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Put First Things First

This is the third post in a 7-week series covering Stephen Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. If you missed the first two weeks, you can read them here.

I remember being ten years old and going with my mom to pick up my first ever show pig. Her name was "Lights, Camera, and Mostly Action." She taught me how to be responsible for something. Between school, wiffle ball games with my friends, video games, and my pig, I remember thinking that life simply could not get any busier.

The next year I started playing football and bought three more pigs. I thought, "Life can NOT get any busier."

Then I entered middle school. Hormones and homework both increased and I just didn't have time for it all.

Then high school... then college... then my first job... I realized about halfway through my freshman year of college that life will never stop getting busier. The people in power won't adding any more minutes to the day.

Look at the lives of people you admire; the people with great families who take care of their health and are full of joy. We must admit one thing: they have the same amount of time each day that we do. Knowing that, we must then ask, "How?"

These people are the embodiment of the third habit: Put First Things First. It means to spend your time on things that are most important, first.

Covey tells us there are four categories in which we spend our time and they exist at the cross-section of two terms: Important and Urgent. Important things align with our values and move us closer to fulfilling our mission. Urgent things simply have to be done immediately.

You may be familiar with the Eisenhower Matrix, aka the Time-Management Matrix.

It demonstrates potential activities that could fall under each cross-section of urgent and important.

It's inevitable that we'll spend time each day in every quadrant. Ideally, we'll spend the most time in quadrant two.

We only have so much time each day. We only have so many days. It is imperative we live and act according to our principles, not according to the forces of the world around us.


Take a note card or sticky note and draw a matrix on it. Keep it in your pocket throughout the day. Every time you find yourself in quadrants 1, 3, or 4 make a tally mark.


What quadrant two activity have you neglected most in the last six months?


"A lack of time is actually just a lack of priorities." - Tim Ferris

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