Thursday, February 3, 2011

Stephen R. Covey Changed My Life

I have a special shelf in our living room library. Here, I gather my favorite books: the ones that have been so influential in shaping my daily living, or have spoken so personally to me, that they deserve this place of honor. One of these from "Macy's Top 20" you (hopefully)see above.

(Sidenote: this was my first successful attempt at uploading a photo from my camera. Ever. Happy Dance!!)

I bought "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" in 1991, when I was newly-married and serving in a leadership position in the Golden Gate Ward in San Francisco. At age 24, and a fairly new member of the Church, I figured I needed all the help I could get. I remember devouring this book, marking it up, and going back and pulling quotes from it to use various places. It is not an exaggeration to say that Stephen R. Covey's easily-digestable formula for "getting out of the thick of thin things" and into joyful and very present living changed my life.

The principle from "7 Habits" that I still use the most has to do with trying to spend most of my time in what Covey terms "Quadrant II Living", or "putting first things first". Sounds dry and boring, doesn't it?? Here are what SRC's Quadrants mean, in a nutshell:

Quadrant I: Crisis living, cramming for deadlines, dealing with pressing problems, always running behind;


Quadrant III: Less-important activities;
Quadrant IV: Trivia, busy work, time wasters.

Goethe (love him) concurs with Covey: "Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least." Truly, great minds think alike.

Let's add another supporting observation. From E.R. Gray: "The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don't like to do. They don't like doing them either, necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose."

Not many days pass in my life without my thinking (seriously!) about getting and keeping my life into that preventative, productive, joyful Quadrant I. This takes a lot of discipline, and a lot of prayer, and a lot of listening to the Spirit's promptings that day / minute, but I do know this: I am happy when I work hard to stay ahead, to do today what I could put off 'til tomorrow, and "put first things first."

Example: This morning, my almost 13-year old daughter's voice awoke me from a deep sleep: "Mom, it's 7:35! You've got to take me to school!" I jumped out of bed, threw on my glasses, brushed my teeth (my minimum requirement for leaving the house), and groggily drove my girl to school. Not much conversation. Her breakfast: a Clif Bar in the passenger seat.

Contrast: Yesterday, I was up early and dressed. A steaming bowl of oatmeal with berries and brown sugar was waiting for my girl at the bar in the kitchen. On top of a seasonal placemat! Her soccer clothes were clean and folded, ready for her backpack. We touched base on her concerns for the day: science test (reviewed a couple of definitions)and friend issues (encouraged her to always try to be kind regardless of others' choices), and I reminded her to pack her ensemble music for orchestra. Prayer was said together, cementing our good foundation for the day.

I know this much about myself: the success of my day starts the night before. If I "put the house to bed" (unload dishwasher, tidy up) and turn out my light so that I'll get eight good hours of rest, I wake up ready to roll. Doesn't this principle apply to most other areas of life? What habits do you have that, when practiced, make you more efficient and calm and joyful?

I think I'll go clean out that cupboard over my washing machine...why wait??!


  1. Your posts have made me happy, I love them!! Your "put the house to bed" comment is a ritual for me as well, life is so much better when you go to bed with a clean and organized house!

  2. Haha, the cupboard over the washing machine! Love it. I read something at the beginning of fall about doing a quick sweep of the house and putting things away. I love your title of "putting the house to bed." We're worst at this on Saturday nights, so Sunday mornings are usually rushed and cluttered-feeling. Thank you for this advice! I was smiling all the way through.