The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Project Managers–Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

1. Introduction to Habit 7:  Sharpen the Saw

Now we come to the 7th habit, the one that strengthens all the others.  What is it the 7th habit and how does it do that?

Fig. 1. The Seven Habits in all their Glory

Habits 1 through 3, the ones below the center of Fig. 1, take one from being dependent to being independent, which is another way of saying being responsible. Once you have a group of responsible people who work as individuals, a project manager must form them Figure 1, and these habits allow the once individual members to become interdependent. What is Habit 7 and why is it in the center of Fig. 1? In Stephen Covey’s diagram, it surrounds the other six habits and encompasses them. For some reason, I like representing Habit 7 as being in the CENTER of the other six. Why? Because it nourishes them and replenishes them.

You see, Habit 7 is where you make time into your schedule for those activities which may not seem productive at first glance but do increase one’s production capacity, one’s future ability to produce. They are not urgent but important, so they are Quadrant II activities, using the time management system developed in Habit 3. They are, in other words, an investment in yourself. They give you the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual strength you need to improve all of the other six habits.

2. Four Dimensions of Personal Growth

Fig. 2. The Four Dimensions of Personal Growth

Here are examples of activities that help you grow in the four dimensions that Stephen Covey outlines in his book: the physical, mental, emotional/social, and spiritual.

1. Physical

Strength and Endurance—from muscular resistance training and aerobic training, respectively, particularly with focused intensity

Flexibility—before and after exercise

2. Spiritual

Meditation—reading from spiritual texts and contemplating them

Art and music—immersion in great literature or great music

3. Mental

Reading—quality literature

Writing—journals, blog posts (gee, you mean like this one?)

4. Emotional/Social

Volunteer—service opportunities to help others

Networking—be a positive scripter, or affirmer, of others

Following these habits will make you a stronger, better person and therefore a more charismatic leader whom people WANT to do better work for rather than doing it out of fear of some punishment that might receive if they don’t.

3. Habit 7 and Integral Life Practice

Let me again use Habit 6 and synergize by pointing out the underlying similarities between the philosophy of Habit 7 and the philosophy behind Integral Life Practice, pioneered by the philosopher Ken Wilber, who created this system of balanced growth. It too recommends one to choose what Ken Wilber calls a practice rather than a habit. However, the same dimensions of body, mind, psyche (emotions/social interactions) and spirit are covered as well. I make an ILP matrix or list of practices from each of the four areas that I will perform that week.

Sometimes I get into the old habit of saying, for example, “I’m too busy to exercise.” But I’ve been down that route before and I know where it leads, namely, to less energy. And then everything takes longer to do and I have even LESS time than before. Now I know that making time for intensive exercise, even just 15 or 20 minutes a day, reaps such good benefits that, if you could receive those same benefits from a pill, it would outsell even Viagra, I think.

4. Habit 7 and Transformation

Speaking of exercise, one of my favorite fitness gurus, Bill Phillips, who wrote the bestseller Body for Life, came up with a new version of his fitness program called Transformation. It takes 18 weeks, and the reason why it takes this long is because it goes through the physical, mental, psychological, and spiritual barriers people have to succeeding in their fitness program. Hmm, do these 4 factors sound familiar? I think if you take any endeavor and make sure you include time to work on all 4 dimensions of the 7th habit, you will find yourself more successful at it.

CONCLUSION: For those who are interested, you can of course buy Stephen Covey’s book, but I also recommend that you get the audio CD of his book and listen to it during your commute. There are many pearls of wisdom that I have simply hinted at, like giving you a quick tour by skateboard of the Louvre Museum. But don’t just read it or listen to it. Success literature is not a spectator sport: invest in getting the Personal Workbook and go through the exercises which help you discover these 7 Habits for yourself.

You, your project team, and your organization will be better for it!

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