Setting priorities with “First things First”

In todays’ age we have everything that we wish for that do at a click of a button. At the face of it we should all be stress free and happy but so many of us are just  not. The stress comes from our inability to strike a correct balance between our career and personal life. Often we associate feeling of goodness or greatness with how quickly we can get through our to-do list. What we fail to understand is ticking of our “First things” is important for usto keep us happy and keep going.

These “First things” are your priority task items just not from your career front but also on your family front, you relationships- friends, social life, fitness, spirirual health. Remember your “First things” are just not about your career. In his book “Seven habits of highly effective poeple” author Stephen Covey talks about how to determine your “First things”. He says you begin with the end in mind. What are the memories that you would cherish and be proud of as you grow old. If you visualise your family being important part of your life and if you are unable to devote half an hour of quality time for your family you may have to relook the way you are managing your time.

Author has explained in a very simple manner with the help of “Urgent- Important” grid, it become very clear to focus on our priorities given our life goals are clear. On the Y axis are the things in the order of their Importance and on the X-axis are the things in the order of their Urgency.

Here are the four quadrants:

Q1- Urgent and Important

Work would always be in firefighting mode if we are operating from Q1. Escalations from client because of improper testing before delivery is a good example at work place. Similarly, realising your daughter needs at least 8 hours of coaching on Maths for her to clear her Maths paper the next day is another example on personal front. We are always operating in a Crisis mode.

Q2- Not Urgent & Important

If you operate from Q2, you would never face situation mentioned above in Q1. In this quadrant lie you life goals and your values that you cherish. Planning your career, relationship building, personal development are all important things however since they are not urgent, we often ignore them. You may never find time to spare an hour in a week for learning Guitar, you will have to take out time and only planning can help you here. These tasks, these items are your priority list.

Q3- Urgent and Not Important

Now these are not your first things.. they have come to you from other’s priority list. The tele-caller who took 5 minutes of your time in the morning trying to sell the credit card. Your colleague who has finished his work and now is at your desk tempting for a cup tea. The meetings where you are no more than a mute spectator, it is your boss who has compelled you to sit through.. an hour is gone. The only way to deal with these items is to be assertive. Add the word “No” to your dictionary, just say it genuinely without hurting the other person.

Q4 – Not urgent and not important

These are distractors, they drain your energy without adding any value to your ultimate goals. There is an online sale on Myntra, you are meaninglessly surfing the net for past 30 min even though you don’t want to buy anything. Talk about social media addiction, the compulsion to look at your notifications the moment it buzzes. Sure you need to keep up socially however schedule these things in your break time.. don’t make them your primary goal.


Make prioritising your priority. Don’t let other people write your priority list!