PofE 037: Book Review – First Things First – Stephen Covey

First Things First


• “First Things First” is a book written in 1994 by Stephen Covey and the Merrill brothers that changed my life and focused me on a daily habit of scheduling first things first. The premise of the book is to keep the main thing the main thing.

• Ken Blanchard in his endorsement of the book states, "Together with the Merrills, Stephen Covey has written a thought-provoking book that makes us look at ourselves in life more importantly, 'First Thing First' gently guides us to the basic principles."

• Steve Young, quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers, stated, "The greatest successes I've had in my life can be attribute to the life-changing principles Covey teaches in 'First Things First.'"

• Melanie Mackenzie, co-author of “Managing Your Goals,” stated, "Time management gives us the tools but 'First Things First' delivers us to a place where we can each make the right choices; fueled by powerful visions of a life lived as a legacy – a life of enduring meaning."

• These three quotes are a few of the endorsements Stephen Covey received in writing "First Things First" and is a solid foundation for a paradigm shift in time management practices. Read it and your thinking and life will change.

What I learned:

• "First Things First" looks at the clock and the compass from a time management perspective very differently. The clock represents commitments, appointments, schedules, goals and activities and these are things that I have to manage but to accomplish what is truly meaningful I needed to embrace the compass. The compass represents vision, principles, mission and direction. The compass mindset has helped me to determine the priorities of my life and to manage my key activities.

• Urgency can be an addiction; when I find myself in firefighting mode personally and professionally, then I know that I have become addicted to working on what’s urgent and not what’s important. Many are consumed with the urgent instead of the important. By working on what's important you put things that are urgent in their place and you're able to bring order, calm and control back into your life.

• One of the most important principles I've gleaned from the book is daily planning. I write out my goals and prioritize them every day. I do this by categorizing my roles and important areas of my life. I also asked myself three critical questions that I learned from Stephen Covey:

o What's the most important thing I need to do today and this week?

o What activity has the most meaning for my life today and this week?

o Who do I want to be today and this week?

• Finally, I’ve learned to conduct a weekly evaluation and review of the critical things I’ve learned this week and then to develop a plan for my activities for next week.


• One of the greatest benefits of learning the concepts of "First Things First" is that my focus has changed to who I am becoming, not just what I'm doing. I've concluded that I will never arrive, but that in accomplishing my goals there is always more to learn. Understanding these principles has allowed me to be more flexible and spontaneous in my daily life, to enjoy greater relationships and synergy in my work. To become someone who loves learning and to continuously look for ways I can contribute. To focus on producing results and leading a more balanced life. Stephen Covey’s teachings have enabled me to become confident, secure, and have greater peace of mind as I balance the activities of my day.

Other posts on Stephen Covey that you may enjoy: How Stephen Covey Helped Me Achieve A Work-Life Balance 

Principles of Execution Key Concepts:

  • First Things First
  • Stephen Covey
  • Time Management


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