7 Habits: Habit 3 – Put first things first


Habit 3 looks at Covey’s four quadrants of urgency. We may perceive things to be urgent but are they really? We can use some of the techniques in this post to figure out what items are really worth doing. Once we’ve figured out what’s important to us, what can be passed on to others, and what can be put on the back-burner we can.

7 Habits [2008] : Habit 3 Put first things first
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I’ve recently revisited the “7 Habits of Highly Effective people” (affiliate link) 6 years after writing this post. All posts in the new series are listed here or you can read my all of my 2008 take on the 7 habits here.

Habit 3 begins with looking back over the previous two habits providing a re-cap of what we’ve learned so far.

In previous habits we’ve used our “right brain” to instil personal leadership in ourselves by defining our beliefs and destination. Habit 3 teaches us to become “personally effective”, to manage ourselves. In order for us to understand how this fits into the overall scheme of things, Covey cites his over personal effectiveness maxim:

Manage from the left [brain];
Lead from the right [brain].

This habit centres mainly around the notion that personal effectiveness equals a good work/life balance (although that’s a rather simplistic way of looking at it). Covey uses a time management matrix to illustrate his point.

Habit 3 Matrix

Apparently, in order to be personally effective, we need to spend most of our time in quadrant 2 – “Important but not urgent”.

Okay, I can see Covey’s point here but I can’t really say that I could possibly spend the majority of my time in this quadrant – in fact I don’t see how anyone could say they spend most of their time here – unless you change your definitions of urgent so that urgent becomes “Argh! My house is on fire!”

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A lot of this chapter revolves around time management, but to be honest it doesn’t cover it in enough depth to be of any real use; but them I could just be saying that because I’ve done a lot of reading around the subject and for a novice it would be considered adequate.

Habit 3 looks at goal setting again for each area of your responsibility (home, work, relationships etc.) and ensure goals (our first things first) are balanced to enable us to move into quadrant 2.

Covey discusses roles, delegation and learning to say “No” which again I’m quite familiar with so it didn’t have a hige impact on me and again I found Covey’s approach quite simplistic but it did make for a nice refresher.

What I learned from Habit 3

To be honest, not a lot! I did like the time planner that Covey produced – which is actually quite similar to one I came up with over 2 years ago and it’s given me a couple of ideas of how to revise it, but I think I’ll keep managing myself the way I currently am – it seems to be working for me at the moment!

What am I going to do about it?

Er… Not a lot! I think that I’m pretty “effective” anyway but I will examine how I’m handling things and try to determine what quadrant they’re fitting into.

7 Habits: Habit 7 – Sharpen The Saw : Principles of balanced Self-Renewal
Habit 7 is all about managing the lessons we learned in Habits 1 through 5 and how to ensure that we keep ourselves healthy and balanced.

Update on Habits 1 and 2

So far, so good as far as Habit 1 is concerned. I’m still being (or at least feel I am) more proactive and this is making me a lot happier in terms of my outlook towards certain things.

Habit 2 – Whoops! I haven’t been able (or maybe that should be willing) to do anything about this yet – and I’m not sure what to do about it. All of the habits hinge on the previous habits learned so I can’t really skip this one. One problem is that I have been MadCrazyBusy at work recently so I’ve not had time to relax and think about it as much as I’d want. I’ve got a week off at the end of the month so I’m hoping this will provide me with a window so that I can spend some quality time with myself and work out my direction… fingers crossed!

Interested in this book? Buy the 7 Habits of highly effective people from Amazon today

About The Author
Katy is always trying to be more productive one day at a time! Whether it's analogue, digital, motivational or psychological who'll try any system that will help her get things done and get organised. As well as running FlippingHeck.com, she also loves making music and reviewing things.
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2 thoughts on “7 Habits: Habit 3 – Put first things first

  1. “I can understand your point about the definition of urgent and important. My take on this is that Coveys definition of urgent IS different how most people define urgent. I believe Covey defines urgent as anything that tries to get our attention. Like the phone, email, mail, being interrupted by other people. I find that most people I work with define urgent as something important that needs attention right now. Very different from Covey’s definition. I am interested in other thoughts on this.”

  2. “Also, I think that his definition struggles in that what is urgent for me may not be urgent for you.Maybe I need to look at it from the angle of the more it stresses me, the more urgent it probably is!”

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