First Things First – Stephen Covey


Book – First Things FirstAuthor – Stephen Covey and Roger Merrill

and Rebecca Merrill 1994

Publisher – Simon and Schuster

Rating –

  Nobody ever laid on their death-bed and. wished they had spent more time at the office


Most time-management techniques fail because they don’t address basic principles. Time management is about self management and this rich, moving and empowering book provides well founded methods to manage your life and live from a principle-centred perspective.

Covey refers to this principle-centred perspective as fourth generation time management.  Each generation has its place, and the fourth generation approach integrates the first three levels of time management.

  • First generation time management is reminders such as simple tools and checklists.
  • Second generation time management involves planning and preparation and uses calendars and appointment books.
  • Third generation time management is planning, prioritising and controlling and uses planners with goals and daily tasks.
  • Fourth generation time management focuses on the following principles:
    • To live, love and leave a legacy
    • To live your true north – from character
    • To be self aware, and live from conscience, creative imagination and independent will
    • To live from your vision of the future
    • To balance your primary roles
    • To set powerful goals
    • To take a weekly perspective
    • To live from the integrity in the moment of choice
    • The synergy of interdependence – define yourself by the quality of your relationships.

The book espouses that we must learn to live by the compass of principles instead of focusing on the clock. We must also have the humility to understand that importance is defined by principles that are larger than our values, and based on living our vision and purpose, founded in our relationships.

The premise of the book is “don’t focus on urgent activities”. Focus instead on important things – first things first. Set principle-based goals. Do the right thing, for the right reason, in the right way. Focus on working with others to create win-win situations.   Covey presents the quadrant thinking to define important and urgent tasks.

Urgent Not Urgent
Important Quadrant I

  • Crises
  • Pressing problems
  • Dead-line driven projects, task and meetings
Quadrant II

  • Preparation
  • Prevention
  • Values clarification
  • Planning
  • Relationship building
  • Empowerment
Not important Quadrant III

  • Interruptions
  • Phone calls (some)
  • Some meetings
  • Pressing matters
  • Popular activities (some)
Quadrant IV

  • Trivia
  • Busy work
  • Junk mail
  • Time wasting activities
  • Escape activities

High performance organisations spend between 65-80% of their time in quadrant II activities, as opposed to typical organisations which only spend about 15% on quadrant II tasks.

I recently purchased the Franklin Covey Planning System to order my life and live from my vision, mission and goals.  First Things First provides the detailed “how to” for using the FC Planning System.  I will be making a video to show you this awesome Planning System which I find just fantastic, so stayed tuned – I will post the link when it is finished.

The planning system is allowing me to schedule my priorities, not prioritise my schedule, thus giving me greater quality time for the things in my life that really matter most.

If you would like to purchase this book please contact:

  • Meredith Dalton at  or go to
  • Amazon –
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