Tag Archive: Stephen Covey

Habit 2-Begin With The End in MindThis is habit number two from Covey’s list of seven and something that definitely supports productivity. It works when you set long-term goals, and use visualization as a tool to develop it. Before you start anything, you have to have a clear picture of what it is you want and that means looking at the end result and working your way backward to the starting point to know what to do to get you there. When you work in this manner and mentally create what you want, it helps you to focus on relevant things.

I have seen the difference that this makes time and time again. I’ll share one example with you. A few years ago a colleague said that she needed my help to pull things together. She was all over the place, working on a number of different things, but had no idea of where she was going with some of them. I took her through a visualization session so that she could get clear on where she was going with her clients. We went into the detail about the purpose of the programs she wanted to create and the results she wanted from each of them. I also had her stop working on her first annual retreat to get clear about the end results. That session made all the difference.

Beginning with the end in mind had her look at exactly where she was going with the programs and events in her business. The outcomes allowed her to see where the gaps where in what she was contemplating as well as the things she had already been working on without making time to envision it all first. Looking at the end result helped her create her long term goals for each endeavor and map out the plan to get there. Stopping to look forward enabled her days to be more focused and kept her from her usual days of being all over the place and not knowing where she was going.

Be Proactive

Habit 1-Be ProactiveYou’re probably familiar with Stephen Covey’s first habit, “Be Proactive”. Being proactive means taking responsibility for every aspect of your life.  As hard as that might be, it means being responsible for how everything looks right now, including your lack of productivity and organization. The reason for your space being disorganized and contributing to your lower level of productivity is irrelevant inside of taking responsibility. What’s important is that you own up to it. That’s the first step in shifting gears to change things.

When you’re proactive, you control your environment and your circumstances instead of having them control you. Once you do, the initiative and taking action will then follow and you go from being challenged when it comes to being productive and not being in control, to having command over your space and your circumstances. Being proactive helps put you back in the driver’s seat. From that place you determine what happens, not anyone else. From the driver’s seat your life doesn’t just happen to you; you make it happen. Start this week off by choosing to be proactive and watch the shift begin for you.


SpiralClock-Smaller2We are all overcome with information and so many of us are wearing a number of different hats-juggling business and our personal lives. Executives, business owners, entrepreneurs, solopreneurs, office workers and homemakers alike are all feeling the pressure that the high speed pace of today’s culture brings. Here are some things to consider:

  • The average U.S. professional spends at least 10 hours each week just managing email. 25% of the average work week; some say it’s more
  • The average person gets interrupted once every 8 minutes; each interruption takes about 5 minutes totaling 4 hours, which equals half of the work day
  • 20% of the average work day is spent on things considered to be important or crucial while 80% of the work day is spent on things considered to be of little or no value
  • A person who works with a cluttered desk spends at least 1½-2 hours each day looking for things-that’s 7½-10 hours each work week
  • Only 5% of business and professional people implement a to-do list on a daily basis

Given the information overload and these statistics, there has never been a time when there has been a greater need for our personal and business lives to be organized. With those same things in mind, we see that there is also a need for solutions that help us get things done. Time is our most precious resource; it cannot be saved, it has to be used and once it’s gone, we can’t get it back. We have to use the right tools and strategies to manage our time for ultimate productivity.

Your time can go towards any number of activities and most times people give their time over to tasks that don’t have anything to do with their goals. People typically give time over to urgent things like solving problems and crises or time wasters, busy work and non-productive tasks. When your time is spent on preventing the problems, crises, dealing with interruptions and handling pressing tasks at the last minute although you’ve had significant time to complete them, you’re operating in a way that doesn’t contribute to your overall success because you’re not getting to the important things on a timely basis or at all. If that’s what’s happening with you, think about the impact that it’s having on your business. What’s happening as a result of the way that you are relating to time? Take a moment and seriously think about that and answer the question.

Very few people are focused on tasks that come about as a result of planning and things that prevent crises and problems, but this is where productive, successful people focus their time. This is why only roughly 8% of people reach their goals every year. Do you know where your time is going? If not, stop and think about what things would be like if you could operate this way. What would your days and your life look like? More importantly, how do you get to the point of operating that way? By looking at everything you have on your plate and the things you would like to place on your plate. There is an exercise that Stephen Covey proposed that does work when it comes to seeing where your time is going and getting to the important things.

  • Get a pack of index cards. On each card, write one thing that you feel you should do, want to do, hope to do, plan to do or dream of doing. Be sure you include everything no matter how big or small it is. Keep going until you run out of things.
  • Next, separate the cards into two piles. The first being things that have to be done right now and the other being things that don’t have to be done right now. These are your urgent and non urgent items.
  • Go through both piles and separate each one into important and not important stacks so that you end up with four stacks. (Urgent, not urgent, important and not important)
  • Take the two not important stacks and put them in a safe place. You are now left with what’s important.
  • Make a commitment to eliminate all of the activities that didn’t make it to your important piles. After you work on your important and urgent tasks, work on things that are important but not urgent. No matter how pressing something might seem to be, don’t do it unless it’s important.

With only 20% of the work day being spent on things that are considered to be important or crucial, and 80% of the work day being spent on things that are considered to be of little or no value, the script has to be flipped so that the work day is spent on the things that are important; the things that matter most. If you’re wasting your time, flip the script to make the transition that will get you into the 8% of people who reach their goals by getting things done.


“Excellence is not an act, but a habit.  The things you do the most are the things that you do the best.” ~Marva Collins

We all are in the habit of doing certain things, whether they are supportive or non supportive habits.  Your habits are a prime factor in what leads you to being productive or not.  They make the difference when it comes to getting things done.  The aforementioned quote says it all.  Whatever you do all the time is what you do best.  If you have a habit that doesn’t support you in being productive, it’s still something that you do best because you do it all the time, and being good at whatever that is will keep you from your top level of productivity.  Habits make you who you are.

A habit is defined as “routine of behavior that is repeated regularly, tends to occur subconsciously, without directly thinking consciously about it”.  Since your habits determine who you are, and make the difference when it comes to being productive, it’s important to establish habits that will support you.  As a part of that process, it’s important to let go of the notion of “good” or “bad” habits.  Habits just are what they are, they aren’t good or bad.  They’re just habits.  When you let go of the “good” or “bad” you also let go of the judgment that comes along with that.  Doing so is key in establishing habits that will help you stay at your top level productivity.

To make the shift, create new habits that will get you through your busy days.  Start by looking at your current habits and determine which ones don’t support you.  Those are the ones you should work to eliminate.  Then determine what new habits you will create.  As you do, think about who it is that you would have to be instead of what it is that you have to do.  Given that you are your habits, this is the place you want to create from.  If you focus on being instead of doing, it’s much easier to end up with great new habits that will get you through your days.   In your effort to increase your productivity, one list of habits to look at is Stephen Covey’s list of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  This list is straight to the point and its principles if established as habits can help you become more productive. Use it to help you in making that shift.

  • Habit 1: Be Proactive-take responsibility for every aspect of your life. Initiative and taking action will then follow
  • Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind-set long-term goals, consider creating a personal mission statement and visualization as a tool to develop it
  • Habit 3: Put First Things First-focus on long-term goals instead of things that are more urgent and less important and prioritize the work related to your long-term goals
  • Habit 4: Think Win/Win-with an attitude like this, everybody wins.  See mutually beneficially solutions to satisfy yourself and others
  • Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to be Understood-completely listen to another person’s concerns and don’t give advice before you understand a person and their situation
  • Habit 6: Synergize-work effectively in teams by collaborating, valuing differences and building on divergent strengths
  • Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw-engage in carefully selected recreational activities that offer self renewal so that you can regain your “production capability”

You can see that if you made these seven principals habits, that they would help you in creating and maintain habits that support your productivity. Looking at the 7 Habits, you can also see in them who it is that you would have to be to have each particular habit.  The way of being is what makes you your habits, whether that way of being gets you where you want to go or not.

To shift into habits that support you, you first have to understand that it takes 21 days to develop a new habit.  That’s the amount of time that it takes to train the brain.  I recommend that you give yourself 30 days for each new habit you want to develop.  You might think that’s a long time, but it really isn’t.  Trying to change more than a few habits at one time can be self destructive, so be patient and honor the process.

Start by writing down the new habits that you want to develop.  Your head is a dangerous place for commitments to hang out.  When you write them down they become real and you start to gain clarity about what you want to create and what that means for you.  It also helps to keep you committed.

Once you have that clarity, enroll someone in supporting you.  Share with them what habit you’re giving up and what you are creating.  Keep them in the loop on how you’re doing and of any challenges that come up for you.  Allow them to help you through the rough spots and get you back on track so that you can successfully develop the new habits.  Make sure that your new habits are consistent and that you do them every day for 30 days.  If that doesn’t work, step up to the next level of accountability and get a coach.

Understand that you are going to go through a process with your new habits.  The first 30 days will present some challenges and you might even feel as though you want to quit.  After a few months it becomes easier to keep the commitment and things run smooth at that point.  Once you’ve reached a year or so, it becomes harder to not be in the habit because that habit has become part of your routine and part of who you are.

Think about all of your habits.  What are you committed to creating right now and what habits do you need to develop in order to have what you want to create become a reality?  More importantly, who is it that you have to commit to being to create what you want?


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