Priorities - Source: Pexels

7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Habit Three

By Awah | Leadership | 12 Apr 2020

7 Habits Overview

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is a book written by Steven Covey that I have introduced in previous posts. Reading the first three posts will help you gain a better understanding of some of the terms and concepts used here.

Habit 3 is where Habit 1 and Habit 2 come together and let us take control of our lives in a way that helps us become effective. Covey calls the first 3 habits, "private victories" as they are inward-looking to ourselves. They help us move from being dependent to independent thinking people.

Prelude to Habit 3

To illustrate the essence of Habit 3, I am going to start with a short story.

Tom was disappointed by his latest test result. He needed to achieve higher to be awarded his college place and there was hardly any time left now. As he walked home, he passed his local fried chicken shop and the smell enticed him inside. It wouldn't take long to get some food on the way home.

He got home later than he had hoped and he knew he had to revise. As he went into his house, he looked at his PlayStation and thought, ok just one quick game before his study. His parents weren't home yet anyway so they wouldn't see him studying hard.

A couple of hours later he was feeling tired. Probably concentrating on the game so hard. He would be unproductive now if he started revising. He took a short nap.

Habit 3 - Put First Things First

It is human nature to procrastinate and we all slip into it sometimes. Effective people learn to put the first things first by prioritising the things which are important - aligned with our dreams, objectives, vision, and values (Habit 2). Being proactive (Habit 1) puts you in charge to do the things that matter. Habit 2 is the mental creation of your actions and Habit 3 is the physical creation.

Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Being effective means we don't just do everything that comes along in life but we prioritise the important things. This takes some independence as often the important things are not the fashionable things.


Putting first things first means organizing and executing around your most important priorities. It is living and being driven by the principles you value most, not by the agendas and forces surrounding you.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Urgent vs Important

Someone famous once said, if we spend all our time doing the things that appear to be urgent, we will not have time for those things which are important.

We can map our activities into the below quadrants according to whether they are important or urgent.

Urgent vs Important

How many of us avoid doing what is really important like Tom in the story above, avoiding his revision? How much of your spare time do you spend in the Waste quadrant? How much time at work do you spend in the Distraction quadrant? To be effective, we need to be focused and put the first things first. Align our actions with our vision (Habit 2).

The key is not to prioritise what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.

Dr. Stephen R. Covey

Focus on Quadrant 2 - Effectiveness

Quadrant 2 is where we take control of our own lives and focus on what really matters. It is working on the P / PC Balance to increase our effectiveness. It may take courage to break away from the sheep and do your own thing but that is the essence of being truly independent.

This is the quadrant where we need to focus our time. The quadrant includes working towards our personal mission, looking after our relationships, looking after our health and education. Focusing on what is within our circle of influence rather than the things that we cannot control.

Next Post

We will look at Habit 4. Please comment below as to what you think about Habit 3.


Note: this was originally posted by me on Hive.

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