Title: First things first
Author: Stephen R. Covey, A Roger Merrill, Rebecca Merrill
Publication: Prentice Hall & IBD; Reprint edition (1 Jun 1995)
Reviewed by: A.S Abd Mokti
From the 7 habits of highly effective people, Covey and the Merrill’s extracted the 3rd habit which is to ‘put first thing first’ and elaborated the framework of time management in a more relevant perspective of today’s hassle and bustle life. The book discussed on the levels of time management and to the 4th generation of management which incorporates all the other 3 generations’ strength transcends readers to enhance their techniques from being in the 1st, 2nd and 3rd generation and eliminates their weaknesses. As the title suggests, the book is relevant to busy people and the alike.
The book also incorporates the other 6 habits into the 3rd habit and enhances discussion on the importance of people to realize the need and capacities of human; i.e. the need to live, love, learn and to leave a legacy. He argued that human achievement are not based on ‘numerical’ values such as money in the bank, properties, number of friends etc, but rather it’s the quality of those few that matters. Putting first things first also coincides with the four endowments- self-awareness, conscience, independent will and creative imagination all of which needed to fulfill our needs and capacities in a principle-centered way.
Covey and the Merrill’s also introduced the concepts which could be foreign to other non-reader of his book such as ‘setting the compass right instead of the clock’, avoiding ‘cotton-candy’ satisfaction, living on a ‘true-north principle’ etc. Rather than confusing, these concepts are highly relevant in our lives today as we are used to be living on a ‘quick-fix’ world instead of endeavouring the rough lane. He also outlined the ‘four quadrants’ of activities, which many of us would have missed out and showed how the power of vision and personal leadership could govern the time management. Balanced in roles and seeing the roles as interdependent rather than competing each other is also the essence of his discussion in this book.
Although most of the sections in the book concern personal time management, there is also a section of interaction with other people in putting ‘first things first’. Here, he discussed the ‘think win-win’ manifestation in a company and how to create synergy from difference and to always seek a 3rd solution to the problems that arise. The book is loaded with a lot of real life examples based on the experience of the Covey and the other 2 authors in handling seminars to improve companies and their experiences with individual people in their daily lives in realizing the reality.
The end section of the books emphasizes the importance of ‘the peace of the results’ with the realization that all are not governed by us, only are actions are, but the results are based on the ‘natural law’. As M. Scott Peck observed on the ‘Road Less Traveled’:
“Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. Its is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we know that life is difficult- then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.”