Developing Focus, and How to Put the First Things First

Time is your most important scarce resource.  Does anyone have enough time in this information overload age?  Gadgets are blasting us—tempting us with “news” stories that we all too often chase down with regret.  TVs give too many options, yet people still lament there is nothing to watch.  T.S. Eliot had it right decades ago when he wrote, “Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge?  Where is the knowledge we have lost in information?”.  People have way too much information and way too little of what they really need—wisdom, and the focus to implement it.  There is urgency all around in a world that needs importance. 

This is the topic of Stephen Covey’s book (co-authors Roger and Rebecca Merrill), First Things First, his follow up to the classic The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Persons. 


His time management matrix is transformational (matrix on the right).  Virtually no one is spending enough time in Quadrant 2, the time quadrant for “important, but not urgent” tasks.  Peoples’ most important priorities are usually in this quadrant, but they find too many reasons to keep delaying attention to these matters!    

To focus your time in this way takes amazing discipline.  That is the job of a coach, to enable you to determine your “first things” and to be your accountability partner on continually being attentive to them. 

Leaders are usually biting off way more than they have time for.  They identify an incredible number of good things they can be doing.  Leaders think, “why not do all the good things?”.  Well, you can’t do every good thing.  MiTek CEO, Mark Thom, said recently, “we’re getting ‘gooded’ to death, when we should only be focused on the best”.  People are spreading themselves too thin, and not appropriately determining the most important things. 

Can you focus? Executive coaching can help.  A coach can take you through a conversation that lets you identify all the priorities you would love to work on.  They list all your priorities but then go through a ranking process.  Together you would come up with a lot of good options that need to be delayed, delegated, or deleted.  Then you are left with the best things, your “First Things.”  What is “most important” will be highly subjective but will be those priorities with the greatest impact potential. 

As stated in First Things First, manage your time with a “compass, not a clock”.  Know where you are going. Not what time it is.  Convene would love to help you establish your “First Things” and the action plan to stay on track towards these.  Let’s work together to put more time in Quadrant 2.  If the leader can focus, the team can flourish!

To learn more about the Convene executive coaching platform, just click here or if you are interested in ongoing business and leadership skill-development, consider joining a Convene Peer Advisory Group.  

You can also learn more about Focus in this Convene Whitepaper, “Focusing on Your Keys to Significant Success”.