Stephen Covey - Habit #3
"Things which matter most - Must never be at the mercy of things that matter least." - Goethe
For years I have been a great fan and follower of Stephen Covey. The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People* was first published in 1989 has been published numerous times since. It has been my bible in book form, cassette tapes and now CD's. Repetition, we know, is one of the best ways to learn - and with career that requires a lot of travel, listening and learning are natural ways to pass the time.
Although learning and practicing all seven habits is important, I find that the one most difficult for many of my coaching clients to practice is Habit #3 - Put First Things First. In order to be successful at Habit #3 Covey stresses how essential and prerequisite Habits 1 and 2 are. Habit #1 - Be Proactive and Habit #2 - Begin with the End in Mind, give us the principles of personal vision and personal leadership. Habit #3 - Put First Things First, gives us the principles of personal management.
Many people struggle with time management and prioritizing, juggling busy personal lives and professional responsibilities, only to miss important meetings and memorable events - feeling frustrated and stressed. What Habit #3 gives us is the ability to understand "Self-management vs Time management". Habit #3 provides the groundwork for a balanced life.
There are only twenty four hours in every day and seven days in a week. Understanding that we don't control time, but we can control how we use that time is key in avoiding the stress of multiple priorities. Having a TO DO list is great, but prioritizing that list is even more important. If we start at the top, we may not get to the more pressing task further down the list. Today, emails, texts and cell calls can totally disrupt our focus, sometimes causing us never get back to our list.
Most businesspeople have been made aware of the Seven Habits, Habit #3 and the Covey's Time Matrix** through classes, managers or coaches, but how many actually successfully apply these principles? Many of my coaching clients have difficulty with "time management." They look to me to help them create a system. They will always struggle and be frustrated until they understand that it is not "time" but their activities that need management. Until they learn to take time for themselves to learn and refresh, they will be stressed.
We all know someone like the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, continuously checking their watch and exclaiming. "I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!" The White Rabbit spends most of his time in Quadrants I or III, where everything is Urgent - whether or not it's Important. Step back and prioritize our daily, weekly, monthly, and even yearly activities. React to less critical matters, saying "no" to things that don't fit our purpose, while focusing on those activities that move us forward give us the greatest reward.
Spending time in Quadrant II means planning, strategizing, and being creative. We are doing important things that are not urgent now and key to our future. If we spend more time in Quadrant II, we will eventually spend less time in Quadrant I. We can create a window for genuinely urgent matters, like a sick parent or child or unforeseen pressing problems.
As we progress throughout the year, reviewing our Time Matrix and scheduling time for Quadrant II activities can be a vital step. We will be channeling our efforts for more positive results while creating less stress and greater balance.
*Covey, Stephen R., The 7 Habits of Highly Successful People, The Free Press, New York
**Quadrant I - Urgent & Important
Quadrant II - Important, but Not Urgent
Quadrant III - Urgent, but Not Important
Quadrant IV - Not Urgent & Not Important.