GOE: THE GREAT DONATIONCODER.COM 2006
GETTING ORGANIZED EXPERIMENT
- WEEK NINE -
STEPHEN COVEY - FIRST THINGS FIRST
Text and Assignment Written by momonanThe deadline for this assignment is November 14.
Week NINE Assignment: Practice the Techniques of Stephen Covey
NOTE: This week’s assignments appear at the end of this post.
We have explored several methods for getting things done, from making TODO lists (Allen) to closed lists and putting everything else off until tomorrow (Forster), to clearing out the riff raff and breaking jobs into simple, repeatable pieces (FlyLady). Several times, though, we have heard this question from forum members: “Yes, but now that I know how do get things done, how do I decide what I should be doing?” This brings us nicely into the work of Stephen Covey, famed author of “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
” and co-author, with A. Roger Merrill and Rebecca R. Merrill, of “First Things First
The book is 12 years old, but is especially dear to me, since I followed these principles shortly after it came out, and what I developed has really guided me in all my activities since then. Here is a brief summary. In the next week or so, I’ll try to give some more concrete examples and another assignment. See the end for this week’s assignment.1. First Things First (FTF)
FTF is what might be called a principle-centered approach. Rather than providing a clock, it provides a compass to help us do what’s deeply important to us. The compass represents our vision, values, principles, direction - what we feel is important and how we want to lead our lives. As Covey puts it: “Efficiency is getting more done in less time. But what if we’re speeding down the coast of California, making good time, when the place we are trying to get to is New York City. It’s efficient, but not effective.”2. How Much Can You Put In A Jar?
Covey tells the story of an instructor who pulled out a large jar and began to put fist-sized rocks into it. When he was finished, he asked his students if the jar was full. They all said “yes.” He then pulled out a bucket of gravel, dumped it in, and shook the jar until the gravel went in all the little spaces left by the big rocks. He asked them again if the jar was full. By this time, they were on to him and said "probably not."
The instructor next started dumping sand into the jar, and it went in all the little spaces left by the rocks and gravel. Once more, he asked if the jar was full. Lastly, he grabbed a pitcher of water and began to pour it into the jar.
When he was finished, he asked "Well, what's the point?" One of the students said what we may have said, ourselves: “If you really work at it, you can always fit more into your life." "No," he said, "that's not the point. The point is this: if you hadn't put these big rocks in first, you would never have gotten any of them in."3. Decide What’s Important
So, we see that doing more things faster is no substitute for doing the rights things. And we see that doing the small things first may not allow us to ever get to the big things, the big picture. Covey argues that many people are addicted to urgency and that relying on “to do” lists essentially keeps us focused on prioritizing and doing the urgent, at the expense of the important things that contribute to our overall objectives and meaning of life. Urgency and efficiency take the place of importance and effectiveness.
Covey argues for prioritizing according to the importance of things. So how do we do that?4. The Main Thing is to Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing
Covey urges that we set aside 30 minutes a week to improve the quality of our lives, based on our own guiding principles.
Step one. Create a mission statement. What do you want to do in your life and upon what principles. This will help you set goals, make decisions and determine the way you spend your time. Then you can schedule activities and appointments that are aligned with your purpose. Think of your self as a non-profit organization with an overriding mission. It could be something like this: “My mission is to lead a balanced life, to act with integrity, and to improve the circumstances of those less fortunate,” or “My mission is to provide the best method for solving the problem of _____________.”
Step two. Identify the roles that you play in your life. Some examples would husband/wife, parent, mother/father, friend, employer/employee, community member. No more than seven.
Step three: Identify four fundamental areas of your life: physical (vibrant health, exercise, good diet), social (development of key relationships), mental (keep current in our field, learning, growing), and spiritual (what’s important and meaningful, helping others, living for something higher than “self”). Don’t neglect any of the areas.
Step four. Identify the most important thing to do in each of these areas this week. As a parent, it might be to spend some one-on-one time with your child. As a spouse, it might be to go on a date with your husband or wife. A job-related goal might be coaching a peer, working on something with the boss. Your own development might be planning a personal retreat or working on a mission statement.
For now, limit yourself to the one or two goals that are most important. Maybe don’t set goals in every role each week.
Write down your goals next to each role. You can even keeping a “perhaps” list of things in each goal that you might want to do. Whenever you get an idea, just write it down. No anxiety or distraction. You can look it over during weekly organizing, keep it for future reconsideration, or discard it as not really important
Step five. Make an action plan for each goal. Don’t prioritize your schedule; schedule your priorities. Put the big rocks in first.5. Organize Your Weeks And Days Around Your Goals
How many of us make our “to do” list entirely of things we have to do that are work related? Or project related? Or concern chores we have to do?
How many of us decide first what is the most important thing in our lives and make sure we purposely plan to do something in that area. Using the FTF principles will not eliminate your to do lists. It should, though, cause you to stop short and make conscious decisions about what is really important to be doing.
Spend more time in preparation, planning, values clarification and less time in busywork, time wasters, escape activities and excessive TV or computer surfing. Don’t spend every moment of the day with time-sensitive appointments. Don’t set a schedule, but create a framework in which quality decisions based on importance can be made on a moment-to-moment basis.
Set weekly goals. At the beginning of the week, look at each role, then ask: what are the one or two most important things I could do in this role this week that would have the greatest positive impact?
Plan your day. Preview the day. Get you bearings. Check your compass. Are you still pointing toward doing things that fit into your mission and goals? If you make a “to do” list, highlight or circle the things that are highest priority – in terms of your mission and goals. Maybe you want to list time-sensitive activities on the left and activities that can be done at any time on the right. Continually ask: “Is this the best use of my time right now?”
Evaluate at the end of the week. Review your mission statement to begin organizing the next week. Before you do that, though, pause and ask such questions as:
- What goals did I achieve? Which goals did I not achieve?
- What kept me from achievement?
- What decisions did I make?
- In making decisions, did I keep first things first?
- What principles did I apply, or fail to apply? What was the effect?
- How much time was spent in unproductive, and unrewarding, activities?
- What can I learn from the week?
Evaluate the week as part of a greater whole, looking for patterns of success or failure in setting and achieving goals, so you can make corrections. Look for things that keep getting in the way of accomplishing your goals.6. Keep Your Focus
As you review your week, here’s a little mantra to keep you focused:
- Connect to my mission
- Review roles
- Identify my goals
- Organize the week
- Carry out my plan with integrity
- Develop a mission statement for your life (“My mission in life is to ..........”)
- Write down at least two primary goals you have for yourself (“I reach out to friends”; “I am a creative and competent programer”; “I eat healthy food”; etc.)
- Determine what roles you play in your world (mother/father, parent, employer, etc.)
- Write down the four fundamental areas of life that are in section 4
- Think of one thing you can do (in one of your roles) this week in each of the four areas.
- Evaluate at the end of the week.
GOOD LUCK AND LET US KNOW HOW YOU DO!