How Covey’s Circle of Influence Can Make You More Productive

Focus on what you can control and don’t waste energy on the things you cannot. – Alice Dartnell


I have always been a huge fan of the author and businessman, Dr. Stephen Covey’s famous self-development management book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. My first encounter with this book was almost two decades ago when my dad bought me this book at Bangkok Airport when I was just 16 years old! What I learnt from it had a major impact on my life and started me on my journey that has led me to become very organised and productive. Each of the habits mentioned in the book are incredibly powerful. However, often overlooked as a time management tool, Covey’s Circles of Concern and Influence can be applied in a way that makes better use of your time so you can become more focused and productive.

In this blog, I will explain what the Circles of Concern and Influence are and how you can identify what things are in your Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence. I will also explain why people who only concentrate on the things in their Circle of Influence are more productive and effective with their time.

The Circle of Concern vs The Circle of Influence

In his book, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey distinguishes between our Circle of Concern (things we care about but can’t control) and our Circle of Influence (things we care about and can impact).

Your “Circle of Concern” will normally be very large as it includes all those concerns you have in the world, your work and in your life. It includes your health, your family, your finances, the country’s economy, political events and everything else that you are concerned about. Everything you include inside the “Circle of Concern” is something that concerns and matters to you. However, when you look at those things within our Circle of Concern, you quickly realise that you have no control or influence over many of the things in it.

Your Circle of Influence is a smaller circle that sits inside your Circle of Concern. It contains all the things from your Circle of Concern that concern you and that you can do something about. After all, we have no control of the weather, but we can improve our health by exercising more, eating more green stuff and drinking less alcohol. This is why it is important to take time to identify the things in your Circle of Influence within your Circle of Concern.

Alice Dartnell Life Success Coach Consultation London Stephen Covey Circle of Concern Influence chalk board now later max lenz

Take time to identify what is in your Circle of Concern and your Circle of Influence

Identifying Things in Your Circle of Influence

So how do you identify what is in your Circle of Concern and what items should be located in your Circle of Influence?  

  1. Make a list of all the things that you are concerned about.
  2. On a large sheet of paper, draw a big circle, this is your Circle of Concern.
  3. Then, on the same sheet of paper draw a smaller circle inside the large Circle of Concern. This new circle is your Circle of Influence.
  4. Take a look at the long list of things you are concerned about and write them down inside the circles on the big sheet of paper.

Put all those things you can do something about inside the small Circle of Influence and all those you can not do anything about inside the Circle of Concern.

Once you have completed this exercise, sit back and make a conscious effort only to concentrate on the items written in your Circle of Influence. This can be a powerful exercise, especially when you feel like things are getting on top of you, you’re worrying or you’re feeling overwhelmed. Often, you will realise that you can influence much more than you thought, or see that you’re worrying about things you can’t control or do anything about, and this will change your attitude and response to them.

Alice Dartnell Life Success Coach Consultation London Stephen Covey Circle of Concern Influence chalk board now later max lenz

Proactive people have much better time management habits and are much more productive than reactive people.

Proactive People are More Productive

Be proactive. Proactivity is, according to Stephen Covey, one of the most important characteristics of successful and personally effective people. Reactive people waste time and energy focusing their efforts in the Circle of Concern. They focus on things like the reactions or other people, what others might think of them, the weather, if flares will ever come back into fashion, and things over which they have little or no control.

However, proactive people focus their efforts in the Circle of Influence and take responsibility for their life rather than just watching how things happen. Productive proactive people do not waste their time or energy concerning themselves with things that are not in their Circle of Influence. Instead, they take conscious control of their life and invest their time wisely, concentrating all their effort on things on setting goals towards influencing and improving the things in that Circle of Influence that they can do something about like their health, children, business, and work. Their better time management habits = more productivity.

Identifying what is in your Circle of Influence will enable you to see where your actions can have an impact. Why waste 30-minutes of your day worrying about something you have no control over when you could have invested that time more productively, working on an important project, exercising to improve your health or learning something new.

The key is to focus your energy on those things that you can influence – this will enable you to make effective changes an – you’ll be more effective, others will see you in a positive light and this will increase your feeling of empowerment. 


Alice reading Stephen Covey Seven 7 Habits of Highly Effective People

Time to reflect and review

Now you know about the Circle of Concern vs. The Circle of Influence and have identified what is in your Circle of Influence, you need to decide how you are going to apply this knowledge. You might like to invest sometime reflecting on the following questions:

  1. Where are you spending the majority of your time? Is in your Circle of Concern or in your Circle of Influence?
  2. How much time and energy are you wasting every day worrying about the things inside the Circle of Concern that you have no control or influence over? What action can you take to invest this time more productively?
  3. What action can you take to be more proactive and productive dealing with the things you have identified in your Circle of Influence?
  4. What action can you take to become more effective and increase the size of your Circle of Influence?


Further Reading

Poor health habits are one of the ‘Four Thieves’ that can hold you up and seriously impacts upon your time management & productivity. Make sure that you include your health in your Circle of Influence. Read my blog Why Looking After Your Health Improves Your Productivity to find out why and what steps you can take to increase your focus, concentration and productivity.

Identifying the things in your Circle of Influence and then setting goals to be more proactive dealing with these things is challenging. However, thought is the most powerful force in the universe and our thoughts are the controlling factor in what we manifest and create in our lives. The idea precedes the thing. In my article Harnessing the Power of Visualisation to Create Success you can find out more about how you can use visualisation to create success by harnessing the power of your subconscious mind.

Are you stuck in your comfort zone? Read my article, How to Expand Your Comfort Zone to Achieve Your Goals to understand what a comfort zone is and why it is important to step out of your comfort zone in order develop new skills, experience new things and fulfil your true potential.

Do you procrastinate?  Procrastination negatively impacts on your precious time and also creates enormous mental anguish and stress. In  my article, Procrastination: A Brief Guide on How to Stop Procrastinating,  I explore practical solutions to stop you procrastinating so you can improve your time management and productivity. discover why you procrastinate and following my tips and techniques that provide practical solutions to stop procrastinating so you can improve your time management and productivity.

Like to Know More?

If this has resonated with you, I would love to hear from you! Get in touch to share your aha moments or what you have answered in the reflection exercises.

Get in touch via email, Instagram or LinkedIn

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Let’s Work Together

If you are serious about wanting to make life-long changes and positively transform your life, then I would love to hear from you to see how I can support you.

I have helped a range of people on a huge variety of goals – from suffering with confidence loss, to publishing a book, to enabling a change of direction in life, to small business owners struggling with staff – but my main focus is to support the busy professional who is trying to juggle it all.

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Other Blog Articles on My Web Site

Below are links to other blog articles that you might be interested to read.

Alice Dartnell Life Success Coach Consultation London Pomodoro Technique Alarm Clock and tomato. Italian word for tomatoWhy Pomodoro Technique Increases Your Productivity

 The Pomodoro technique divides the working day into easy to manage segments – think of these as elephant bit-sizing chunks. All tasks, big and small, are broken down into small manageable activities that can be tackled one-step at a time.  Find out why it will help you be more productive especially if you are working from home.



Harnessing the Power of Visualisation to Create Success

Thought is the most powerful force in the universe.  As Einstein’s relativity revolution revealed, everything is made of energy. Our thoughts are the controlling factor in what we manifest and create in our lives. Find out how you can use visualisation as a powerful technique to create success. 


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This article is written by Alice Dartnell, life and success coach of Alice Dartnell Limited. Alice empowers busy professionals to be successful, transform their lives and achieve more by improving their confidence, mindset and time management.

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