If you have been following this blog the last couple of months, you might have been wondering, “Are you ever going to finish that damned book?” The answer is yes, I have finished reading the book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R. Covey. Here are a few of my thoughts on it:
In June for my birthday, I decided to read one self-help book a month for the rest of the year. I started with The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business by Charles Duhigg and The Power of a Positive No: How To Say No and Still Get To Yes by William Ury in August, which I wrote about in a post mid-August. In September, I chose The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People after starting to use an app on my phone called My Effectiveness Habits that used the book as a basis.
While I didn’t find everything about the book applicable since I don’t work in a corporate environment, I did find one part in particular helpful. Under the section on Habit No. 3: Put First Things First, Covey presents what he calls Quadrant II thinking. Basically, Covey says there are four quadrants in our lives:
- Quadrant 1: Important and urgent, such as deadline-driven projects.
- Quadrant 2: Important but not urgent.
- Quadrant 3: Not important but urgent.
- Quadrant 4: Not important and not urgent.
The ideal is to be able to focus on Quadrant I and II first, especially Quadrant II, where often things that we do to better ourselves are placed. For example, at work one of the things I’ve been trying to do at the library where I work is “be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger” (based on James 1:19 from The Bible) with my coworkers and the patrons there. However along with that, I have to focus on what Covey called “first things first,” those things that have to be done first, sometimes daily, sometimes once a week. So it’s not just about what you do at your job but how you do it.
I am learning also that those Quadrant II things, especially these three goals, are not something just to be crossed off daily. I can focus on one one day, focus on another another day. That doesn’t mean that I’m not attempting to keep all of them in mind daily, but that certain days I might focus on one more than another.
In practical terms, on Monday and Wednesday, I am focusing on being quick to listen, because those are my shortest days and I especially need to listen to what my coworkers are telling me about what happened earlier in the day. On Tuesday and Thursday, which are among my longer days, I focus on being slow to speak because I have a tendency to look for problems even when I arrive early. Finally on Friday, I focus on being slow to anger when I am dealing with more people, especially toward the end of the day.
As I mentioned in a post at the beginning of the month, unfortunately at the end of one week, on a Friday, I was tested on all three actions with one “problem patron” in particular. Although in the end, we both apologized to each other for our behavior, I “lost my shit,” fortunately not in front of the patron, but in a back room where I mouthed a few choice words and flailed my arms like a child in a temper tantrum. So while I didn’t completely fail, I learned that I still had (and have) work to do on that front.
Last week I was tested again with a patron but this time I think I passed. This patron wasn’t a “problem patron,” but again without going into details, I had to listen closely, speak slowly and not get mad with this particular patron. It wasn’t perfect, but I didn’t completely fail either – and didn’t get mad with the patron.
So yes, I read The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, but yes, I am still unfinished — with both it and myself. I allow what Covey calls concerns to bother me instead of focusing on what he calls influences and need to work on that. I also want to work on my own mission statement, and I am starting to see more clearly what that is.
I’ll leave you with a song, which although might not be my mission statement in total, it certainly reflects ideas (minus the language) that might make up part of it: