The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People is a classic self-help book that many have used to improve themselves and their performance in professional and personal matters. Those in search of productivity tips could really take a few lessons from this book.
If you don’t have time to sit down and read the whole thing (which I highly recommend), here’s a quick summary on each habit and what it can do for your productivity.
1. Be proactive
Basically, this means that you shouldn’t spend your time reacting to what happens; rather, you should do whatever you can to address things before they become a problem. The former thought process is negative, whereas the latter is positive; that is to say, rather than putting your workload on fixing external matters, work to use yourself to make things better. Proactive = productive.
2. Begin with the end in mind
The idea here is that if you just go into a project blindly without any idea what you’re working towards, you’ll be working aimlessly and without direction.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a planner or a plunger – if you aren’t a devotee of organization, don’t feel the need to abandon the workstyle that works for you. But you need to have at least some idea of what you’re working towards, or else you’ll never be productive; you’ll be working hard, but not producing anything.
3. Put first things first
One of the hardest parts of buckling down and getting productive is figuring out where to start. Seven Habits suggests the obvious-but-not-so-obvious: Put first things first.
Prioritizing is key when trying to be productive. Got a daunting task on your to-do list? Don’t put it off till the end, especially if it has a significant effect on the rest of your to-do list. Get it out of the way – it’s far easier to do something if you’re not dreading what lies at the end of the tunnel.
4. Think win-win
Your success doesn’t need to come at the cost of someone else’s. Finding a way to balance everyone’s needs is crucial to productivity, especially if you’re working in a group rather than alone. Operating only in your own interest seems like a good idea right up until you actually try to do it and realize that it just doesn’t work.
5. Seek first to understand, then to be understood
Nothing gets in the way of productivity like conflict. Misunderstandings can bring things to a screeching halt, so when you find yourself in the wake of one, remember that your goal should be understanding where they’re coming from, not asserting your own point. You can do that after you’ve demonstrated that you’ve made the effort to understand their position – they can then respond in turn by understanding you. You just need to be the bigger person and take the first step.
Synergy is one of the hottest buzzwords in business, and it’s not hard to see why. You can only do so much alone. The magic of synergy is that teaming up with someone does more than halve your workload – it allows you to become even more. For example, two plants growing in the same place will improve the quality of the soil, allowing them to grow better than either could individually. The same can happen for your productivity if you combine forces with someone else.
7. Sharpen the saw
This one’s huge. It comes from an old fable: A man comes across another man sawing down a tree. The first man notes that this seems to be a difficult task; the second man laments that it’s because the saw has become so dull. When the first man suggests that he take some time off to sharpen the saw, the second laughs and says “I don’t have time to sharpen this saw, I’m too busy using it to cut down this tree!”
The lesson here, of course, is that if he sharpened the saw it’d take far less time overall. The same lesson applies to all work; we often make the mistake of allowing ourselves no rest until a project is done, but studies show that taking the occasional break is hugely beneficial to productivity, especially when that break is used to recharge.
Don’t drown in your own work. If you want to be productive, always take the time time to sharpen the saw.