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Put First Things First

By Reverend Molly Cameron

Habit 3, Put First Things First

Habit 3, Put First Things First gives us the third piece in what Dr. Covey calls the Personal Victory.

These first three habits, when practiced, help us establish an understanding that 1. We have responsibility for directing our own lives as we learn to Be Proactive; 2. We do that by creating the End in Mind or vision we wish to achieve.  Habit 3 helps us remember to prioritize what we need to do, in order to get where we want to go, without compromising that which is important to us. This Dr. Covey refers to as the Private Victory.

The first two habits are essential and prerequisite for Habit 3, Put First Things First. You have to know that you are in charge of your life and what you want to achieve, and only then can you Put First Things First. Put your time and attention on those things that that truly matter. 

Goethe wrote, “Things which matter most must never be at the mercy of things which matter least.”

We have so many choices in this world and it’s easy to get pulled off track, isn’t it? Often we find ourselves practicing procrastination, or diversion, and sometimes we get so caught up in the diversion that our dreams become so remote that we set them aside and never pursue what it is that will make us feel truly fulfilled. Habit 3 has at its center the principles of personal management to help us achieve what we want to achieve.

Habit 1: Be Proactive says, “You’re creative. You are in charge.” It’s based on the unique human endowments of imagination, conscience, independent will, and self-awareness. It empowers you to say, “That’s an unhealthy program I’ve been given from my childhood. I don’t like that script anymore, and I can change it.”

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind is the process of the mental creation based on our imagination; the ability to envision, to see potential, and to create with our minds what we cannot at present see with our eyes.

Habit 3: Put First Things First involves the actual physical creation of what we have in mind. It’s the exercise of independent will toward becoming. It’s the day-in, day-out, moment-by-moment doing it. The practice of effective self-management.

Some days it feels like I’m trying to cram a month’s worth of doing into an 8-hour day. Or 12-hour day. Ever feel that way? Sometimes it’s so overwhelming that we just sit in front of the television rather than face the magnitude of what we need to do. All kinds of tasks are before us in a day; some of them are really, really important, and some of them are necessary, some we want to do and others not so much.

Habit 3: Put First Things First can help.

Who here has a personal mission statement?

My personal Mission is this: To further the evolution of the species through modeling enlightenment. My mission is to create a center for people, a place of community, love and sharing. It’s about lighting the way for many people, through classes and lectures, traveling and visiting through outreach, and includes international and intercultural exchange of ideas that begins right here in Columbus.

Well, that just might not be big enough, huh? It’s huge! And can be daunting!

Yet when I keep this mission as the End in Mind, some of the things for me to do to get there become very clear: do things that further enlighten me and help me shine my light! Right?

The big rocks for me might include daily meditation and contemplation. Daily visioning and spiritual mind treatment. Service to the wider community, and participation in intercultural associations and events. Mentoring by other ministers. All while keeping my body, mind and family and friends relationships healthy because they matter to me.

Your mission will be unique to who you are. It’s your personal constitution and can become the standard by which you operate. Then think about the way in which you will live out your mission, in keeping with your personal values. 

Here’s a question for you: What one thing could you do, that you aren’t doing now, that, if you did it on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life? 

That’s a big rock. If we take a few minutes at the beginning of each week and again at the start of each day to prioritize our to-do lists so the very most important things are at the top, we begin to manage ourselves so that we are not only constantly moving in the direction of our dreams, we’re getting there in a way that honors our own values system. 

At the end of the month we’ll be contacting you about participating in a values survey for our own community. Tom Rausch is helping to conduct this survey internationally with all Centers for Spiritual Living, and we get to participate in such a way that they can measure the values of our Center individually. We’ll get lots of information on what you value, and how this community can serve those values. If you don’t receive monthly e-newsletters from me, put your email address on your envelope and put it in the offering baskets. We’ll make sure to send you the link next week. 

One of the most elusive parts of self-management is how we deal with time.time-quadrants1

The first one is called the 4 Quadrants of Time Management and it goes far beyond a task list and a pencil to check them off. It’s a way to look at the way you choose to spend your time.

You see 4 boxes within a large square. Along the left side are the words “Important” at the top left box, and “not important” at the lower left box.

Across the top are the words “urgent” above the top left box, and “not urgent” above the top right box. This means that the box at the top left represents those daily tasks which are both “urgent” and “important.” It includes Crises, Pressing Problems, Deadline-driven projects. Feel familiar? 

The lower left box represents Quadrant 3 tasks that are Urgent, but Not Important. The phone ringing, interruptions, reading junk mail, some meetings, and some pressing matters. 

The lower right hand box, Quadrant 4, is both “not urgent” and “not important”. This includes trivia, busy work, time wasters, pleasant activities such as watching television, surfing the net or facebook, and some mail and some calls. Not important and not urgent is reading the LL Bean catalog.

Now to the upper right hand corner, Quadrant 2, marked “Not Urgent” and “Important.” A friend just calling to say “hi” is not necessarily urgent, but it might be important if you value developing the friendship. Other things in this category are crisis prevention activities, relationship building, researching new opportunities, planning and recreation.

How many of us have spent time in this time management Quadrant 1? Doing all those urgent and important things we have to do? What is the result of living out of this quadrant? Stress, Burnout, Crisis management; you are Always putting out fires. It’s exhausting to live in Quad 1!

Quadrant 3, Urgent, but Not important. What is the outcome of living out of Quad 3? Everything has to be dealt with in the Short-term. We have no time for longer range plans. We are in Crisis management all the time, but the crises aren’t truly important. We begin to see goals and plans as worthless, because we never have time to see them through. We begin to feel victimized, out of control. We have shallow or broken relationships because there’s no time to deal with what’s really important to us. Have you ever worked for someone like this? It’s a nightmare! Everything is a crisis. 

Quadrant 4 – Not Urgent, and Not Important. If we choose to spend all our time here we take no responsibility for what’s really needed, we’re likely to be fired from jobs for stacking paperclips, and we eventually become dependent upon someone else or an institution just to meet our basic needs.

We can live from vision and choose our perspectives. We can create balance in our work, family, spiritual and recreational lives. We find discipline and control over our lives, and encounter fewer crises because we’ve addressed potential situations in advance.

Again, I’ve just skimmed the surface of Dr. Covey’s work with Habit 3: Put First Things First. I hope you’ll take these gems of wisdom home and put them to use in your own life.

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