First Things First by Steven Covey


Steven Covey

  Productivity, Self Development, Happiness

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A New Perspective Of Time Management


In this book, the author, Stephen Covey digs deep into the popular concept of personal time management. He points out the problems with the 3 generations of this concept and proposes a 4th generation of this concept which is based on values and principles and argues why this eliminates the problems faced by previous concepts.


Time Management: Clock & Compass-

The Clock- The clock includes all our commitments, schedules, activities, goals, appointments. 

The Compass- The compass embodies our visions, principles, values, purpose. 


3 Generations of Time Management:

First-generation: These consist of all our to-do lists and reminders. First things are based on what things you see in front of you. 

Second-generation: These include calendars, meetings, appointments, schedules and prep for future events. 

Third-generation: This refers to establishing long term goals and prioritizing your activities on a daily basis.


The 4th generation:

  • The author proposes a 4th generation which is based on values and principles and argues why this eliminates the problems faced by previous concepts.
  • The 3 generations have a weakness of relying upon urgency and lack of understanding quality of life.
  • Implementing the 4th generation is not easy and requires a massive shift in thinking.
  •  Comprehending what is important to you instead of being responsive to urgency is the key to understanding this concept.


Time Management Matrix -

Quadrant 1—Urgent and important:

A situation of emergency. It can result in a worse situation if left unattended.

Quadrant 2—Important, not urgent:

This quadrant includes personal development goals, skill development, high-level planning.

Quadrant 3—Urgent but not important:

These create of sense of being important such as phone calls, meetings and appointments. 

Quadrant 4—Not urgent or important:

Recreational things. They don't have anything to do with urgency or importance.

According to the author, we can be happier in life by setting our priorities right and that we all should strive to add more meaning to our lives.



This helps to focus on setting the right priority and focus ourselves:

  1. Physical requirements, like clothes and food.
  2. Social requirements, like love and maintaining relationships.
  3. Mental requirements, to learn, explore and grow.
  4. Spiritual requirements, to evolve, to find peace and tranquillity.

When all needs come together it is called "the fire within". Focusing on one area can eliminate the problems faced in other areas.


Put Important Things First

  • People have a tendency to do urgent things first as they give a sense of importance. Covey argues that this is dangerous because there will never come a time to work on something important as long as it is urgent. 
  • Importance should be based on principles and values that you hold. 
  • Make a personal mission statement.
  • Ask yourself what is personally important to you. Will the decision you make align with those personal goals and values. 
  • Listen to others. Learn to assess their situations.
  • Most importantly be honest with yourself.

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