Rereading Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits we find that one of the most important skills to master is setting priorities . It is of little use to establish clear deadlines, goals and objectives if you are not able to establish priorities first.
Unfortunately, it is precisely in establishing these priorities that we tend to be weakest.
We live in quite hectic times, information falls on us like a waterfall, thousands of things demand our attention every day, it is not easy, not at all easy…
I believe that the most important lesson to be learned from Stephen Covey’s book ” The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People “ is the technique of prioritizing tasks.
According to Covey, tasks should be divided into 4 categories:
1. Tasks without importance or urgency, for example:
- Return calls that are not important.
- Answer emails that are not important.
2. Unimportant but urgent tasks, for example:
- End last-minute preparations for the meeting.
- Participate in a meeting that is necessary but does not help your career
3. Important tasks, for example:
- Wrap up last-minute preparations for an important meeting with your boss.
- Make last minute calls to key clients.
4. Important but non-urgent tasks, for example:
- Learn to write better.
- Learn to speak better.
When you break down your tasks into these four categories, it’s easier to realize that you shouldn’t give any priority to “unimportant and unimportant” tasks.
In fact, these tasks should not be done at all. They are a waste of time. However, many people spend a lot of time on them because they tend to be easy and sometimes they are the kind of tasks that are enjoyable and don’t require mental strain.
Covey says, “It’s like a powerful surf.” “A big problem comes and throws you to the ground and you are annihilated. You struggle to get up to face another problem that comes along and knocks you out and knocks you to the ground.” You are “literally being hit by problems every day”.
Sound familiar to you?
Or they are afraid to work on important tasks because they fear failure.
What’s even worse than spending time on tasks that aren’t important or urgent, is spending time on tasks that aren’t important but urgent.
They should have been resolved long before they reach the crisis stage.
If you realize that you are spending a lot of time on tasks that are not important, you have a serious problem . And unless you change your habits, you are unlikely to achieve any of your important goals.
So what are the tasks you should prioritize?
In his book, Covey writes that most people think they should prioritize important and urgent tasks. But that is a mistake.
Covey says, “It’s like a powerful surf.” “A big problem comes and throws you to the ground and you are annihilated. You struggle to get up to deal with another problem that comes along and knocks you out and knocks you to the ground.” You are “literally being hit by problems every day”. Sound familiar to you?
All urgent tasks, both important and not important, are problematic. They are urgent because you have neglected something or because they are important to other people, such as your boss.
In either case, you need to find a way to keep most of those problems off your to-do list. This means having to change some work habits, because urgent tasks are going to wear you down and turn you into an unhappy workaholic.
If you want to experience a transformation in your life, you have to prioritize important but not urgent tasks, since they are the ones that will help you achieve your most important and long-term goals.
Is not easy. Nobody said it is.
And it’s not easy because important but not urgent tasks whisper, while urgent tasks scream. But there is a way to do those critical but silent things. And for that you can apply these four simple steps.
Four steps to set priorities and be more effective
Step 1 . When you plan your days, divide your tasks into the four categories Covey mentioned: Not important or urgent, Not important but urgent, Important and urgent, and Important but not urgent.
Step 2. Of course you have to do all the urgent tasks – at least until you get better at managing your schedule. In addition, you will have to find a way to eliminate tasks that are not important or urgent.
Still, be sure to include an important, non-urgent task that, once completed, will move you closer to one of your long-term goals.
Step 3 . Highlight on your list that task that is important but not urgent. Make it the number one priority of your day.
Step 4 . Do that task first before anything else. At first, it will be difficult for you to accomplish a task that is important but not urgent. There are reasons for it.
- Since it’s not urgent, you think it’s not important. But it is.
- Since it is a task that leads to a goal that you have postponed, you are used to putting it aside.
- You are used to putting it aside because you think it is not important and because you may be afraid to do it.
- You may be afraid to do homework because you know, deep down, that it will change your life. And all change, even if it is good, produces fear.
But once you start using the four-step technique, you’ll notice something right away: you feel great. Accomplishing something you’ve been putting off is energizing. It will erase some doubts you have about yourself – doubts caused by spending years “not reaching” your long-term goals.
The extra energy and confidence will build and fuel you through the day. It will help you accomplish other important but not urgent tasks.
As the days go by, you will realize that you are making measurable progress on neglected goals. In a few weeks, you will be amazed at how much you have done. And in 52 weeks – a year from today – you will be a new person, much more productive.
That year will also pass. You’re going to pass the time somehow. Why not do it by taking command of your agenda? Why not spend that time on yourself, on what is really important to you? You dare?