FranklinCovey Consultant Blogs | James Cathcart | Stephen R Covey
The title of this entry probably sounds like something the great Jedi Master Yoda might say, but it’s actually a quote from Stephen R. Covey. A couple of times over the last week, I’ve heard people say that they tried the FranklinCovey methodologies for time management in the past, but they didn’t work for them. When I asked why, they said something like, “well, I would write stuff down, but then forget to look at it, so…what’s the point?” I explained to one of them, in a lighthearted way, that this breakdown wasn’t so much a problem with the system, but with the user!
So often, we take great pains to accumulate vast amounts of practical knowledge, but never really apply it. We take pride in the fact that we “read the book” or “attended the seminar”, and that’s the end of it. The question I posed to one individual, when he told me that he had “gone through The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People some years ago” was, “yes, but did the 7 Habits go through you?”
I sometimes wonder if we need to stop frantically searching for fulfillment in the latest fads and trends in the marketplace, and start rolling up our sleeves and getting down to the hard work of applying some of the simple truths we’ve already learned. I firmly believe that people should always have a thirst for learning, but also recognize that to learn and not to apply, is wasted effort.
In The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People , Stephen R. Covey introduces us to a model we call The Maturity Continuum. This model shows us how the 7 Habits work together as a synergistic team, rather than as seven separate and disconnected ideas. Anyone who has attempted to live a few of the habits for an extended period of time has probably learned that you can’t live one habit, without understanding it’s relationship with the other six.
One of the most important concepts taught in this model is the idea that in order to achieve the highest degree of maturity, which is interdependence, or the ability to work effectively with others, one must first achieve independence. In other words, if I’m dependent on a single employer for my livelihood, I’ll never truly feel free to talk straight or give honest constructive feedback when asked for my opinion. I’ll tend to “suck-up” and say what I think everyone wants to hear, rather than be intellectually honest.
As I watch the challenges of this new century unfold, I am becoming acutely aware of many whose dependence on their employers is becoming glaringly evident. Consider this story from The October 1950 Reader’s Digest:
“In our friendly neighbor city of St. Augustine great flocks of sea gulls are starving amid plenty. Fishing is still good, but the gulls don’t know how to fish. For generations they have depended on the shrimp fleet to toss them scraps from the nets. Now the fleet has moved. …
“The shrimpers had created a Welfare State for the … sea gulls. The big birds never bothered to learn how to fish for themselves and they never taught their children to fish. Instead they led their little ones to the shrimp nets.
“Now the sea gulls, the fine free birds that almost symbolize liberty itself, are starving to death because they gave in to the ‘something for nothing’ lure! They sacrificed their independence for a handout.
“A lot of people are like that, too. They see nothing wrong in picking delectable scraps from the tax nets of the U.S. Government’s ‘shrimp fleet.’ But what will happen when the Government runs out of goods? What about our children of generations to come?
“Let’s not be gullible gulls. We … must preserve our talents of self-sufficiency, our genius for creating things for ourselves, our sense of thrift and our true love of independence.”
It’s hard to believe that article was written almost 60 years ago. And yet, it’s message is as viable today as ever. In order to truly be able to give our very best to any organization, we must first be independent of that organization. When we have our own needs taken care of first, it’s much easier to reach out and take care of the needs of others.
Over the last year, I have immersed myself into some of the time-management literature that is wildly popular right now. I began with David Allen’s Getting Things Done.
First of all, let me state for the record that I like and respect David. I think that he has a lot to offer. His distinction between projects and tasks (or, The Next Action Items as he would call them) is an excellent observation. I believe that ignoring such a distinction is one of the primary reasons people get overwhelmed by their goals.
But, as I read some of the blog and forum comments of those who are impacted by this new batch of organizational literature, I cannot help but think that we are taking a few steps backwards.
People are becoming overwhelmed with the sheer weight of information that constantly presses upon them. In a desperate attempt to alleviate the pressure, they turn to efficiency programs for aid. “I just need to learn how to organize my inbox” one might say, or “If I could just get my desk uncluttered, then I’d have a handle on things”.
Many of the new authors in the field of organization and time-management share some excellent tips to help us get more things done, but there is a component missing from these approaches if we’re not careful. That component is “should I be doing a lot of these things in the first place?”
The clock is the tool that we use to measure the amount of time that we have, and drives us towards efficiency. “What time is it?” or “When will this meeting be over?” are both clock-related questions.
The compass indicates our direction, and helps us know whether we are on or off course. This is the symbol of effectiveness.
As Stephen R. Covey has often said, “It doesn’t really matter how fast you are going if you’re headed in the wrong direction.”
So, as we move forward into the 21st-century, and as time-management evolves into its next incarnation, I believe that one thing must never change. That one thing is the price that we all have to pay to understand what our primary purpose in life is, and whether or not we are adhering to the principles that help us to achieve that purpose.
When we focus first on the compass, then the clock, we truly begin to unlock our potential and set ourselves on a course for fulfillment and greatness.