For the past few weeks, we’ve been discussing the book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
If you want 2017 to be your year—the year when you get things done, take back the reins of your life, and start living on purpose—then this book is a definite read. There’s a reason it’s been a bestseller for almost 30 years now. The material is life-changing, practical, and easy to implement.
Today, we’re talking about perhaps one of the most important of the 7 habits, and that’s the ability to put first things first.
Let’s start with a brief exercise. Right now, I want you to take out your calendar, whether it’s an actual wall calendar, desk calendar, a bound scheduler you carry around like a book, or just the Google calendar on your phone/computer.
Take a look at the things you have scheduled on your calendar. Everything. Your appointments, your errands, your lunch dates, and so on.
Now ask yourself this question: based on what you spend the majority of your time on, what would someone say is your #1 priority in life? What about priority #2 and #3?
And now consider this: are those priorities truly what you care about in life? Or are they just busy work? Are you spending your limited time here on earth on the things that matter to you, the things that fill your life with meaning and significance…or are your hours being stolen by random activities that mean nothing to you?
We all have urgent matters that we have to attend to, of course: a sudden flat tire, a doctor’s visit for a child with the flu, a sudden leak in the roof, etc. These are issues that are unplanned and that act upon us.
Then there are the everyday things that we all spend time on: grocery shopping, chauffeuring the kids to afterschool activities, meeting up with friends, and so on. These are things that for the most part are unavoidable. They’re just a part of life.
But then there are the important issues that deserve our time and attention. These are the things that you accomplish based on your higher purpose and mission. They bring meaning and significance to your life. They bring you closer to accomplishing your big goals, whatever they may be: being 100% debt free, financial freedom, owning your own business, etc.
Unfortunately, too many people confuse busy-ness with productivity. They keep themselves occupied only with errands and appointments and lunch dates, and while there’s nothing wrong with these things, they don’t exactly contribute to your forward-motion as far as your goals go.
So how do you clean up your calendar so that it’s a better reflection of what you care about and where you’re headed in life?
- First, get clear on what you want to achieve this year. Then, set aside time each week to do one thing that will bring you closer and closer to your goal. This can be something as small as 1 hour a day. It may not sound like a lot, but you’ll be surprised by how much you’ll have achieved after a week, a month, and then several months.
- Learn to say “no” to activities that aren’t aligned with your highest priorities. Saying no frees up your time so that you can focus it instead on those activities that bring you the most fulfillment and joy. It also ensures that you don’t spread yourself too thin over too many things.
- Review your time. Take a look at your schedule regularly to track your progress. Is something not working? Then change it. Do you want to spend even more time on your goals? Block it into your calendar. Regular reviews allow you to stay connected to your goals and be self-aware about what feels right to you.
Being a highly effective person requires managing your time and organizing your life in a way that allows you to be more productive where it concerns the things you want to achieve in life.
With the tips above, you’ll better understand how you currently spend your time and will be able to shift your schedule to focus more hours on those activities that are in true alignment with your purpose and goals as an individual.