The late Dr. Stephen Covey synthesized the common patterns in the leaders he studied and worked with in his 1989 best-seller, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
At the core of his message is the belief that the way we see the world is entirely based on our own perceptions. In order to change any given situation, we must change ourselves. And, in order to change ourselves, we must be able to change our perceptions.
Put simply, in the context of this crisis:
In order to change/improve the state of things during this crisis, we must change/improve ourselves first.
In order to change/improve ourselves, we must change/improve our perceptions.
“The way we see the problem is the problem.”
To undergo a paradigm shift and upgrade ourselves fundamentally, we must go beyond the surface level and alter our behavior for the long-term.
This is where the habits (7) come in:
- Be Proactive
- Begin with the End in Mind
- Put First Things First
- Think Win-Win
- Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood
- Sharpen the Saw
- Put First Things First
To manage ourselves, we must put first things first – have the discipline to prioritize our day-to-day actions based on what is most important, not what is most urgent.
In order to achieve our goals and produce superior Results, we must get beyond the path of least resistance (acting according to our momentary impulses).
All activities can be categorized based on two key factors: Urgency and Importance.
Category I Activities: Important and Urgent
- Pressing problems
- Deadline-driven projects
Category II Activities: Important and Not Urgent
- Relationship building
- Recognizing new opportunities
Category III Activities: Not Important and Urgent
- Some calls, meetings
- Popular activities
Category IV Activities: Not Important and Not Urgent
- Trivial busywork
- Time wasters
- Pleasant/distracting activities
Most people run their schedule by just constantly reacting to urgent matters, which prevents them from spending time on Category II activities, the most crucial of all.
If we focus too much of Category I Activities, our time is mostly spent managing crises and problems. This leads to stress, burnout and constant fire-fighting.
If we focus on Category III Activities too much, most of our time is wasted reacting to matters that seem urgent in the moment because we are perceiving urgency based on the priorities and expectations of others. This leads to short-term focus, feeling out of control, and shallow or broken relationships.
If we focus on Category IV Activities, we are leading an irresponsible life. This often will catalyze poor results, failing at key outcomes, getting fired or destroying our business, and being highly dependent on others.
Category II Activities is the heart of effective personal management. Important and not urgent things like building relationships, long-term planning, exercising and preparation all make a massive positive impact on our lives and businesses but seldom get the attention they deserve because they don’t feel urgent enough in the moment.
In order to focus our time in Category II at a higher level, we must learn how to say “no” to other activities, especially the ones that constantly seem urgent.
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
Identify a Category II activity you’ve been neglecting, write it down, and commit to implementing it.
Estimate how much time you are spending in each Activity Category. Then, track and measure for 3 consecutive days where your time really went against the 4 categories. How much time was spent in Category II?
A crisis/pandemic/downturn can present many important and urgent matters for us. Once they are dealt with, it is time deliberately invested in the Important and Not Urgent that innovates a new (better) path forward.