Effective Time Management: A First Things First Approach

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In this workshop, we'll use insights from the book First Things First to enhance your time management skills and life satisfaction. We'll guide you through self-discovery, goal setting, and planning activities that align with your values. The workshop aims to foster skills such as Time Management, Goal Setting, Prioritization, Self-Reflection, and Work-Life Balance. While reading "First Things First" is recommended for a deeper understanding, our focus will be on practical time management strategies and activities meaningful to you. Our main objective is to help you align your week around your important roles and values, thus creating a fulfilling life. We'll work towards crafting your personal mission statement, identifying significant roles, and setting reflective goals.

This workshop may assist you with skills such as Time Management, Goal Setting, Prioritization, Self-Reflection, and Work-Life Balance.

Creating Your Mission Statement [15 minutes]

To start this journey, we invite you to indulge in a bit of daydreaming. Imagine yourself at your 80th birthday party, surrounded by loved ones. What would you want them to say about you? Take this time to write down your ideal toasts, capturing the impact you'd love to have on their lives.

Write down these imagined responses, listing a few sentences for each person. Don't aim for realism, just sketch your ideal scenario.

Identifying Important Roles [10 minutes]

Now, using the toasts you've written, consider what roles seem to matter most to you. Are you a mentor? A parent? A partner? A friend? What roles resonate with your deepest desires?

Discuss the most important roles to you with your cohort. Also, identify which roles are relevant for you right now.

Exploring Additional Roles [10 minutes]

For a well-rounded life, consider four more roles: Physical, Mental, Emotional, and Spiritual. Each of these roles pertains to your overall well-being and personal development, encompassing activities like maintaining your health, learning, nurturing relationships, and practicing mindfulness.

  • Physical: This role relates to your physical and financial health. It's about maintaining a healthy body through exercise, diet, and adequate rest, as well as managing your financial well-being responsibly.
  • Mental: This role involves engaging in activities that stimulate the mind. Reading books, learning new skills, attending workshops or courses, and engaging in intellectual discussions all fall under this category. It's about ensuring continuous learning and mental growth.
  • Emotional: This role involves building and nurturing relationships with loved ones, friends, and colleagues. It also entails working on your emotional well-being through practices such as mindfulness, self-reflection, journaling, and seeking emotional support when needed.
  • Spiritual: This role involves activities that foster a deeper connection with oneself, others, and the universe. Practices might include meditation, prayer, expressing gratitude, connecting with nature, performing acts of kindness, and engaging with spiritual literature. The goal is personal growth and a sense of fulfillment.

Make sure to include all four of these roles every week when you do your weekly planning! This is how you keep learning, growing, and maintaining a well-balanced life that’s deeply fulfilling.

Discuss with your cohort: How could these additional roles currently fit into your life? (Take ~1-2 minutes per person to discuss)

Break [10 minutes]

Prioritizing Important Activities [25 minutes]

Many people tend to prioritize urgent tasks over important ones, often driven by external demands and a sense of immediacy.

However, Covey argues that true effectiveness comes from focusing on activities that are both important and aligned with one's values and long-term goals.

There is a distinction between urgency and importance when categorizing tasks. Urgency refers to how soon something needs to be done, while importance relates to the long-term impact and alignment with one's mission statement.

Here are examples of tasks from all four quadrants of the Time Management Matrix, as described in "First Things First":

Urgent Not Urgent
Quadrant 1 (Urgent and Important)

Meeting an urgent deadline
Handling a crisis or emergency
Addressing health issues
Quadrant 2 (Not Urgent but Important)

Long-term strategic planning
Building and nurturing relationships
Regular exercise and cognitive self-development
Meditation and self-reflection
Quadrant 3 (Urgent but Not Important)

Attending unnecessary meetings
Dealing with interruptions
Responding to non-essential emails
Quadrant 4 (Not Urgent and Not Important)

Mindlessly browsing social media
Excessive TV or video game usage
Engaging in gossip or idle conversations

The book suggests focusing most of your time on Quadrant 2, i.e. doing activities that are Important but Not Urgent. These “Quadrant 2” tasks help people make proactive decisions and prevent crises.

Focusing on “Quadrant 1,” i.e. “Urgent and Important” tasks may seem intuitive. However, spending too much time in Quadrant 1 ultimately keeps you stuck in a cycle of responding to crises, rather than preventing or preparing for them.

The book also suggests eliminating Quadrant 3 and 4 activities entirely because they provide little value.

Spend 5 minutes per person to discuss with your cohort: what is the most important task you can do in each of your roles this week, that will move you closer to your mission statement becoming a reality?

Write these goals down as you go -- you’ll need them for the next activity. (This can get personal, so only share the goals you’re comfortable with!)

Scheduling Goals [10 minutes]

The next step is to transfer your weekly goals into your calendar or planner. Block off specific times for these activities, ensuring they're prioritized in your week.

Schedule your non-urgent and important (Quadrant 2) goals into your weekly planner.

Not all important activities are non-urgent. There will always be tasks that are both urgent and important (Quadrant 1). Identify these for the coming week and add them to your schedule.

Finally, reserve some time at the end of your upcoming week to reflect on your experiences.

Through this process, you'll be well-equipped to manage your time effectively, prioritize your roles, and create a fulfilling and balanced life. Remember, it's about putting the first things first!

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