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Habit 3 – First things first – principles of personal management

Image By Davidjcmorris – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,

It’s been a while since I last wrote on “7 habits of highly effective people”. Today I will discuss habit 3 -first things first. Habit 3 is about prioritization, about prioritizing to you what is most important. As such, to be able to prioritize, you need to have developed your personal mission statement. We all know that we tend to spend time on things that are not important to us, so to say procrastinate. But why? Why do we not spend time on development of skills, professional growth and relationship building?

Covey says that we need to have discipline to focus on what is important. Discipline has to come from within, you cannot truly enforce it. Covey is sceptical about time management tools such as checklists and calendars. Because if you do not have internal willpower, you will not be able to follow your checklists. Once you fully understand and embrace your sense of purpose, you tend to have more passion and will power to complete important tasks.

Covey suggests us to look at the time management from the perspective of urgency/importance (see picture above). Quadrant 1 is urgent and important tasks. Covey argues that this quadrant grows exponentially, and we need to reduce the number of tasks in this quadrant. Quadrant 2 is not urgent but important tasks: we need to plan for these tasks and purposefully include them in our calendars every day. Quadrant 3 is urgent but not important: these tasks ideally should be delegated. Or we need to be really efficient with completing these tasks. Quadrant 4 is not urgent and not important, and these activities have to be eliminated completely.

Covey argues that the best way to prioritize our tasks is to think about our roles. What are your roles and what goals are associated with them? For instance, for me I identify my roles as:

  1. Personal development
  2. Partner
  3. Educator
  4. Friend
  5. Yogi
  6. Author

For me, the biggest challenge is that I tend to put forward my work-related roles as an educator and tend to forget about my other roles that are actually very important for my well being and a sense of purpose. Do you have the same problem? These days I am learning how to say no to the opportunities with less priority to me.

A few inspirational quotes from Covey:

“Effective management is about putting first things first. While leadership “decides” what “first things” are, it is management that puts them first. Management is discipline, carrying it out”

“The challenge is not to manage time but to manage ourselves”

“The way you spend your time is a result of the way you see your time and the way you really see your priorities”

“What one thing you could do on a regular basis that will make a tremendous positive influence on your life?”

Stay tuned,


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