energy on the latter, I started feeling better as I regained locus of control. The book is based on talks he gave about 7 habits that seemed common to a variety of highly effective people. The ideas in the book are indeed valuable, but transcribing a talk given with charts and slides can make for occasional difficult reading. Download this brief outline (PDF) and read it before or as you read the book. The outline is incomplete, but it helps clarify some parts of the book that are obscure. However, the outline is in no way a replacement for the book, and I strongly recommend reading the book itself.

Franklin (of Franklin Planners) acquired the Covey organization some time back, with the name changed to FranklinCovey, but the site seems to be called Franklin Planner.

UPDATE: I just stumbled across The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People Personal Workbook, and in looking at it, I think it would be helpful in applying and adapting the habits to your personal situation. The spiral-bound version is most expensive, but probably the easiest to use since the exercises have you writing in the workbook However, you could also get a bound book (like a Moleskine notebook) and do the exercises in that. /update

Since I’m going to start again, I wanted to get a good weekly planner. A new gig seems to have started at Franklin, 5 Choices, and their 5 Choices Weekly Planner looks like a good format for the weekly planning the Covey approach requires: you schedule your important but non-urgent priorities as appointments, with specific tasks for each priority to be accomplished during the week. Two drawbacks, though: it’s $30 (the weekly planner covers a year in total), and the current offering doesn’t start for several months as I write this.

So I looked around—you can really use any weekly planner, but it’s nice if the design accommodates the kind of planning Covey describes in his book—and I found The Simple Elephant: good design and you can start it at any point since you provide the date information. Despite the Amazon entry saying that it’s a day planner, it is in fact a weekly planner, and it includes the kind of goal tracking that Covey’s method requires. (At the link you can see the various page layouts.)

The Blue Sky weekly planner is only $7.34 but it is not such a good fit and when I tried to order it, I found that it would not be delivered until the end of April. Plus it’s a calendar year book, which means you either start mid-year or wait until the next January 1.

There are also pads of weekly planning sheets that you tear off—the Bloom Weekly Planner looks extremely good—but I wanted a book so I could look back, and I wanted a 5″ x 8″ or 6″ x 9″ format, not 8 1/2″ x 11″. UPDATE: The Bloom Weekly Planner has changed its format and now seems not so good. But I did find a good format — see bottom of post. /update

I also found some templates for a DIY approach—for example, a page with links to a PDF template and an Excel template. But again, I wanted a book. Still, it’s a good design. Below is the PDF version: print and use as directed by Covey’s book.

There’s also WeekPlan.net, specifically designed around Covey’s book, but I found it somewhat awkward to use. Handwriting seems to me the most effective approach for this kind of planning, so while the Excel workbook looks nice, it seems impractical. The PDF would work, though.

I settled on The Simple Elephant for now, and my copy should arrive today. In the meantime, I updated the study outline for the 7 Habits book: corrections, links, and more information. The outline is certainly no substitute for the book itself, but I think it is helpful since sometimes Covey’s book is a little difficult to follow. (It seems to be based on transcripts from his talks, and without intonation and gestures some passages don’t work so well.) The idea is to read the outline along with or prior to reading the book.

I didn’t have my old copy of the book—victim of a book purge—but at the link above are inexpensive secondhand editions—quite inexpensive, in fact: I ordered a hardbound copy of the book in “very good” condition for $3.65 including postage.

If you’ve tried using Covey’s method, I’d be interested in hearing of your experience. I think it has quite a few strong points—e.g., planning a week at a time, and scheduling first the appointments to work on items that are important but not urgent, so that you make progress on those. A month would be too long—too easy to put stuff off—but a week seems about right.

UPDATE: The Kokuyo Jibun Techo 3-in-1 Planner looks quite interesting, but I’ve not used it.

UPDATE: Covey uses a quadrant system to classify tasks (see the brief outline mentioned above):

Quadrant I: Urgent and Important
Quadrant II: Non-Urgent and Important
Quadrant III: Urgent and Unimportant
Quadrant IV: Non-urgent and Unimportant

You must spend time doing Quadrant I tasks, but spending time doing Quadrant II tasks will diminish the time spent doing Quadrant I tasks. So, where do you you get time for Quadrant II tasks? You can’t drop Quadrant I tasks (both urgent and important), so the time must be found by (a) eliminating Quadrant IV tasks and (b) clamping down on Quadrant III tasks. There’s more about this in the outline (and, of course, much more in the book)l

This web-based to-do list offers an easy way to sort your to-dos by quadrant. The nomenclature is different, but the idea is the same. You enter each to-do into one of four quadrants:

High Impact, Low Urgency (same as Quadrant II)
High Impact, High Urgency (Quadrant I)
Low Impact, Low Urgency (Quadrant IV)
Low Impact, High Urgency (Quadrant III)

It’s easy to use and could help with Covey’s method. Indeed, it seems directly derived from Covey, but doubtless Covey derived his own categories from others.

UPDATE: I was looking around again for planners, and I like this format, though (1) The “Role” boxes should be blank so you can fill in your own roles; (2) The enormous cutesy titles in Sharpen the Saw should be simple, small, regular-font titles. Still, the overall layout would work well, and you could probably use a spreadsheet program to construct a blank and print a copy each week for your Sunday planning session. The “most important actions allocated daily” are where you place your important but not urgent tasks, spreading them out. You then schedule them in the section below (“time-sensitive daily commitments).

Written by LeisureGuy

27 March 2017 at 10:16 am

Posted in Books, Daily life

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