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Habit 3 - Put First Things First:Don't Major in Minor Things

Well if space aliens were observing us from outer space last week, they would have thought the nation was observing the anniversary of Manti Te’o being “catfished” or the outcome of a scandal on a game show called Can You Sing the National Anthem Karaoke-style, starring Beyonce Knowles Carter. HA! 


We missed the minor detail of a presidential inauguration or the observance of the Martin Luther King Holiday. Minor things were major. Which makes our ongoing series of posts about the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People timely don’t you think. 

In Habit One, we learned that our lives are the results of our choices- and we DO have choices. We can live a life based on bedrock principles or we can live a life based on our circustances or emotions. In Habit 2: Begin With the End in Mind, we try to figure out what those bedrock principles are. Now the hard part starts - now we have to act on what we learned in Habits 1 and 2 by focussing on what we say our values are and living our live accordingly.

It deals with many of the questions addressed in the field of time management. But that's not all it's about. 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.  Franklin Covey


Don't prioritize the activities on your schedule or to do list. Schedule your priorities. 

For those of you who can’t be bothered to read -- it’s okay, this reading nonfiction ain’t easy-- Dr. Covey, the author of the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People demonstrated the principle in the video at the top of this page. 

Here are some of the points that screamed at me from Put First Things First:


Quoting E.M. Gray’s essay “The Common Denominator of Success” 

The successful person has the habit of doing the things failures don’t like to do. They don’t like doing them either necessarily. But their disliking is subordinated to the strength of their purpose. 


Subordination requires a purpose, a mission, an sens of direction (Habit 2) and value, a burning “yes” inside that makes it possible to say no to other things.

That one made me stand up and take notice. It screamed at me. I don't have to like it. I just have to do it.  

Organize and execute around priorities.


Rather than focussing on things and time, focus on preserving and enhancing relationships and accomplishing results.


That was huge for a self professed introvert who thinks she can do just fine without having to deal with people :). 


You need to know the difference between Urgent and Important - They aren’t the same


Urgent matters are usually visible.. but so often are unimportant.


Importance has to do with results. If somethign is important, it contributes to your mission, your values, your high priority goals. 


We react to urgent matters. Important matters that are not important require more initiative, more proactivity.  

He then discusses  the Time Management Matrix. which he divides into 4 quadrants. 


  • Quadrant I- urgent important matters aka CRISES.
  • Quadrant II - Not urgent, but super important matters.
  • Quadrant III- Urgent, Not important matters.
  • Quadrant IV- Not urgent and note important. 


 Here's a video explaining the Time management Matrix

Effective people stay outside of Quadrant III and IV and shrink the size of Quadrant I.


Quadrant II is the heart of effective personal management. 


In Quadrant II we do things like building relationships, writing a personal mission statement, long-range planning, exercising, preventative maintenance and preparation.  

I am do DESTINED to read this book because in the middle of reading this chapter, my team at BWB suffered a MAJOR email crisis when out super SUCKY email provider Domain.com just unilaterally decided to reduce the size of out email inboxes right before a big roll out. For years the team complained to me about not liking the email interface, but there was always something more “urgent” than making sure that our primary source of communication was secure and functional. I think that’s kinda important dontcha? Anywhoo there was always some reason why I couldn’t take the time to switch services.

I ended up switching services in less than an hour. If I had done better strategic planning and maintenance, it would not have taken a crisis to make me move. I was so happy I didn't have a meltdown. I just said- you are in quadrant I- get out. get out. get out. So now that I'm launching a new venture, I'm hanging out in Quadrant II and spending a lot more time on the things that aren't "sexy" or "ex"


When you take the initiative to set what is important as opposed to responding to every demand, your crises disappear for the most part. Unless you work in an emergency room, 95% of your emergencies are the result of improper planning and preparation.


In a way, this entire blog post series is putting first things first. Yeah, I could drive a bunch of traffic and entertain you by responding to every foolish pop culture episode for the first 7 (or 8) weeks of the year or I could finish reading this book. Right about now would be the point where I got distracted by something else and never returned to it again :)But I can’t because you’re here to hold me accountable. 


If you google Put First Things First, there's a TON of slideshows and videos out there. 


Reader Comments (11)

Thanks for this. I was looking for something in my basement and I saw this book on my shelf. I think that is the universe plucking me in the head. Urgent vs. Important. I'm going to work on that.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDonnadara

i have this book, i have read this book. However I am getting new insights from your series.
this series calls for some serious introspection and actioning.

thank you.

January 29, 2013 | Unregistered Commenterab

Ah thanks @donnadara and ab. this is a test of my endurance to stick with one subject for 7 weeks, but I think in the end it will be totally worth it. Your comments are my encouragement to keep reading and keep writing. :)

January 29, 2013 | Registered CommenterThe Blogmother

I used to teach the teen version of this book when I was a social worker. I read the adult version years ago, but am enjoying this refresher tremendously.

January 30, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRoslynholcomb

i really enjoy this series as well.

February 1, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterBurnbaby

I'm THRILLED that you have taken this turn. I recall seeing how LOVELY you looked at the last Blogging While Brown, complimented you, and wondered, essentially, if you've discovered one of your secrets of life. It's great to see that you are still discovering ... and sharing it with us.

February 2, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterProfessLCH

Late to the game, but just finished reading the chapter, and I realized that I'm pretty good at keeping Quadrant I from getting too crazy because I schedule my daily priorities. But I could do a lot better in managing Quadrant II. From a professional perspective, I am fortunate enough to have peaks and valleys with my workload. In other words, it's not "gotta get this done! gotta get that done!" all the time. So I can use my valleys to strengthen my Quadrant II activities, such as development of skills to enhance knowledge, and building relationships with other people. The latter will be tough, and it's one of the more frustrating aspects of introversion for me. But I think if I focus on cultivating a few relationships, rather than many, it won't feel as daunting.

February 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDaphne

Greeting Blogmother,

Thank you for this series. It's been years since I've thought about the Seven Habits. If you are sharing other resources may I recommend a series of books that proven effect for me. They include The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz, Goals by Zig Ziglar, Success Though a Positive Mental Attitude by W. C. Stone and Maximum Achievement by Brian Tracy.

God knows I'm not a careerist, but these book will help you adjust your thinking to achieve your goals.


February 4, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterMonica

Blogmother, you can stick with it. You're doing an excellent job interpreting so far.

February 7, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterDiana

Thank you guys for sticking with me. My life is so chaotic right now, but 7 Habits are helping, but I've got to go back and do habit 2 and constantly remind myself of Habit 3. Loving Habit 4 and am determined to get something out before the end of the week.

February 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterThe Blogmother

The crazy thing is that I'm not blogging here, but I'm blogging on the Facebook page by default because I'm typing 1000 word status updates. I think I gotta pull the plug on Facebook. It is definitely in Quadrant III or IV.

February 7, 2013 | Registered CommenterThe Blogmother

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