The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People Summary

One Paragraph Summary Gain a level of productivity, you thought would be impossible by learning the difference between being efficient and being effective.

The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People

A book by Stephen Covey

How can you become truly productive and bring persistent, real changes into your life? How can you shape your future for the better and make your dreams a reality? Covey has some great answers in his book which will be very helpful to reinvent yourself and become an improved you. He advises us to have a crystal clear vision of your future. You can craft a vision by Beginning with the end in mind. One great way to do this is by asking yourself the famous funeral questions. Other principals, he introduces to us are to be proactive, to think win–win, and to put first things first.

Covey shows us how we can influence others in a positive way: Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

Read the full summary to learn the difference between effectiveness and efficiency and how to become truly effective in your personal and work life.

These are the things I found out by reading the Blinks:

  • The significant difference between being efficient and being effective
  • The power of seeking first to understand and then to be understood
  • Treating relationships as emotional bank accounts

This post builds on the Blinks I listened to while walking to work. I learn from Blinkist's content each and every day. So if you enjoy this post, you will like their content even more.

Key Ideas

Be effective instead of merely efficient

We all work towards goals we have. For some this is paying off a mortgage, for others it is to finish a thesis. Most goals come with a due date, and we work hard to reach that goal within given limits.

When we are focused on working towards our aims, it is very easy to forget to protect our workforce. Burnout is a common diagnose these days.

The most important thing you need to achieve on your way to real effectiveness is to make sure you are physically, mentally, and emotionally fit.

Working on your physical fitness includes exercising regularly, getting enough sleep each night, and eating healthy.

You can read inspiring books, keep a journal, or meditate to keep your mental health.

To stay emotionally fit you need to make sure you spend enough time with your loved ones.

This all might seem unimportant while you are under pressure working towards your outcome, but do yourself a favor and sharpen your saw, how Covey likes to call it. Your productivity will improve, and you will be able to maintain it without risking a burnout.

How can you reinvent yourself and become a YOU 2.0?

How do you change yourself? By learning new skills? Yes, that would be one approach, but your preferred way should be to work on your character.

For example, if you want others to perceive you as a trustworthy person, you can learn NLP or work on your communication skills. But having excellent communication skills does not make you an honest person. You have to work on your integrity instead; be that trustworthy person and people will trust you as a result.

Walk the walk and talk the talk.

If you want to reinvent yourself, you need to work on your values and mindset.

As you think, so shall you become. — Bruce Lee

Address your inner character, your habits, and inner belief system and you will change for the better. With this change will come the power to alter the world around you.

Universal principles and personal paradigms

The majority of our society agrees upon some universal principals. Among these principals are fairness, honesty, and integrity.

If we work on aligning our personal paradigms with the universal principals, we can integrate ourselves better into the world we live in. This alignment will allow us to be more effective.

Our personal standards are the building blocks of our character. Those paradigms define how we see the world. If we change the paradigms, we will be able to see the world differently. We will change our subjective world view. This altered view will empower us to overcome ingrained habits like procrastination.

Be proactive

We all have todo-lists which grow every day. We have more things we need to do than we can handle. It is just too easy to drown in responsibilities and chores.

When we only react to external stimuli, we are not behaving differently from animals. Humans have the incredible power to think about what they want to have in the future; they can be proactive and influence the world.

If we become aware of our long-term goals, we can determine what we want to do with our future.

Our decisions form our behavior and fate.

Never use phrases like it was not my fault and it is not in my hands, be proactive instead and craft your future. Do not allow external circumstances shape your future.

Begin with the end in mind

Many people are very efficient, but yet they never reach their long-term goals.

How can that be?

Many people do not know what they want in life. It is an unsettling question to ask oneself. Therefore many people chase meaningless goals. And even if you are very efficient reaching those futile goals, you will never be effective.

You need get clarity about your long-term goals. You can achieve this easily by asking yourself the three funeral questions:

  1. what do I want people to say about me at my funeral?
  2. as what sort of person do I want to be remembered?
  3. for what do I want to be remembered?

Use the answers to those three questions to write down your mission statement. This statement should serve you as your personal constitution.

Find your values, guiding principals, and your long-term goals and you will be effective instead of just efficient.

Have a clear mental picture of the outcome of your goal

Have you ever watched a downhill alpine skiing event? If you have, you probably have noticed how athletes prepare themselves just before the race begins. They close their eyes and visualize every curve of the course. They visualize every action as a mental picture.

If you want to achieve a better execution of your goals, visualization is a powerful tool.

Covey says that we do every action twice. First in our head, when we draw the mental picture of the outcome and then a second time when we carry out the work.

A clear mental picture can be a great productivity tool. Try to visualize the result of everything you want to achieve. When you know exactly where you want to go, it will be easier to get there.

Rigorously prioritize by putting first things first

You can make your vision become a reality only if you have a clear goal and work towards it on a daily basis. But we all have more on your todo-list than we can handle. So, how can we ensure to get to our goals?

Often the actions which will bring us closer to our aims are not urgent. But we have a tendency to work on urgent tasks only and forget to tackle the important stuff instead. Therefore, it is crucial to give the most important things the highest priority.

How do you know which work items are the most important?

Important things are consistent with our mission statement and bring us closer to our long-term goals.

If you want to work on the crucial tasks, you need to make sure you say yes to the right things and say no to the rest.

Put first things first.

Think win-win

Most of us are trained to become competitors. The competitor mindset lets us see everything as a win or lose situation. Often this makes us think that there is not enough cake for everyone.

Don’t be that person.

Always try to think win-win and you will find that there is enough for everyone. We do not need to compete against each other in most situations.

Often when two competitors meet the result will be a lose-lose situation.

If you embrace the win-win paradigm, you will build better relationships and as a result, you will find a desirable solution for all parties.

Emotional bank accounts

Forming healthy, long lasting relationships is not easy and needs hard work.

Sometimes we forget a pledge or we do not apologize when it would have been appropriate.

These inattentions might not kill a relationship immediately, but if you are not careful, they will do it in the long run.

To rid yourself from that detrimental behavior Covey recommends to treat a relationship as an emotional bank account.

If you do not keep a promise or if you treat people unfairly and do not apologize sincerely you withdraw from that emotional bank account.

If you had to make a withdrawal from the account make sure to tell the other party that you were wrong and that you apologize.

If you are loyal, keep your promises, treat people fairly and look for win-win solutions, you make payments to the emotional bank account.

The greater the balance in a relationship's bank account the greater the trust in that relationship is.

Make sure you make regular payments and withdraw only very rarely.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood

What would you think of a doctor giving a diagnosis without having listened to you?

What would you think of an optician handing us his glasses with the words glasses that work for me will also work for you. Such advice would be ludicrous.

But this is a recipe we often follow. We listen to others merely to be able to provide an answer. Our mind has already a solution without having fully understood the person's problem.

The advice we give is often not well-received because we want to prescribe our worldview to others. To be able to help the person you are talking to you need to practice good communication. Entirely understanding the other person will also help you to correct an erroneous worldview you might have.

So what should you do instead?

Practice active listening. Repeat back what you understood in your words. Help the other person to provide details you did not thoroughly grasp. Mirroring emotions will help people to open up and consider your point of view.

Do not listen to be able to provide an answer, listen to understand.

First Insight: Aim for effectiveness

There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all. — Peter Drucker

Understanding the difference between efficiency and effectiveness and applying this knowledge will help you greatly with becoming successful.

I have the tendency to work on things that I like doing and forget to ask myself if the outcome of this work item brings me closer to my long-term vision.

Often I execute tasks very efficiently, which I should not do at all. Do not fall into the same trap. Constantly ask yourself if the thing you are doing is aligning well with your life-goals.

Put first things first by knowing which tasks on your list are urgent and which are important.

Know what you aim for by having a long-term vision. Then try to find tactics to get there.

Second Insight: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply. — Stephen R. Covey

After having read the book, I noticed that I do exactly that which Covey recommends not doing: listening because I want to provide an answer.

Try this: in your next conversation, fight the impulse to respond too quickly. Instead, practice active listening. Try hard to understand what the other person is saying.

If you think you do not fully understand the intentions of your communication partner, ask questions and repeat what the other person was saying in your own words.

You will find that your communication gets a whole lot better.

Third Insight: Treat relationships as emotional bank accounts

When the trust account is high, communication is easy, instant, and effective. — Stephen R. Covey

Treating a relationship as an emotional bank account is a clever concept to improve the quality of your relationships.

This idea works well for me because it makes it so obvious which of my actions add to the quality of a relationship and which don't.


Covey's book is a classic, and I consider it a must-read for everyone who wants to be effective in reaching ones goals.

I read the book a couple of years back and also read the Blinks for it several times. The time spent was worth it every time.


  • Stay fit, physically, mentally, and emotionally
  • Strive to be effective and not only efficient
  • If you want to change, work on your character, habits, and inner belief system
  • Align your personal paradigms with universal principles of fairness, honesty, and integrity
  • Do not allow external stimulus to shape your future; be proactive and craft your future
  • Find your values, guiding principals, and long-term goals
  • Try to visualize the outcome of everything you do
  • Prioritize — put first things first
  • Ask yourself if something will bring you closer to your long-term goals to find what you need to give priority
  • Always strive for a win-win solution
  • Do not merely listen to be able to provide an answer: listen to understand

The 7 Habits Of Highly Effective People Summary—related resources

  Read more about Stephen R. Covey on his website.

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Posted on CuteMachine in management, leadership, self-improvement and productivity.

Jo's Profile ImageWritten by Jo who lives and works in Frankfurt building digital doodah. Stalk him on Twitter.

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