What could be easier than Habit 3: Put First Things First? Your parents probably taught you that when you wanted to play before doing the chores. Even if they didn’t, you wouldn’t be spending your time on anything at work that isn’t important, would you? Many people prioritize their schedule but don’t necessarily do a great job of scheduling priorities. How much of your day has been spent on something that made significant progress towards your top goals for 2010? Let’s take a closer look.
Stephen Covey, author of “7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” teaches to start with the private victories then move on to the public victories. The private victories are the first three of the seven habits taught to make you a more effective leader:
Covey teaches that you spend your time in these 4 quadrants:
1. Important & Urgent
2. Important & Not Urgent
3. Not Important & Urgent
4. Not Important & Not Urgent.
You probably recognize what is urgent and what in not urgent. It’s more of a challenge to recognize what is truly important and even more difficult to have the self-discipline to spend the appropriate time in each quadrant. I am a firm believer that the Pareto Principle (80-20 Rule) applies to your time management. You will get 80% of the benefits in 20% of the activities. You will increase your effectiveness by spending more time in Quadrant 2 – Important & not urgent. These are all of the proactive activities that are difficult to fit into your day if you let the tyranny of the urgent crowd them out.
You will need to understand what is truly important if you are going to spend more time in Quadrant 2. What are your top goals for 2010? If you work in Food Processing, the common priorities are Safety, Quality, Yield improvement, Efficiencies, Lean implementation to name a few. What about outside of work? How will you strengthen your family relationships and your spiritual walk? What other priorities did you set for yourself when you looked at Habit 2, beginning with the end in mind? You will need to spend less time in the other 3 quadrants so you can focus on Quadrant 2. Don’t confuse the time you spend fighting fires which is important and urgent, with the proactive Quadrant 2. Let’s use a production line that is down and waiting for parts as an example. Troubleshooting the problem, expediting the parts, and repairing the line is fire fighting in Quadrant 1. Performing a 5-Why Root Cause Analysis on why the line went down and why no parts were available would be Quadrant 2. Implementing effective countermeasures like improved Planned Maintenance, inspections, and parts control would be Quadrant 2. You could be telling yourself that you are too busy and are always fighting fires. Life in a manufacturing plant can be non-stop fire fighting if you only focus on the urgent. Start with addressing just one or two issues that are keeping you from hitting one of your top goals. If you take it to a true root cause and countermeasure then you have solved an issue and prevented a fire in your future. It feels good.
You won’t be able to solve everything today but you can take steps towards your top goals by scheduling your priorities today.
View all 7 Habits