Book Review: the 7 Habits by Stephen Covey – Habit 3 or Put first things first

This is the fourth in a series of articles providing a chapter-by-chapter in-depth “book club” reading of Mr. Stephen Covey’s classic “the 7th habits of highly effective people”.
I’m reading from the 2004 Free Press paperback edition. This entry covers the third habit.

Habit #3 is the second creation (while habit #2 is the first creation: imagining and planning), the physical creation. It’s the fulfillment of the first two habits.

This habit is around the phrase “organize and execute around priorities“.

Covey is trying to shift the focus from time management to self management, i.e. to manage our own satisfaction and expectation which lie in our circle of influence.

The main point of this chapter is the time management matrix, with the four quadrants:

Q1 (I), Q2(II), Q3(III), Q4(IV).

The importance is relative  to your mission, values and goals which have been identified with habit 2. This is why is important to have a personal mission statement or a principle center: to use it as a foundation.
While upon urgent tasks we can only react, non urgent tasks can be prioritized and we can proactively do them.
Moreover, urgent tasks are often important for other people but not for us, so for us they are tasks in Q3.

The suggestion from covey is to spend most of the time in Q2, and little time in Q1. No time (or almost)  in Q3 or Q4.

Q2 activities are such like thing you can do in your life that, if you do them on a regular basis, they would make a tremendous positive difference in your life.

The activities to organize a Q2 are to identify the roles (is expected that the mission has been created) then selecting the goals. Once the tasks are prioritized, they can be put into a schedule, Covey suggesting a weekly schedule as a better compromise as daily schedules. The key here is to schedule the priorities and not to prioritize what’s in the schedule.

Finally daily adapting, as responding to unexpected events, reviewing the schedule and priorities and so on.

Mission Statement –> Roles –> Goals –> Plans (schedule or delegate)

Covey is not recommending any specific tool but rather suggesting to choose one which satisfy the following criteria:

  • Coherent: with a place for the personal mission, roles and both short and long-term goals so you can constantly refer to them.
  • Balance: All areas should be there, including health family, personal development.
  • Focused on Q2.
  • With People dimension: attention not only to schedule and time but also subordinated to people when necessary.
  • Flexible:Also very important is that a planning tool or schedule should be your servant, not your master, so tailored to your specific needs.
  • Portable: so you can carry it most of time.

Next: habit 4

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3 thoughts on “Book Review: the 7 Habits by Stephen Covey – Habit 3 or Put first things first

  1. Pingback: Habit 7- Rejuvenate Yourself! | Time and Freedom

  2. Pingback: Book: the 7 habits of highly effective people « Look back in respect

  3. Pingback: Book: the 7 Habits – Habit 2 or Begin with the end in mind « Look back in respect

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