Month: December 2010

December 22, 2010

New Year – New Habits To Keep

Covey’s Four Quadrants

New Year‘s is a time to reflect on things we want (or need) to change, from getting fit or quitting smoking to getting a better job or spending more time with family. It’s a time to replace bad habits with good ones and to follow through on them.

How many of us, however, have made our resolutions with the best of intentions, only to break them weeks or months later? Perhaps more urgent matters crop up that consume our energies, leaving us too exhausted for anything else. Or perhaps we get discouraged with our progress and lose our desire and resolve to carry on. Whenever I face just such a dilemma, I look to Covey’s third habit, “Put First Things First,” for perspective and guidance.

While Habit 2 is about self-leadership, Habit 3 is about self-management. Leadership defines the “first things,” and management is the discipline to carry them out in accordance with our core principles. “Putting first things first” means we have the will to do something when we don’t want to; to say “no” to some things (even seemingly urgent things); and to act on our values, rather than on impulse. Simply, it means focusing our time on what’s truly important.

According to Covey, we can spend our time in four ways:

  • Quadrant 1: Activities that are both urgent and important (crises and problems)
  • Quadrant 2: Activities that are important but not urgent and require more initiative and proactivity  relationship building, goal setting, planning and preventive maintenance)
  • Quadrant 3: Activities that are urgent but not important (others’ priorities and expectations)
  • Quadrant 4: Activities that are neither urgent nor important (time wasters)

Habit 3 tells us to spend most of our time in Quadrant 2, to minimize our time spent in Quadrant 1 and to stay out of Quadrants 3 and 4 altogether. In doing so, we pursue our highest priorities—the relationships and results that matter. Our crises would then become more manageable because we’re proactively doing the things that prevent them from happening in the first place.

For me, “putting first things first” is not only a habit of effectiveness, but also an act of integrity to our commitments and purpose. By honoring both, we position ourselves to seize the right opportunities at the right time—ones that can enrich our lives and livelihoods in the New Year and beyond.

– Vera Quinn

December 13, 2010

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

“To Begin with the End in Mind means to start with a clear understanding of your destination. It means to know where you’re going so that you better understand where you are now and so that the steps you take are always in the right direction.”

"Covey's Second Habit"

The second habit of effectiveness, “Begin with the End in Mind,” is a favorite of mine. Covey points out how easy it is to get caught up in climbing the ladder of success only to discover that it’s leaning against the wrong wall. Effectiveness doesn’t depend solely on how much effort we expend, but on whether we expend the effort on the right things—something I’ve tried to remember in my personal and professional life.

To be effective, we must first be self-aware and critically examine how we view others and ourselves. Then, we must imagine or visualize our life’s purpose, which must be centered on a core of unchanging, “correct” principles. Finally, we must bring it into physical being, guided by our conscience and values. Doing so successfully allows us to demonstrate personal leadership, which means we take control and responsibility for our own lives.

My involvement with charities is one example of how I’ve applied Habit 2. The core principles of family, community and philanthropy underpin a personal mission to help those who are less fortunate, to give back to the community and to inspire compassion in others.

According to Covey, developing just such a mission is one way to begin with the end in mind. It focuses us on what we want to be (character) and do (contributions and achievements) and on the principles that guide our being and doing. When we ensure every decision and action is congruent with that mission, we practice Habit 2 successfully and become more effective people—and leaders.

 – Jim Majeski