First Things First!

Have too much to do and too little time? Are you doing what’s most important, or just what screams at you?  Steven Covey in his book, First Things First, talks about organizing one’s life to be a highly effective individual, but also to keep the most important things in one’s life where they should be, first. The basic areas, as he outlines them, are spiritual, social, mental, and physical.  In traditional time management or life organizational seminars, you are usually asked to list these areas in order of importance.  Let’s try it!

What is most important in your life, your spiritual beliefs, your family, or your work?  Having trouble? If so, it’s because each of us struggle daily with trying to decide which area of our life to focus on.  Of course, as soon as we get one area of our life in order we move on to the next. When we move from family to work, work flourishes but family suffers.  Covey says that these areas of our lives are like circles that overlap each other in the middle. This area of overlap is where we create the balance in our lives and where we define what is first.  In this area we can develop our desires, hopes, and dreams of the future. In this area we can create a statement of life. You need to do more than simply create goals for yourself. It is a visionary statement about what you are trying to create in your life.  In this process you not only define who you are and what you want out of life, but you generate a bigger question; why am I here and when I am gone, what contribution will I have made to mankind? Covey calls this a legacy. It is not what you might traditionally think.  He defines legacy as “our spiritual need to have a sense of meaning, purpose, personal congruence, and contribution.”  

One of the reasons for doing this exercise is to understand how important each area of your life is, including your health.  In the struggle to accomplish things in our lives we often forget about our health. If you look at the circles in the diagram, you will see where health in the physical area overlaps all the other areas of your life.  Without health will these other areas suffer? Will you be able to experience the greatest joy possible in your work, family, or mental areas without health?

Perhaps it’s time to create your statement of life.  It can be very fulfilling to include significant others in the process as well.  Focusing on your dreams and goals with balance in mind can create a life where first things do come first!


Ref: Covey, S., Merrill, A., Merrill, R. (1994) First Things First. Free Press.