Habit 3: Put First Things First


This week we will be looking at Habit 3: Put First Things First. This is where Habits 1 and 2 come together. Habit 1 says, “You are the driver, not the passenger”. Habit 2 says, “Decide where you want to go and draw up a map to get you there.” And 3 says, “Now Get There! Don’t let roadblocks knock you off course!”

It’s easy to see that we’ve all got a lot to do and there just isn’t enough time. There’s school and work. There is a tournament and a biology test. There’s dog walking and texting friends. Habit 3 can help you learn to prioritize and manage your time so that your first things come first, not last.

Covey says it is the habit of willpower (the strength to say yes to your most important things) and won’t power (the strength to say no to less important things and to peer pressure.)

He compares packing things and activities into your life to packing a suitcase. You can fit so much more into a suitcase when you neatly fold and organize your clothes instead of throwing them in. Similarly, the better you organize yourself, the more you will be able to pack in–more time with family and friends, more time for school, more time for yourself, and more time for your first things.

Covey uses a model called the time quadrants based on urgency and importance:

  • Quadrant 1: Urgent and important. This is the procrastinator, who loves urgency. They put things off until it becomes a crisis. They thrive under pressure. But too much time in Quadrant 1 results in stress and anxiety, feeling burnt out, and mediocre performances.
  • Quadrant 2: Not urgent and important. This is the prioritizer who basically has it together. They look at what needs to be done and prioritize, making sure first things get done first, and last things last. They do their best work and avoid stress. Living in Quadrant 2 results in control of your life, balance, and high performance.
  • Quadrant 3: Urgent and not important. This is the Yes Man, who is characterized by trying to please other people and responding to their every desire. They have a hard time saying no to anything or anyone and suffer from FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out.) Time in Quadrant 3 results in feeling like a follower rather than a leader, a lack of discipline, and feeling like a doormat for others.
  • Quadrant 4: Not urgent and not important. This is the slacker and the category of waste and excess. Characteristics include too much TV, too much sleep, too much Playstation, and too much time online. Those activities can be part of a healthy lifestyle, but when done in excess they become a waste of time. Spending time here results in a lack of responsibility, guilt, flakiness, and missing out on adventures.

In addition to spending more time in Quadrant 2, consider the following baby steps to help you Put First things First:

  • Try a calendar, schedule, or app to help you become more organized.
  • Identify big-time wasters and try to avoid them.
  • Have the courage to say no when it’s the right thing to do.
  • Think of something you’ve procrastinated on for a long time and block out time this week to get it done.

By identifying what’s most important to you, and where your passions lie, you can more easily learn to put first things first.


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