- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On August 28, 2015
This post is the last in a series summarizing the book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I’ve broken the book down into 7 posts, one blog post per habit.
Today I’m covering habit #7, “sharpen the saw.” This habit is about maintaining and improving the implement that is you so that you can execute the other habits as effectively as possible.
Stephen Covey breaks down the areas you need to work on into four dimensions: Physical, mental, spiritual and social/emotional.
The physical dimension is about maintaining your health: Exercising, sleeping and managing your stress.
Exercise and sleep are important activities that in today’s world so many of us sacrifice in favor of less important but urgent activities (like checking email—did you know that 35% of people check their email when they wake up in the morning before even drinking coffee or brushing their teeth.)
Richard Branson was asked how he is so productive. His answer: “I work out.” Stephen Covey reminds us to be more like Sir Richard.
Many people give up on studying once they leave school but we live in rapidly changing world with so much learn every day. There is so much to read today that professionals, like marketers, do not set aside time to read anything outside of our professional area. The 7 habits counsels us to read more broadly as that will expand our frame of reference and help us generate new ideas.
I find writing is the absolute best way for me to learn and remember a topic. There’s nothing quite like being put in the position of having to teach a subject to learn it! Do you write? Do you cover new topics when you write so that you broaden your knowledge? It’s easy to spend all your time writing urgent emails but what about finding the time to dive deeper into an important topic.
The spiritual dimension focuses on renewing your “inner core”. It’s about getting in touch with your personal values and your mission (and personal mission statement if you have one.)
Covey notes that people renew their spiritual self in very different ways. Some people refresh through prayer, some through meditation and some from listening to great music or reading books.
The social/emotional dimension is different to the other three dimensions in that it deals with your interaction with other people. It’s about practicing and improving habits 4-6 (thinking win/win, seeking first to understand then be understood and creating synergy by working effectively with others.)
The social/emotional dimension of continuous improvement is practicing and striving to improve how we work with others over time. It’s a gradual process but one with huge rewards.
Balance and the upward spiral
We need to renew and improve in each of these four dimensions in a balanced way. Improving in only one or two dimensions will not produce optimal results.
As we learn new skills and habits in each dimension, we need to commit to improving in these areas. Then we must carry out these improved actions. As we learn, commit and do, we move up an upward spiral of improved effectiveness. The next time we learn new skills we start from a more effective place. We have more effective habits. We are more effective people.
This is the last post in the series summarizing the book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. It’s turned out to be a more philosophical book than I originally remember from my first read several years ago. It strikes me as a book that you can go back to time and time again and find new material but it’s not a book that’s easy to quickly skim. So if you’d like some “Cliff notes” you can refer to the other posts in this series here:
- Highly Effective Habit #1
- Highly Effective Habit #2: Begin with the end in mind
- Highly Effective Habit #3: First things first
- Highly Effective Habit #4: Think win/win
- Highly Effective Habit #5: Seek first to understand, then be understood
- Highly Effective Habit #6: Synergize