So you want to plan a day.
But how do you know what’s most important for you to do? What determines your ‘first things’?
[perfectpullquote align=”full” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””] The key to quality of life is in the compass–it’s in the choices we make every day. -Stephen R. Covey. [/perfectpullquote]
In First Things First, Stephen R. Covey and A. Roger Merrill describe the steps to identifying what’s important and focusing our effort on it. They tell us that a weekly planning, instead of daily planning, provides a broader context to what we do.
Step One: Connect with your vision and mission
Once we start planning, the first step makes us connect with what’s most important in our lives as a whole. You’ll know it by answering the following questions:
1. What’s most important?
2. What gives your life meaning?
3. What do you want to be and to do in your life?
The answers are important since it will affect the way you spend your time.
Now, how you come up with your mission in life. The authors of First Things First gives us a lists of tasks in order to find out our mission:
- List the three or four things you would consider ‘first things’ in your life.
- Consider any long-range goals you might have set.
- Think about the most important relationship in your life.
- Think about any contributions you’d like to make.
- Reaffirm the feelings you want to have in your life–peace, confidence, happiness, contribution, meaning.
- Think about how you might spend this week if you knew you only had six months to live.
Step Two: Identify your roles
Why should we identify our roles?
The main reason is because it will give us a sense of the wholeness of quality of life; that life is more than just a job, or a family, or a particular relationship. Life is all of these together.
As important as the roles, there’s a foundational role called ‘Sharpen the saw.’ It’s a role that everyone has and it’s foundational for success in every other role.
The term ‘Sharpen the saw’ is a metaphor that describes the energy we invest in increasing our personal capacity in the four fundamental areas–physical, social, mental, and spiritual.
Richard Swenson calls it Margin. Margin to reevaluate your priorities restoring emotional, physical, financial, and time. Living marginless, on the other hand, is “being thirty minutes late to the doctor’s office because you were twenty minutes late getting out of the bank because you were ten minutes late dropping the kids off at school because the car ran out of gas two blocks from the gas station–and you forgot your wallet.”
Once you’ve identified your roles, ask yourself these questions:
- Do I often find that I’m consumed by one or two roles in my life, and that the others do not receive the time and attention I’d like to give them?
- How many of my ‘first things’ are in roles other than those that receive most of my time and attention?
- Do the roles I’ve selected work together to contribute to the fulfillment of my mission?
- What difference would it make in the quality of my life to consider these roles on a weekly basis, and ensure that my activities are appropriately balanced?
Step Three: Goals in each role
With your framework of roles identified, ask yourself: What is the most important thing I could do in each role this week to have the greatest positive impact?
Then, ask the following questions:
- What would happen if I did these things during the coming week?
- How would I feel about the quality of my life?
- What if I did some of them?
- Would it make a positive difference in my life?
- What if I did this every week?
- Would I be more effective than I am now?
Step Four: Create a decision-making framework for the week
Here the key is to schedule your priorities. Sometimes you might feel that a goal shouldn’t be scheduled a particular hour but be listed as a priority. That’s okay too.