I learned yesterday that Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, had died. It impacted more than I thought it would.
I am not here to speak about Covey’s personal life, his religion, and so on. But I do want to speak about what Covey meant to me and how he influenced me at a young age.
I first encountered Covey through a colleague of mine back in the days before EMC bought Data General. I was intrigued by my colleague’s time management skills, managed through daily priority lists, and so I bought the Seven Habits and read it. I remember commenting that most of what he was saying was common sense (and honestly, most “self-help” literature is, at its core), but it was an excellent way to combine it all and make some strong statements. Looking back now, what influenced me the most about his writing was a few simple things.
- Take pride in your work, no matter what it is. It will make you feel more fulfilled, even if it brings you nothing better.
- Take time before you begin anything to make sure what you are about to do is important. Continuously refactor your life to push more effort into the important, regardless of its level of urgency. (And yes, relaxation can be “important” too.)
- Think of the roles you play in life, and make sure you approach them all mindfully.
- Visualize and consider the end outcome of the decisions you make.
- Take time to improve yourself.
He said a lot more than that, and I took a lot more than that to heart, but 15 years after reading his book for the first time these are the messages that remain with me. I couldn’t recite all seven habits right now out of memory, so to refresh my memory I took a quick look. It turns out a lot of my memory is around the first “half” of his list, the habits that impact yourself, and not those around you. When I read Covey’s books, I was an individual contributor, trying to increase my own effectiveness.
I haven’t re-read the book, or his other books, since I became a manager. Maybe it’s time. It’s never a bad idea to sharpen your saw.