First Things First

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Stephen Covey explains setting goals as the most critical part of effective (personal) enhancement in his book First Things First. No matter how effectively you do your work that nothing can change if you do the wrong thing.

Shortcomings of time management are explored in the first part of the book, focused on three generations of theory:
1.    Priority is what is happening now
2.    Priorities are deducted from calendars and goals
3.    Priorities derive from values and goals

The same thing is lacking in all three generations in theory: importance. It is still possible to do meaningless things even though we prepare well or work according to our personal or organisational values. Covey claims that because he or she managed his or her time better, someone has ever been a happier person.
Four areas of human needs are described on which we can center ourselves in required to be allowed to set the right priority:
1.     Physical needs, including clothes and food
2.     Special needs, caring and maintaining relationships
3.     Mental needs, learning and growth
4.     Spiritual needs, submission and contribution

These four areas are overlapping and 'the fire inside' is named the middle in which all needs come together. The idea is that by focusing on one of the other three, problems within one of the areas will partly be balanced out.

The power of prioritising is defined in section 2. The most critical element of prioritizing something effectively is taking the time to focus on your previous actions and learn about what actions you would like to do next. The metaphor in which a garden can only be perfect if there is a gardener taking care of it is described by Covey. The same happens to our personal lives. Be a gardener on your own!

The foundation for setting the right priorities lies in the idea of placing important stuff first. Naturally, first, people are inclined to do urgent things, which is a dangerous way or to work so there will never be time to start concentrating on the important things as long as there is sufficiently urgency. A pot withrocks, gravel, sand and water is the most common metaphor for this.To act according to the standards of Covey is to:
1.     First, placed the major rocks, which represent important non-urgent issues, in the first place.
2.     Then sum up as many relevant and urgent gravel matters as possible,
3.     To fill the little bits of space in between, add sand to the pot, the urgent, unimportant matter
4.     Finally, you will find that the unimportant, non-urgent issues still have space for some water,

How to decide what stuff is important is the next step when setting goals. The mechanism that can be used to identify what is important to individuals is to write down a 'personal mission statement' that contains the following.

1.     An acquittal of your personal talent
2.     A contribution to a bigger cause than yourself
3.     A review of requirements divided into all four dimensions mentioned above (physical, mental, social and spiritual)

How to respond to unplanned situations is described in part three of the book because one cannot plan anything in life. Based on the following, make your decisions:

1.     Ask yourself: What is personally important to me? Is this a decision that I'm about to make in line with my own personal objectives?
2.     To truly understand the problem, take the time to listen to others, because human relations are important.
3.     For yourself and others, be courageous and frank and don't be afraid to show weakness in making your choice.

You should define acts that are important to you on the basis of your personal mission statement, based on the four dimensions of human needs.Next to that, do take the moment to focus to make sure that first you always concentrate on the most important stuff. And then, at the end of the week, may you tell that your time has also been spent in the best possible way.

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