Habit 3- Putting First Things First

Habit 3 is all about time management. It is so important to identify those elements in our lives that demand our attention and prioritize them so we can accomplish our goals throughout the day. Covey makes a quadrant for us to consider to help us effectively put our responsibilities in their proper place, assigning them the right level of importance and urgency. Everyone demands of us our time and energy on their issues: our family, our workplace, our friends. The quadrant helps us determine who and what to focus on first.

Check this out, from http://beanoriginal.net/coveys_habit_3_/:


Q1: the stress quadrantEisenhowermatrix

  • This is the important and urgent quadrant.
  • This is where you find the the crises, projects close to their deadlines, urgent problems and so on.
  • The strategy: Do Now!
  • It needs to be done, and it needs to be done fast!

Q2: the value quadrant

  • This is important, but not urgent.
  • This is where you find education, working on your vision, investing in people and so on.
  • The strategy: Schedule time.
  • It needs to be done, plan time to do it before it gets urgent.

Q3: the deception quadrant

  • It is urgent, but not important.
  • This is where you find most interruptions, some meetings, other people’s chores.
  • The strategy: Delegate.
  • It needs to be done fast, but are you the one that needs to do it?

Q4: the regret quadrant

  • It neither important nor urgent
  • This is where you find pass-times, some phone calls (you know them), the “too much” activities (too much television, too much internet).
  • The strategy: Eliminate
  • And why were you doing this again?


Think about yesterday and what needed to get done. Then consider everyone who impacted your day with questions and  needs you had to attend to. Place each of your activities and tasks on the quadrant above and see exactly where they fit. When you are able to categorize everyone’s needs, including your own, you are able to deal with first things first. Those items that are most important and most urgent are found in Quadrant 1. That is where you must begin to handle your issues to be most effective.

Now, mind you, people may come up to your desk at work, or your kids may come up to you at home with a matter that THEY feel is most urgent and important to THEM. You should validate that. And then determine where their issue fits on  your quadrant. See where you can place it to be the most effective to help them and to help yourself. For example, I may have an issue at work such as a conflict with a team member. I will tell my boss about it, asking for help. My boss will then have to consider where this conflict falls in the realm of urgent and important to the jammed-packed day that is scheduled. For me, it may be the only thing I can think about. For him, he’s got budgets and interviews and proposals maybe to go through. Only he can determine if my issue should come FIRST. Is the breakdown of a relationship between his staff more important than what he’s got on his plate right now, and urgent enough to drop those things to mend our broken fence? IT MAY BE. Or it may not. He may say, “Come on in and we’ll talk”, or “Can you come back in an hour?”

At home, as you are busily going about your business, your kids will come to you with their own URGENT/IMPORTANT issues. We must sort through them and blend them with our own.  The key is to put first things first. If starting dinner is most urgent and important, then dealing with your daughter’s friend crisis can wait until the water is set on the stove to boil. Even if she spends the entire time of you filling up the pot with water whining or such, dinner won’t get made if the water doesn’t get put on the stove to boil. Put first things first.

To be most effective in your life, it is best to stay mainly in Quadrant 1 and 3. Dealing with urgent and important matters both professionally and personally. Sometimes the two overlap and heavy decisions need to be made. One life will impact on the other. You must decide what comes first in your life. then attend to those needs requiring your immediate attention. This usually happens when a job wants to transfer you to another location or children, spouses, or other family members become ill and you must take care of them. You determine what comes first in  your life and plan accordingly. 

I hope this gives you much food for thought as we work towards creating a balanced, happy life.

Have a wonderful weekend!


6 Comments Add yours

  1. Deena…. I needed to read this post!! My life would be greatly impacted and I would be so much more effective if I prioritized properly!!! A little about my situation; I have been struggling as a writer since April. My entire manuscript for my first novel was lost to a virus. It has been a devastating blow, and I am finding it hard to write anything… Especially re-writing what I’ve lost. This post has kind of kicked me in the pants and has opened my eyes to a possible system that will help me get it done and meet my deadline! Thank you!!! Steven Covey… Here I come!!!

    1. deenaremiel says:

      THIS is why I do this. If I can make a positive impact on someone’s life, I’m happy. M.D., I can only imagine the devastation you felt and may still feel over the loss of your manuscript. Let me posit this to you: the story still exists and you CAN write it again. And you can write it from a STRONGER place. Sketch out the basics of your story and approach it as a massive revision rather thatn writing a story over. Or, don’t try to fool yourself. Write that dang story over! You are a different person now than before and can add nuances that weren’t originally there. I have total faith in your ability to overcome the disappointment, to climb over this roadblock and come out a star! I expect you to keep me posted, you know… 😉

  2. Judy says:

    I agree with Deena on the re-write. I finished my MS and it was rejected. I put it away. Pulled it back out, and finally did a re-write. No chapter was sacred. In fact, entire chapters were cut and new ones written. It’s a much better book now. (if only it will sell.) 🙂

    What isn’t addressed here is the need for healthy boundaries… actually, this is another way of describing having healthy boundaries. If you have healthy boundaries, it’s easier to prioritize.

    A quote that has helped me on a number of occasions, as regards the their urgent, important event : Lack of preparedness on their part does not constitute an emergency on my part.

    1. Deena Remiel says:

      Love your succinct quote at the end there. So very true. And healthy boundaries is a must. If others are unaware of what they are, then we must show them, tell them, and teach them in a positive, non-combative way.

      As for rewrites: If only we were able to get a “do-over” on certain aspects of our lives, eh? lol

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