Book Review: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Stephen R. Covey, (2004), The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, Simon & Schuster UK Ltd.


As its headline boasts, this book has been a huge seller since it was first written in 1989 with over 15 million copies sold. I read the 2004 U.K. edition of ‘7 Habits’ when still quite fresh to the self-help/business book and found it was not as full of irritatingly obvious common sense advice as I had expected.

This book focuses on understanding yourself by assessing your own personality traits and working to develop the principles and values within your own character that will enhance your personal and professional effectiveness. The argument Covey makes is that by understanding your habits, how they are unconsciously formed and the process of breaking them, you can then replace them with more effective habits. He tells us that personal change must precede any public change.

Habits are defined as being the intersection of ‘knowledge, skill and desire’ and these are the three main points he makes with regard to habits that make a lot of sense; first you need knowledge, you must recognise the need for change before you can implement it. After that you must learn the skills you need to bring about the change and, last but not least, the only way to actually make the change stick is a burning desire to change that specific habit.

Covey goes through the ‘7 Habits’ in sequence and asks the reader to complete the associated tasks sequentially in order to make the changes permanent and effective. Each of the accomplishments leads step-by-step on to the next, moving you from personal dependence (the paradigm of you), to independence (the paradigm of I), and finally to interdependence (the paradigm of we). index


There are several useful templates that are set out as part of the approach, along with personal success stories and anecdotes. In the chapter on ‘Putting First Things First,’ his time management matrix and weekly worksheet were both useful resources to help you allocate your time wisely and discover how to make time for what is most important and will bring about the best results for you in the longer term. It helps you understand the tasks that need to be prioritised over those tasks that can distract and ultimately waste your time.


In order to create win/win scenarios that make you a more effective person and leader Covey argues that you must be willing to assess your own life and habits, to questions your values and whether you are being true to them in order to battle against doubts or a lack of self-confidence and take the risk of changing and developing new behaviours.

The approach set out in the book is simple to understand though undoubtedly less easy to actually follow. Covey describes his own personal struggle to live these principles on a daily basis and the same will undoubtedly apply to everyone else who has read and tried to follow the habits. There were several ideas contained in the book that I found useful and adopted at Active Outcomes in order to increase my own productivity, planning and effectiveness.

Overall, it contained some good insights. Although as a personal choice, I try to find my own way rather than follow any prescribed self-help methods, especially those that don’t seem to be the right fit for me.

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