Stephen Covey died today. He was the author of the highly acclaimed “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” as well as “First Things First” and many other motivational books. If you carried around a daily planner before the days of the smartphone, chances are it was a FranklinCovey version, through which he brought his time management system to life.
Perhaps more impressive, he was a father of nine, a grandfather of 52 and a great-grandfather of two! He died from complications of an injury he sustained while riding his bike this spring – at the age of 79. Seventy-nine and out bike riding. Love that.
I had almost forgotten how many of the little mantras I mutter throughout the day to keep myself on track came from him, a man I’ve never met in person, but whose words and ideas were so powerful I’ve carried them with me and made them my own.
“Begin with the end in mind.”
“Is my ladder leaning against the right wall?”
“Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
“Put first things first”
Covey famously illustrated that last gem with a demo using big rocks, smaller rocks, sand, and two buckets. He’d have a participant in one of his seminars fill up a bucket with sand and then see how many big and small rocks she could fit in. (Hint: Not many!) Then, he’d have her fill a second bucket STARTING with the big rocks, followed by the smaller ones, and ending by pouring in the sand, which sifted easily through the cracks to fill the spaces in between the rocks. Result? Everything fit. His analogy was simple; in your day, put the big rocks in first – your family, your most important projects, your health. Without that level of prioritization and focus, they may be squeezed out by far less important tasks.
I can’t tell you how often this has helped me as I face my own sandpile of to-do items. Making my health, my husband, and my children non-negotiable priorities followed by my most important projects (professional or personal) is a habit that serves me. Without it, I could get sucked into the Facebook/Pinterest/NYTimes.com abyss. I could cross twenty unimportant things off my list, leaving the one or two that would really make a difference undone. I may feel “productive” but would my productivity have an impact?
So today, will you identify your own BIG ROCKS? Will you make a list and take care of those rocks before you do anything else? What a way to honor Stephen Covey’s legacy – and build your own in the process.