schedule your week - not your day!

As I read through Stephen Covey's Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, I find myself wanting to stop and reread every single page. Generally speaking, I enjoy racing through a book. Seven Habits, however, prompts me to physically highlight, dog-ear, and note-take like a college student cramming for exams.

The book is broken down into 3 sections - private victories (habits 1-3), public victories (habits 4-6), and renewal (habit 7). The chapter which is currently capturing my attention is Habit 3 - Put First Things First. This sums up the first section on private victories - victories of moving from dependence to independence. Anyway, before I read about the third habit, I always assumed I was the type of person to put first things first. I have my priorities! I go to church and occasionally work out. I mostly make food from scratch, do daily devotions when I get around to it, and budget when I can. I sometimes write - but only when everything else is done.

Then I realized there was a common theme running through all of these daily habits or tasks - if performed daily, they would make my life excellent. Not just good. But I don't actually do these things daily, because I don't prioritize them. I mean, I sometimes add them to my to do list, but there are many days when I don't get around to them because I have a cold, or the baby is fussy, or I have to finish Christmas shopping, or it's super cold outside so I'm obligated to sit on the couch and eat popcorn all day.

Mr. Covey's book was a serious wake-up call for me. I am living a reactive life. Contrary to what I think about myself, the facts don't lie. I am not prioritizing what is important. I'm only getting around to them. So what is the practical solution? What's the take-away? How do I stop being this flimsy Mrs. Wishy Washy type person?

Covey suggests planning our weeks instead of planning our days. It's so simple! The strategy is to first write down everything that is a priority after spending time reflecting on what you deeply value. This reflection is key. If you haven't taken the time to identify and write down or verbalize what's important to you, how can you prioritize it in your life?

This chapter began by asking "What one thing could you do, that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?" Naturally, I thought of a dozen things. Eventually I narrowed it down to one spiritual and one physical goal to add to my routine. I then went straight to my planner and scheduled those things into the next week with specific times and dates. I put first things first. My week, my time, was reflective of my deepest values, not things that just so happened to come up.

Every other aspect of my day can be scheduled around these important things. Throughout 2013 a major frustration of mine was always feeling like I was forgetting something important. I am hoping this positive change in habit will rid me of that nagging feeling.

Here are some of my personal priorities that should be scheduled before all else:

  • personal Bible study
  • daily devotions
  • writing blog posts or book chapters
  • one phone call each week to a friend
  • working out several times per week
  • cooking nutritious meals
  • weekly family budget meetings
  • quality time with my husband
  • reading with my daughter
  • connecting with parents I teach or coach

Naturally, these priorities will vary from person to person depending on your living situation, your job, and your personal preferences.

If you actually get the chance to read through this powerful book, the chapter on Habit 3 has many more practical tips and thought-provoking questions to help you plan your weeks and days to meet your needs. Dave Ramsey always says to be the master of your money, not a slave to your money. I think the same thing goes for our habits and priorities. If we don't schedule our priorities, we will be subject to things that come up or happen to us.

I think Covey's main point of this chapter was to say that when we are in tune with our own values and priorities, and our habits and actions reflect them, we begin to live a more effective and meaningful life.

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