Put First Things First with Stephen Covey

Put First Things First with Stephen Covey

Are you one of the many people who feel overwhelmed and overloaded at present? Are you at burnout stage? Do you feel bombarded from all sides? Is your mental health being affected by this pressure and stress? Are you also one of the people who are being ordered back into the workplace where you know the stress levels you now feel will be escalated?

Why is this happening? Is it your manager putting you under this pressure? Is it the culture of the organisation in which you work? Is it your expectations?

Could it be that you aren’t managing your time constructively? Are you spending your time putting out bushfires, being challenged by the pounding surf or mending fences, all unfulfilling work that is urgent but not important? What would happen, how would you feel if you could do work that was important, where you were able to put first things first and saw you making a real difference?

How Mentoring Can Help You Learn How To Put First Things First.

Yesterday afternoon I had a first session with a new mentee. Let’s call her Melinda.* She is a manager in a global IT company working largely from home with 10 people reporting to her. Her direct manager is in Europe and she meets with her once a fortnight online and the relationship is reasonably good. She doesn’t interfere with what Melinda does, but neither does she play an empowering role in her professional life. Having climbed the ladder of success herself to a high level, jumped many barriers to get where she is, and without much support from her managers, Melinda feels she expects her to do the same.

Working On Your Job, Not IN Your Job.

Up until now Melinda has just gone with the flow. She hasn’t rocked the boat. She has come to mentoring because she wants to make a real shift in her work which may rock that organisational boat. She has realised that she has been largely working IN her job, doing the same work as her 10 reports. She had become aware that she could be more effective if she worked ON her job, on her role as manager, leading and motivating her people to high performance by coaching and mentoring them. She is quite committed to this shift but wants help and support in negotiating it and “selling” it to her manager.

As  a mentor it is so exciting to have someone come to me wanting to be that kind of a leader. I can’t wait to continue this with Melinda.

The Late Stephen Covey’s Third Habit of Highly Effective People

– Put First Things First

I mentioned to Melinda the work of the late Stephen Covey and his 7 habits of highly effective people. Stephen Covey, more than anyone else, has had a profound effect on my work. My last book on soft skills was dedicated to him. He died suddenly, in the midst of me writing it, from complications after a cycling accident.

One of Stephen Covey’s 7 habits is Put First Things First.  In other words, work on what’s important, not what’s urgent. I found this video on YouTube which I urge everyone in today’s workplaces to watch. Most people, he says, are working on the urgent, not the important and that’s largely what causes the burnout. He acknowledges that it is difficult for people to make the shift. However in this video, about the 6 minute mark, using his famous 4 Quadrant approach, he does a fantastic exercice with a volunteer from the audience, Elizabeth, to demonstrate what he is talking about.

I absolutely believe what he says when he talks about how we can make the shift from doing what is urgent to doing what is important. He says we are able to say NO to anything, if we have a Bigger YES burning inside us. But we have to know and be clear about what that bigger YES is.


* Melinda is not her real name. I have changed distinguishing features to protect confidentiality. The message is clear however.













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