Habit 3 - Put The First Things First


Organize and execute around priorities. Stephen Covey


Everybody has tasks they do not like. Recognizing when these tasks are so important they have become ‘the first thing’ and doing them first is what disciplined people do. Being disciplined is about not doing tasks when they do not have priority.

Habit 3 is about life management as well--your purpose, values, roles, and priorities. What are "first things?" First things are those things you, personally, find of most worth. If you put first things first, you are organizing and managing time and events according to the personal priorities you established in Habit 2. 

The urgent versus the important

You should question yourself regularly whether the matter you are turning your attention to is urgent or important, or maybe both.

Urgent matters are usually visible; they are constantly on your mind. They are calling for action. You should wonder if the matter is urgent to you, or to other people. And if it is urgent to other people, do you want to put time and effort into it?

Important matters are directed to your goals and values. Goals and values are less visible and hence less pressing. That is why you need more proactivity to get closer to your goals. It is about preparation and being prepared. It is about looking for opportunity instead of solving problems.

Time management

According to Covey there a 4 generation of time management

Generation 1: Notes and checklists

Generation 2: Calendars and appointment books

Generation3: current time management

Generation 4: Recognizes that “time management” is really a misnomer, the challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.

Planning should not be about time management, but about self-management. This is why Covey focuses on enhancing and preserving relationships and on accomplishing results and not so much on getting your tasks done.

Making the urgent less urgent

Realize that whenever you say ‘yes’ to one thing, you will no longer have time for something else. Time is the most valuable and least replaceable of all resources.

Things that appear urgent will most likely trigger a ‘yes’ if you are asked to help out. It is useful to understand that saying ‘no’ is also a very legit option.

Covey suggests that you become more aware of your internal drive, values and goals. This makes it easier to say ‘yes’ to the actions that are based on them. This way, our values and goals are less often overruled by (non-important) urgent matters.

The Quadrant II Tools

The objective of Quadrant II management is to manage our lives effectively- form a center of sound principles, knowledge of our personal mission. A focus on the important as well as the urgent. All within the framework of maintainingbalance between increasing our production and increasing our production capability

Here you find the six guidelines to make the important – and not the urgent – a bigger part of your everyday life.

·         Coherence: Keep a list in your planner naming your short- and long-term goals, and the roles you have.

·         Balance: Your roles and goals, your health, family and development should be balanced in your schedule. True effectiveness requires balance.

·         Focus: Organize on a weekly basis so you can check if all roles are included in your week. You can still shift some during your day or as the days’ pass. Weekly planning provides a better overview.

·         Subordinate schedules to people: When people and relationship come in play, you need to realize their importance over the scheduled activities.

·          Flexibility: “Your planning tool should be your servant, never your master,” says Covey. Plan as it suits you and how you are, not as you think you should.

·         Portability: Keep your schedule with you most of the time. You might want to check the schedule, or the goals on it. Or to compare what you planned with new opportunities.

Becoming a Quadrant II Self Manager

Quadrant II organizing involves four key activities:

  • Define your roles. Think about your different roles during the upcoming week. Write down your key roles.

  • Select your goals. Which goals do you want to accomplish within each of the roles you defined? Think of one to two important results you fell you should accomplish in each role during the next seven days

  • Schedule your week. Start with filling those hours that can only be spent during office hours, or on Saturdays.

  • Adapt daily. With your schedule written down, daily planning becomes daily adapting. Take a few minutes each morning to reconsider your current schedule.

I encourage you to develop a Quadrant II paradigm, you will increase your ability to organize and execute every week of your life around your deepest priorities. Thereby, not be dependent on any other person or thing for the effective management of your life.


Stephen R. Covey. “The 7 HABITS of Highly Effective People


Remember; reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. Take Care, Constance