Jocellyn's Blog

Put the most important things to the first place

In this article I will explain part of the theory from the book “The seven habits of highly effective people” by S.R. Covey. This explanation is based on this book but formed from my own perspective and understanding.

I will focus on third habit which is telling us that we should prioritize and always put the first things first instead of focusing on urgent tasks, which seem to be important but in fact they are not.

When we try to sort our tasks into categories and use two dimensions - urgency and importance, we will get these classes:

1) Urgent + important

This category consists of rare cases, which are actually really urgent and important, so they need our immidiate attention. It could by problems and crisis which are part of everyone’s life. But if we just focused on this category, we would never finish anaything, because it would swallow us up. We have to realize that this category is much smaller than we think.

2) Non-urgent + important

These tasks are often overlooked, because we are postponing them (they are not urgent so they can wait, or not?). It consists of building relationships, self-develompent, learning, prevention and all these long-term issues. I will speak about this category later.

3) Urgent + non-ipmortant

These tasks usually take a huge portion of our time. We deal with the stuff which is urgent and we can get an impression, that it is also important, because it needs our attention, time and energy and we are not used to delegate them or just skip them.

4) Non-urgent + non-important

These things are the daily small tasks which we are dealing when we want to relax and focus on something marginal. These are useless things, which only detract our attention.

The second category is actually the most essential. Let me tell you why by using an example from the book. Try to think about two activities, which you are not doing but if you were, it would significantly improve your life / career. In most cases they are in the second group. It is something important for us, linked to our values, but it is not urgent.

Put the most important things on the first place means prioritize them before everything else, what may be more urgent, but can be done by delegating or does not need our personal participation. If we focused on second category we would be also preventing the problems from the first category, and we would be living in accordance to our values.

You have to realize than focusing on non-important things will steal you time for the important ones, even if you think you will get back to them later. You should say “no” to these activities, which do not express your true values and goals (dimension of importance), because otherwise you will not move ahead and you will not become a person you want to.

Saying no may be unpleasant, because we do not want to hurt someone´s feelings, we do not want to insult others or we feel obligated. But our time is a zero-sum game, if you say “yes” to something, you are simultaneously saying “no” to something else.

Do not waste your time and energy on something which is not your priority, just because feeling guilty, responsibly, obligated or what ever. Learn how to say “no” to these things and start to say “yes” to everything, which you deep down know it is right, but you never had the time for doing it.


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