7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Melissa Suzuno

HR and L&D Insights Writer, Udemy for Business

September 3, 2019

Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People has sold over 25 million copies and was named one of the most influential management books by Time and Forbes. One of the underlying concepts of the book is that we can’t expect quick fixes. In order to truly achieve success in our careers and lives, we must make fundamental shifts to our attitudes and behaviors.

Looking for a crash course in the habits you’ll need to become highly effective? Here’s an overview of each habit as well as some recommended Udemy courses to help you build and strengthen each one. 

Habit 1: Be proactive

This habit is all about your attitude. Rather than letting external circumstances shape your outlook, you can look inside to think positively and influence outcomes. For example, gratitude is a big contributor to happiness and research has shown that the more gratitude we cultivate, the happier we’ll be. Writing down just three things they were grateful for each day led study participants to feel significantly happier after six months. If you’d like to build a proactive attitude, consider Be Happier with Positive Psychology. This course is full of practical tips based on rigorous research in psychological science. Instructor Andrew Luttrell is a trained social psychologist who has taught over 119,000 students on Udemy. 

Have you ever considered what it truly means to be happy? This course starts by defining happiness, examining why we feel the desire to strive for happiness, and exploring the link between happiness and wealth. Does money really make us happier? Understanding exactly what we mean when we use the term “happiness” helps us to create a happier life for ourselves. Andrew looks at several broad categories that have been linked to happiness, including building and maintaining social connections, cultivating gratitude, helping others, and personal mental strategies like simplifying your decisions and practicing mindfulness. By the end of the course, you’ll have an entire playbook of scientifically proven tips and tricks to help you boost your happiness. 

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind

It’s hard to be effective if you don’t have a clear sense of what you’re trying to achieve. This habit encourages you to visualize where you want to end up, positing that if you have a clear goal or “end,” you’re much more likely to get there. Research shows that people who write down their goals or share them with a friend or “accountability buddy” are much more likely to achieve them. 

Goal Setting at Work: Plan for Success and Reach Your Goals is designed to help you understand the various frameworks for setting goals in a work setting. MBO, OKR, BHAG, SMART—what do all these acronyms mean and how can they help you set realistic and actionable goals? Instructor Leila Bulling Towne is an executive coach, and in this course, she helps learners identify their top three to five goals at work and create a plan for achieving them.

There are many myths around goal setting at work and Leila begins by breaking them down. For example, some people believe that goals are only applicable to tech skills like learning a new programming language, but goals can also be set around soft skills like building up your emotional intelligence or communication abilities. Similarly, many people believe their goals need to be really hard, but actually goals that are out of reach can be demotivating and discouraging. “Goals should push you, not bend or break you,” says Leila.

Habit 3: Put first things first

Once you’ve defined your goals, it’s important to look at how your daily activities will help you achieve them. The “put first things first” habit encourages you to look at how you spend your time and prioritize what you do every day. Time management is a critical skill in the modern workplace and was ranked the #2 soft skill in the workplace in 2019 by Udemy for Business. 

Do More, Stress Less: Time Management Mastery introduces time management and productivity strategies, techniques, and hacks. Instructor Alexis Haselberger is a productivity, time management, and efficiency expert (and self-professed nerd). The course begins by helping learners understand how to harness their natural tendencies and traits to maximize productivity. Do you know what times of day you tend to be most alert and energetic? When we work with our body clock instead of against it can help us accomplish more. Similarly, your tendency towards introversion or extraversion determines how you gain or lose energy. Knowing your personality in this way can help you plan your day for optimal energy and productivity.

Another key to time management is creating a task management system so you can capture, organize, prioritize, and document everything that needs to get done. Having a system ensures that nothing falls through the cracks—you’ll always have a centralized place to store your ideas, questions, and to-do lists. In the course, Alexis helps learners develop a customized task management system based on their personal tendencies and behaviors. To learn more about Alexis’ course and her approach to time management, see How to Become a Master of Time Management at Work.

Habit 4: Think win-win

While the first three habits are focused on our inner thoughts and actions, the later habits focus on our interactions with other people. According to Stephen Covey, there are six types of human interaction, but the one that should be prioritized is “win-win,” where both parties benefit and are satisfied with the outcome. 

Learning how to negotiate can help ensure that you achieve win-win outcomes from your interactions. Despite its importance in various workplace interactions, negotiation is a skill that doesn’t always come naturally to people. The majority of people—71%—opted not to negotiate for their current salary. And people are notably unreliable when assessing their own negotiation skills. Research from Columbia Business School found that 56% of people who were rated as over-assertive by others rated themselves as appropriately assertive or even under-assertive. It’s not surprising that negotiation was ranked one of the top 10 soft skills in 2018 by Udemy. 

Successful Negotiations: Master Your Negotiating Skills helps learners boost their negotiation skills in both personal and professional situations. Instructor Chris Croft is an international speaker and widely published author who’s been teaching negotiation skills to companies for over 20 years. In this course, Chris shares how to listen for key information, make a detailed plan of possible outcomes, overcome the fear of walking away, understand the other person’s position, and much more.

Did you know that people will often reveal useful information before a negotiation officially begins? Listening carefully to what the other person is saying—like the fact that they don’t have any other suppliers or their current supplier isn’t very good—can help you gain the upper hand or develop confidence in your position during the negotiation.

Making a detailed plan of possible outcomes can also put you in a position of strength. Before you meet with someone, Chris recommends outlining what you can offer, what they can offer, and any tradeables you may be willing to compromise on. For example, if a negotiator wants you to bring down the price of your service, you might “trade” some of the cost for a later start time or have them pick up the cost of your accommodation. Creating a list of possible outcomes ahead of time helps the negotiation run smoothly and efficiently. To learn more about Chris’ method and read some exciting real-life success stories from his students, see his blog post, 7 Ways to Help Your Employees Master Negotiation Skills.

Habit 5: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Empathetic listening is the key to meaningful interactions with others. When we actively listen, we can understand others’ perspectives and hear what they are really trying to express. Yet while most people have spent time learning how to read and write, it’s much less common to focus on learning how to listen. In fact, while we spend 60% of our communication time listening, we only retain 25% of what we hear

Conscious Listening helps learners become more present and aware in social situations, bringing confidence and control to their communication. The course teaches how listening dictates reality and how it can be used to alter your experience of the world. Instructor Julian Treasure is a sound and communication expert and author whose TED talk on listening has received over 7.5 million views on TED’s website. 

To build your own conscious listening, begin with silence. Julian recommends 3 minutes a day of silence, or if that’s not possible, then aim for 3 minutes of quiet. In busy settings like coffee shops or offices, Julian uses a technique called “the mixer,” which is where you try to divide the sounds you’re hearing into individual channels. Another important technique is called “listening positions,” which includes things like active and passive, reductive and expansive, and critical and empathetic. Julian believes it’s important to become aware of your listening position and make adjustments to it. 

Habit 6: Synergize

This habit is about aspiring to create a sum that is greater than its parts, and it relies on collaborating while respecting and valuing differences. Many companies experience a disconnect here: According to PracticalGrowth, 75% of employers rate teamwork and collaboration as one of their most important activities, yet only 18% of employees get communication evaluations during their performance reviews. PracticalGrowth’s Udemy course Mastering Collaboration: Work together for the best results provides strategies for better communication and collaboration, both in person and in virtual settings. Through this course, learners will pick up skills and strategies to create and support a thriving culture of collaboration.

What are some of the secrets of collaborative teams? First of all, they tend to collectively define the goals of their team. This is more effective than having a leader assign or dictate goals to the members of the team. Next, they’ll agree on roles and assign tasks. Collaboration doesn’t mean that everyone works on every part of a project, but rather they focus on their areas of strength and expertise. Collaborative teams also openly share information and their work as they progress on a project. One of the other secrets of collaborative teams is that they empower team members to make their own decisions—not everything needs to be decided by the group. It also helps to have clearly defined roles within the team such as a leader, communicator/liaison, researcher, editor/QA person. 

Habit 7: Sharpen the saw if you want to keep sawing

The final habit, “sharpen the saw” refers to a state of constant physical, spiritual, mental, and social renewal. When you focus on improving yourself and your wellness, you’re able to become more effective at the other habits. 

One of the biggest impediments to wellness in our current lives is stress. When not properly managed or prevented, stress can impact everything from our basic brain functions and sleep to our appetite and enjoyment of life. Stress Management: 40 ways to deal with Stress introduces proven stress relief strategies. Instructor Gregory Caremans is a psychologist and founder of The Brain Academy. To learn more about Gregory and get a sneak peek of some of his stress-relieving strategies, see 9 Ways to Reduce Workplace Stress in the Digital Age.

Sharpening the saw isn’t just about our physical condition—it also involves focusing on your mental and spiritual health as well. This is where a course like Life Mastery – Happiness, Health & Success can help. Instructor Chris Croft has designed this course to help learners successfully master work-life balance, happiness, and goal-setting. Chris is an international speaker and widely published author who shares his strategies for time management, choosing a career, advancement at work, keeping fit, and maintaining a positive outlook. This practical course offers actionable techniques for designing a life that’s more aligned with your goals.

And, of course, having a healthy body is an essential part of maintaining your wellbeing.

Total Yoga Challenge: 15 Minutes x 15 Days is a simple way of bringing mindfulness and movement into your daily routine. This course is designed to help learners build a daily habit of yoga and includes detailed handouts on technique, anatomy, and physiology. Instructor Abi Carver combines her personal training experience with her love of yoga to create a unique style that focuses on the physical and mental aspects of the practice. 

You’ve now got your own personal guide to building up the 7 habits of highly effective people espoused in Stephen Covey’s book. Use these recommended courses to build up your own curriculum or share it with your employees to help them experience greater success in their careers and lives.

About Udemy for Business:

Udemy for Business is a learning platform that helps companies stay competitive in today’s rapidly changing workplace by offering fresh, relevant on-demand learning content, curated from the Udemy marketplace. Our mission is to help employees do whatever comes next—whether that’s the next project to do, skill to learn, or role to master. We’d love to partner with you on your employee development needs. Get in touch with us at business@udemy.com

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