Book Report: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

7 habits of highly effective people.
I’ll read it so you don’t have to.

Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People  is a management mainstay. I can imagine how groundbreaking it must have been in the ’80s.  When I read it 30+ years later, it did seem to me to be obvious and reductive. Color me skeptical that there can be just 7 habits of highly effective people.

To start, here are the seven habits that are detailed in the book:

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

There are lots and lots of great summaries of each of the seven habits, so I won’t detail them here.

Key takeaway: Habit Put First Things First

So, here is the most useful tool that I’ve found…To put First Things First as suggested by habit 3, this grid is quite useful:

One suggestion for practicing this habit is to try to map out how you spend your time by putting your tasks into the grid and estimating how much of your time is spent on each task. Where do you find that you are spending your time? If you are spending a disproportionate time in quadrant four during your work day, you may want to reevaluate how you spend your time. Ideally, by practicing proactivity, we can keep a lot out of quadrant one. Please read more about time blocking for productivity, a natural follow-on activity to this.

In so many ways, this book was so antidotal and void of research or evidence that I had a hard time appreciating the intended lessons. It was written, pretty obviously, for white, male, corporate, business men  who can actually control their schedule fully and delegate unpleasant tasks and who think in terms of people being in their sphere of control. I think you could get just as much out of the book by reading one of the summaries rather than slogging through the whole thing.