Putting first things first is about prioritizing. We all lead busy lives, especially in college, and there is always something in the wings competing for our time. If we don’t take the time to focus on what we really want, our time can easily be monopolized but all the “stuff” instead of “important stuff.” This means overcoming barriers, often times facing our fears, managing and organizing our time, and actually achieving our goals.
A useful tool for working on putting first things first is the Time Quadrant, which considers the importance and urgency of all the things that you have on your plate. Overall we spend our time in all four quadrants, but we should strive to live within our priorities and focus our time on the important and not urgent tasks. If it is not important to us, we should avoid it (although with bosses, supervisors and outside expectations, we all will have to spend some time here working on non-important tasks), and if it is important, we should avoid procrastinating to the point that it is urgent. Focusing on important and non-urgent tasks means that we have planned ahead, we are on top of things, we consider things in advance and we’ve learned how to manage our time and priorities.
For those of you who are not naturally gifted at prioritizing, there are some steps you can take to improve on this. First, utilizing a planner is a must. Each person can use their planner differently, but it is important to find a system that works. Once that organizer is in place, taking 15 minutes to plan weekly can make a huge difference. You should ask yourself what about the assignments you have coming up, what extra curricular you have scheduled, what your work week looks like, etc. But don't forget to schedule in personal time as well. Once those tasks are determined, block out time starting with the most time intensive tasks and then fitting in everything else. Finally, be ready to adapt. Things will come up and everyone needs to be able to make adjustments. You can never account for days that you may get sick, have an emergency or have something slip your mind; planning in advance always for this fluctuation.
Habit 1 says “I’m in control”, Habit 2 says “I know what I want” and Habit 3 says “I have the ability to get there.” It’s about taking the time to prioritize goals and then having the willpower to overcome fears and peer pressure that often create large obstacles.