20130727-192154.jpgWhat one thing could you do (that you aren’t doing now) that if you did on a regular basis would make a tremendous difference in your personal life? What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?

As we’ve been working through The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey, so far the habits are building on themselves and starting to transform us from the inside out. Habit #1 (be proactive) says I have responsibility and can create new scripts for my life. Habit #2 (begin with the end in mind) imagines and envisions what I can become and puts it in a personal mission statement. Habit #3 (put first things first) is the day-in, day-out, moment-by-moment doing it through effective self-management. Decide what the “first things” are, then put them first.

We all know that life gets really busy and hours disappear quickly. Urgent things require our immediate attention and cause us to react, but they might not be the truly important things that contribute to our mission, values, or goals. We must be proactive to do the important things that aren’t urgent, otherwise we spend our days in constant crisis management. By thinking ahead and focusing on relationships, planning, preparation, and prevention, crises will actually decrease. Eventually.

So what does this series of prioritizing, organizing, and discipline look like? One idea is to organize on a weekly basis and then allow the flexibility to adapt and prioritize each individual day as needed. First, identify your roles for the week (personal development, spouse/parent, employee, volunteer, etc.). Next, select one or two important results for each role in the next seven days that are tied to longer term goals. Then schedule those into the upcoming week. This process lets my mission statement lead to roles to goals to plans and then scheduling. The key is not in prioritizing my schedule, but in scheduling my priorities.

Putting the first things first may require me to say “No” to less important or trivial things that consume my time, but it gets easier when there is a bigger “YES!” burning inside. It is also helpful to learn how to delegate in a way that empowers others to become their own bosses and unleash their creativity, with a focus on the results more than the method.

It might seem like more work in the beginning, but it will pay off in the end.

What about you? What are your “first things” and are you spending enough time on them? What one thing could you do that you aren’t doing now? Do you organize your life by daily lists or a weekly planner? Is there anything you could delegate?

Tools For the Journey – Habit #3 – Put First Things First
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