Dissecting The 7 Habits by Stephen R. Covey: Habit #3 ‘First Things First’

2 min


Two people can see the same thing and yet have different perspectives about it. This is the starting point of Stephen Covey’s book ‘The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.’ The purpose of understanding this is essentially to make the reader believe in the power of paradigm shifts, if they don’t already. Only by believing that your perspective can change (and that different perspectives exist) will you be able to change your mental experience and perceptions.

After understanding this key concept, Covey introduces what he believes to be the most powerful habits one can practice to live effectively. Cactico brings you an analysis of each of the 7 habits as well as our own thoughts on them in order to help solidify their meaning further. Also make sure to check out Habit #2 if you haven’t already!

Prioritizing

Time management can make life much less hectic than it has to be, especially when we are taking on too many responsibilities at once. It’s important to prioritize tasks to tackle the goals that have the highest priority.

Making a list of responsibilities is the first step. Hobbies and other activities can also be included, but they are, more often than not, low priority when ranked. That’s why it’s the norm for work to precede play. In order to aid us in prioritizing our tasks, Stephen Covey provides us with a 4-quadrant model for time management known as an “Eisenhower box”.

The Quadrants

put first things first the 7 habits of highly effective people
The name is based on Dwight D. Eisenhower famous quote: “I have two kinds of problems, the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.”

This method alone is an extremely effective way to manage your time and tasks. As the quadrants suggest, what you put first depends on it’s stats:

  •  If it’s IMPORTANT & URGENT, then it is of the highest priority. (Quadrant 1)
  •  If it’s IMPORTANT & Not Urgent, then it is the second most important. (Quadrant 2)
  •  If it’s Not Important & URGENT, then it is the second last important. (Quadrant 3)
  •  If it’s Not Important & Not Urgent… What do you think? (Quadrant 4)

Putting First Things First

Covey talks about the difference between leaders and managers in this chapter. The main difference is that leaders are followed(people follow the character of the person) while managers have people who work for them(people follow the money that person has). Being balanced in both areas is what makes a successful business owner in Covey’s view.

So far, all the habits mentioned, “Be Proactive, Begin With The End In Mind, Put First Things First,” happen to be defining qualities of a leader. A leader takes charge, looks at the big picture and does not get caught up in unimportant things.

You don’t have to worry about being a leader if that isn’t desirable to you. All you really need to worry about is being the leader of your own life. People are naturally drawn to natural leaders who live by their own standards.

Remember, what is urgent and important is ultimately decided by you. The Eisenhower box serves only as a guideline. That is great news! Covey is not preaching and telling us how to live ‘his way’, instead he is advising us to live the best way according to our own self-created standards. The Eisenhower method is merely a tool we can use to aid us on our own journey.

If you wish to make an original time management chart that could prove to be uniquely effective, then by all means do so in the comment section below!
In fact we would love to see original ideas from our readers on how to prioritize with the greatest efficiency! Who knows, we might end up using your method for our own lives!
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