#3 – Put First Things First

In the continuing saga of blog posts covering Stephen Covey’s The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, we pick up with one of my favorites – “Put first things first.”

Habit number three is the habit of honest prioritization, and I stress the word honest.  Where the first two habits focus on mental preparations and philosophies, “Put first things first” is about action.  It’s about setting a definitive methodology around the things we need or want to accomplish.

Many times people place priority on the things in their lives without basis or valuation.  We simply take everything we have to get done and put it in a big pile and start pecking at it one at a time, or sometimes hundreds at a time.  Instead of taking the time to just try to knock everything out as fast as we can, focus on trying to figure out what really needs to be done versus what is not nearly as critical to complete.  It’s all about the delicate balance of importance and urgency.

There are really two principle aspects of “Put first things first”.  The first is the basic principle of time management.  The usage of real tools aids us in prioritization.  Things like checklists, calendars, and appointment books.  We all juggle many things and most of us wear multiple hats.  Sometimes we are employees.  Sometimes parents.  Sometimes spouses.  We all have a variety of roles that are defined in large part by the tasks related to doing the job.  Systematically creating a way of managing all of those items insures we are focusing on the right priorities at the right time for the right amount of time.  One of the primary tools that Covey introduces in this section is the principle of the time management matrix.  If you are not familiar with it, I highly recommend looking into it and giving it a try.  It’s a discipline but it’s amazing how effective it is.

The second principle aspect involves how we decide to prioritize our time, or how we view the importance we assign and the effort and time we want to put into something in our lives.  Time and effort should be associated with goals, and goals should have a basis.  They should provide enrichment to our lives, such as personal achievements or growth in our relationships.  “Put first things first” is about personal victories.  Putting the first three habits into action provide us with personal independence.  When we combine them together, it’s about the realization that we have to do something, then envisioning our path of accomplishment, then doing the right job in the right way.

In short, “Put first things first” combined with habits one and two provide the foundation for successful day to day living.  The remaining habits all build on top of these.  The first three habits focus on the place we need to start – ourselves.

~ by bfmooz on July 7, 2011.

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