Habit 3: Put First Things First®

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The Habit of personal management.

Habit 3: Put First Things First is the exercise of independent will toward becoming principle-centred. Habit 3 is the practical fulfilment of Habits 1 and 2. Habit 1 says, “You are the creator. You are in charge.” Habit 2 is the first mental creation, based on imagination, the ability to envision what you can become. Habit 3 is the second creation, the physical creation.

“Putting first things first means organizing and executing around your most important priorities. It is living and being driven by the principles you value most, not by the agendas and forces surrounding you.” – Dr. Stephen R. Covey

The power of independent will.

Independent will makes effective self-management possible. It is the ability to make decisions and choices and act in accordance with them. It is the ability act rather than be acted upon, to proactively carry out the program you have developed. Effective management is putting first things first. While leadership decides what “first things” are, it is management that puts them first, day by day, moment by moment. Management is discipline carrying them out. If you are an effective manager of your self, your discipline comes from within; it is a function of your independent will.

The four quadrants of time management.

We spend our time in one of four ways, depending on the two factors that define an activity: urgent and important. Urgent means it requires immediate attention. Urgent things act on us and are usually visible. A ringing phone is urgent. Importance, on the other hand, has to do with results. It contributes to our mission, values, and high-priority goals. We react to urgent matters. Important matters that are not urgent require more initiative, more proactivity.

Habit 3: Put First Things First

In the Time Management Matrix above, Quadrant 2 is the heart of effective personal management. It deals with things that are not urgent but are important – things we know we need to do but somehow seldom get around to doing because they aren’t urgent.

Ask yourself: What one thing could you do (that you aren’t doing now) that if you did on a regular basis would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life? What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?