- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On July 24, 2015
I’m continuing my review of Stephen Covey’s book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.
Every Friday, I’m sharing a summary of one of the 7 habits from the book. This week’s post is about habit #3: “First things first.”
Habit #3 is about focusing on the tasks that help you achieve your most important goals and fulfill your personal mission. This chapter of the book contains one of my favorite (and I believe most useful) graphs from any business book.
Four types of stuff
Stephen Covey lays out a grid that makes your time allocation choices clearer. My version of his chart is below.
The chart has four quadrants. The idea is to spend your time in quadrants 1 and 2 doing things that are important (to you) and not in the “not important” quadrants.
Urgent disguised as important
It’s fairly easy to avoid quadrant 4 where the “not urgent” and “not important” tasks dwell. You probably don’t do too many “escape” activities like reviewing recipes on Pinterest while you’re at work—or if you do it’s not for long before you get back to the “grind.”
The toughest quadrant for busy marketers is quadrant 3. This is the quadrant where urgent tasks pretend to be important. Your email is a big trap in this regard. I’m guessing that a good portion of the emails you receive every day say they are urgent—some probably even state they are important too. But are they? Often the answer is “no.”
These days there are more quadrant 3 activities to watch out for than ever (many more than when Covey wrote the book in 1989). We have so many marketing mechanisms that cry out for our attention: email, social media (on many platforms), content marketing and direct mail.
It’s very easy to end up spending long days in quadrant 3 but not contribute to moving your key goals forward.
Roles and goals
You have more than one role in your life. For example, you could have 4 roles: mother, daughter, marketing director and church volunteer. You likely have goals in each role.
Covey suggests identifying the most important goals you want to get accomplished in each of your roles for the coming week. He suggests picking the 2 most important goals for each role (only a guideline).
Hitting the calendar
Once you’ve identified your most important goals for each role for the coming week, grab your calendar and schedule in time for these most important goals (one of my past colleagues talked about “building a fortress” around your most important time). Now your most important goals for the week have time blocked out in your schedule for the coming week. Now that you have time dedicated to your most important activities you should “protect” it from the inevitable “attacks” from quadrant 3 activities.
Adjusting the tiller
Covey suggests reviewing your schedule on a daily basis to see what adjustments you need to make. He makes the point that you are not omnipotent so will need to make adjustments as the week plays out and new items crop up. Your goal should be to make sure that as much of your important work as possible gets done.