Put First Things First



Putting First Things First is at the heart of effective self-management. It's the ability to organize our time around the most important things.

Our time can be spent in one of four quadrants. When we are highly effective, we spend more of our time in Quadrant 2. This quadrant is all about effectiveness. It is where you find the important but not urgent activities like important goals, relationship building, recreation, planning, and prevention.

Quadrants 1 is full of important and urgent activities such as crisis, emergency meetings, and last-minute deadlines. Quadrant 3 is full of distractions such as needless interruptions, unnecessary reports, and other people's minor issues. Meanwhile, Quadrant 4 is full of wasteful activities like trivial work, avoidance activities, and time-wasters. There are times we could fall into any of the quadrants if we do not stay aware, but we want to spend the most time in Q2 with the important but not urgent. 

Learn to stay in Q2 by picking a recent Q1 crisis and plan how to avoid it in the future. Also, try identifying a key Q2 activity you are not currently doing and schedule out time this week to do it.

Stephen R. Covey said, “Putting first things first means organizing and executing around your most important priorities. It is living and being driven by the principles you value most, not by the agendas and forces surrounding you.”

One way to put first things first is to plan every week. Block out some time on your schedule every week to think about, and connect with, your mission, roles, and goals. Schedule the ‘big rocks’, or the things that are essential to your mission, roles, and goals. 


Unconscious biases are hard to identify, much less know their true impact. Before you can take steps to operate more fairly and effectively at work, you need to get your bearings. Download our latest guide: Seven Misconceptions About Unconscious Bias. 


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