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Highly Effective Habits of Super-Fit People


I may be dating myself here, but I have to ask; do you remember that self-help sensation of the 90s titled “7 Habits of Highly Effective People”?  With 15 million copies sold, it was the talk of the water cooler for months on end.  Now sixteen years later (the book was actually released in ’89), as I circle back to explore the connection between motivation, willpower and success, the word “habit” always seems to be inextricably intertwined.

Successful people incorporate certain habits into their everyday routines, so they don’t need to rely on willpower alone to reach their goals.

Habits, as author Tynan explains in his bestselling Superhuman by Habit, are the closest thing to a superpower we’re ever going to have. Yet as I’ve learned from experience, simply knowing which habits are healthy isn’t enough to effect change.  So I found myself referencing Steven Covey’s timeless best-seller for further inspiration in teaching health habits that stick.

It turns out that author Steven Covey died in 2012, so a resurgence of interest in the 7 Habits more recently emerged.  Forbes ran an interesting article written by author Eric Jackson focusing on not all of the habits, but the one piece of advice in the book Jackson found most compelling.

According to Jackson, “If you remember one thing and one thing only about the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People book, here it is:

At the start of every week, write a two-by-two matrix on a blank sheet of paper where one side of the matrix says “urgent” and “not urgent” and the other side of the matrix says “important” and “not important.” Then, write all the things you want to do that week.”

When I reviewed the 7 Habits diagram which focuses on productivity goals for career development, I realized it could be an especially useful tool for developing positive health habits that can help us reach our fitness goals.

Here is my updated fitness-focused version of the 7 Habits productivity matrix:


Think of each quadrant as follows:

Quadrant 1: Urgent-Important.  These are the most pressing issues of the week, like taxes or other non-negotiable deadlines.  These are the crises that erupt.   When we do fire-fighting, it’s all relating this quadrant.

Quadrant 2: Not Urgent – Important. These are the things that matter in the long-term but will yield no immediate measurable benefits.  They are things we know we need to get to but are most inclined to procrastinate doing.  It’s starting a mediation program, or committing to an exercise routine.  It’s taking the time to create a weekly menu or shopping list, or making time for people we want to connect with.

Quadrant 3: Urgent – Not Important.  These tasks are the biggest reason we’re not more successful in the long-term.  They monopolize our time but, when we look back at these things at the end of the week, we’ll have to admit this was not time well-spent.  This includes the time we spend habitually checking email, or responding to each and every text message as soon as it comes in.   These are the things we said yes to when we knew they didn’t fall into our priorities category.    These are other activities which we tell ourselves in the moment that we must do but — if we stopped ourselves to really think about — we’d realize they aren’t that important.

Quadrant 4: Not Urgent – Not Important.  These are the things we do when we feel we need a break.  It’s watching a mindless TV show at the end of the day.  It’s checking and rechecking Facebook and Twitter during the day, because we think we might miss something.  It might be mindlessly eating pretzels, even when we’re not hungry.  We prioritize these things in the moment and obviously derive some pleasure from them, but they don’t really serve to rejuvenate us.  Yet, we’d be amazed how much time we waste in a given week on these tasks.

The big idea in 7 Habits, is to make a weekly commitment to prioritize your time addressing your quadrant 2 goals, as in sitting down, deciding what they are, and putting them on your calendar.  If time is your issue, take a look at your 3 and 4 quadrants, and commit to yourself to create some boundaries around these distractions so you can focus on your long-term goals.

Regular exercise, adequate rest and healthy meal preparation are the key fundamental health habits that will pay off in dividends once they become part of your routine.  But if you’re starting at square one, just choose one of these goals and really commit to it, using your weekly matrix to schedule it into your daily routine. By adopting any of these highly effective habits for super-fit people, you’ll be counting yourself among them before you know it!

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