The 7 Habits of highly effective people is one of the best-selling books of all time. And for good reason. In this book, Steven Covey lays out what he sees as timeless principles for living a productive and meaningful life.
Covey introduces many concepts in the book, most of which are useful.
One which stands out to me is the “P/PC balance”.
In short, P = production, ie, the activities we do that generate output. This might be baking a cake, writing a report, or training a client.
PC = productive capacity, ie, the activities that enhance our ability to produce. Such activities include education, training and networking.
Covey uses the analogy of the goose and the golden egg. I also like the old adage, ‘Give a man a fish and you’ll feed him for a day. Teach him how to fish (or give him a rod) and you’ll feed him for a lifetime.”
The fish is Production.
The fishing skills/ rod are our productive capacity, our ability to produce.
The P/PC balance is so called because to be successful into the long-term we need to ensure we distribute our energy to P and PC in the right ratio. We need fish to survive but we also need to work on our fishing skills if we hope to continue catching into the future.
Too much P (too little PC) would be someone who is consumed by their working tasks all week, possibly gets wrecked on the weekend, then does it all again. They are focussed solely on catching fish. They will keep their job, for now at least. They will earn a living. But over time, without personal investment in their skills and abilities, it’s highly likely they’ll be replaced by a more effective angler. (Unless you work for a government organisation, of course).
Too little P (too much PC) would be someone who spends all day improving their skills but doesn’t actually do anything with them. They are solely focussed on acquiring more rods, learning new casting techniques, and crafting fancy lures. They can speak 5 languages but never bother to actually translate a document. Such a person may fail to meet the expectations of their employers, clients or customers. They may be put on performance review. They may lose their job.
Having great potential (high PC) may not mean as much if they end up on the street.
It’s important to get the balance right.
In Covey’s experience – and my own, for what its worth- people often get caught up in excessive P activity. They are reactive. They rush around dealing with the urgent. They are drawn in by business.
Parkinson’s law says that a task will take as much time as is allocated to it, or in other words, work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion.
This has never been truer than it is today. With email and instant messaging, the flood of tasks simply will not end, and 1000s of low-value interactions (think: sticklebacks) will consume your time, if you let them.
When planning our day, it is beneficial to carve out some time for PC activities. This time should be protected and not encroached on for anything. It should hold the status of an important meeting. Ben Bergeron (Coach of Crossfit Games Champions, male and female) does with this with reading and exercise. He also does it with family time.
By renewing our health, enhancing our minds and restoring our souls, these activities all enhance our long-run PC. They give us more rods. They help us use the rods better. They allow us to keep fishing into the long-term.
If you want to get somewhere, set your long-term priorities and build some time – even if it’s just 30 minutes – where you enhance your productive capacity in those areas. 30 minutes 300 times a year is 150 hours. When focussed, that’s a lot of time.
Carve out the time. Make a commitment to investing in your mind, body and soul. Future-you will catch many more fish, and be grateful for it.