I recently read and wrote a short piece on The ONE Thing by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan and I am almost finished with a similar book First Things First by Stephen Covey, Roger Merrill, & Rebecca Merrill. I have found First Things First fills all of the gaps that were missing in The ONE Thing. Covey, Merrill, & Merrill do a fantastic job of helping tie back the most critical activities to all of the other tasks that pull at your attention and time. This piece goes into more detail of how to determine your most important tasks in each area of your focus and then how to implement scheduling and accomplishing those tasks.
First Things First ties back to the prioritization quadrant (pictured below) that looks at activities from the standpoint of both urgency and importance. The idea being we tend to focus on the urgent rather than the important non-urgent activities.
Utilizing this visual and then focusing on solely the important boxes of Quadrant I & II you are able to help start to identify what you should focus. As you sort through your priorities you realize that Quadrant II the important, but not the urgent box is the one we tend to fail to accomplish. Focusing your attention on Quadrant II activities is one of the main premises of the book. From there they authors delve deeper into how to ensure that you properly schedule and prioritize those activities throughout your busy work life.
The reason I find First Things First more impactful than The ONE Thing is best summed up by this example: You have as a Quadrant II activity to build a closer relationship with your child. The issue is that you can’t just knock this out in a half hour and then move onto the next priority in a different aspect of your life. If your child has a major crisis you aren’t going to console them for half hour then say “sorry kiddo time for me to move onto my next priority.” That would completely erode the relationship and possibly create resentment. At the same time, you can’t always schedule a Quadrant II activity like building a stronger relationship with a loved one, but both books do recognize the importance of recognizing the priorities in various aspects of your life.
What I really enjoy about First Things First is how it takes a more holistic view of what if, why, how, and what to do in order to actually put first things first. Personally, the additional context and looking at the whole is more valuable in my learning preference than isolated to the point where you lose sight of the forest amongst the trees. There is value in both perspectives and perhaps if I had read these books in the reverse order they would have resonated better as First Things First starts broad and The ONE Thing is more narrow. Overall I have thoroughly enjoyed this book and found it helpful as I look to prioritize and organize my activities to ensure they are aligned with my ideal purpose in life.
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