The next habit to cover in the ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ series is the idea of ‘first things first’. This is a common phrase used in everyday life, but what does this actually mean? And how does it contribute to success?
Habit three combines habits one and two nicely. It can be implemented in every aspect of our lives
The concept of putting first things first focuses on prioritising certain tasks over others. It works to improve time management whilst defining your true purpose and values.
The most important tasks should be done first. Importance is determined by looking at our values and understanding how each task we perform leads us closer towards our goals.
What important things can you do every day to achieve your goals?
The third habit, first things first, involves organising your activities and events according to personal priorities. Those that are of high importance and worth to you should be done first.
Learning to say no to the right things to instead focus on your highest priorities is something that every highly effective person can do. You may have heard of the time management matrix that splits every activity into urgent or important. Also known as the Eisenhower Method or Matrix, Covey borrows this important tool as a means to prioritise tasks.
Quadrant I (Do)
This matrix shows that most of us spend our time reacting to urgent problems and deadline-driven projects, noted as Quadrant I. This quadrant can easily become overwhelming, and can overtake everything we do, leaving us feeling burnt out and like we’re on a constant treadmill of work.
Quadrant III (Delegate)
Focusing on Quadrant III involves reacting to matters that we feel are urgent, but are actually not as urgent as we may think. These are tasks like calls, emails, messages, or interruptions. They often come with expectations from others, leaving us feeling stressed to respond to these tasks.
Quadrant IV (Eliminate)
This quadrant surrounds the leisurely or trivial activities that distract us from the truly important tasks. You need to remove distractions, and take more responsibility for your activities if you’re spending too much time in this particular Quadrant.
Quadrant II (Plan)
Quadrant II is what we are aiming for when it comes to putting first things first. It is the key to successful time management and planning. It allows for relationship building with those around you, whilst enabling you to work towards your goals effectively. You learn how to say no to things that don’t move you forward, and you learn that these tasks are not as urgent as they first appear to be.
Staying in Quadrant II can be achieved by learning to manage your time more effectively, and prioritising your daily tasks. Check how much time you spend in each Quadrant, and see where your focus currently is.
Remember the Pareto Principle – 80% of your results come from 20% of your time. This applies to most successful individuals. Try implementing this, and working to stay in Quadrant II, and you will find yourself becoming one of these highly effective people!