First Things First

The saying “First Things First” has been used by many people in many ways.  The general meaning of it is to prioritize what you need to do, putting the most important thing at the top of the list and working your way down to the least important.  Sometimes this list is only two items long.  For example, when I was younger my mother used to say, “First Things First” if she wanted us to do a chore before going outside to play.

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Putting first things first is an important practice because it helps you to prioritize what is important to make sure these things remain foremost in our minds.  During this pandemic and quarantine, it is especially critical for us to keep this mantra in our thoughts to maintain our mental health.  If we allow our brain to dwell on the future, and the possibilities of what our lives may be like, then we may end up emotionally paralyzed and not able to do anything at all.  Take one day at a time and take care of only today – first things first. 

Putting first things first means organizing and executing around your most important priorities. It is living and being driven by the principles you value most, not by the agendas and forces surrounding you.

Stephen Covey

For me, remaining happy and sane means taking a walk in the morning to start my day off right.  By making this a priority for myself, I feel some sense of control.  It has also helped me to become physically healthier as a result of the exercise.  

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During work, I have a constant flow of emails and phone calls asking me to do one thing or another.  It is important for me to put first things first and make sure I take care of priorities before doing less important tasks.  Doing this grants me a feeling of accomplishment and success.  It is also important in my need for organization which helps to prevent me from feeling overwhelmed.

When I come home from work, there are so many things that call my attention, but I put first things first and spend some time reading my daily meditation books before tackling any of the chores that need to be done.  This small amount of self-care helps me to be more giving to others who need me.  I am much more generous with giving of myself because I don’t feel resentful about letting go of my precious time.  

Put first things first and we get second things thrown in: put second things first & we lose both first and second things.

C. S. Lewis

How to put first things first and prioritize your life:

  1. Sit quietly and think about your life and responsibilities.
  2. Write down what you do every day/week/month and rank them according to their importance.
  3. Identify which of these are wants and which are needs (both are important).
  4. Which of these things can be removed? What needs to be added? (Be aware of time constraints)
  5. Schedule a time when these things will be accomplished. Write it on your calendar.
  6. Re-visit this schedule regularly and adjust the days or times as needed.
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The older I get the more wisdom I find in the ancient rule of taking first things first. A process which often reduces the most complex human problem to a manageable proportion.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

Putting first things first is an important part of personal success.  When you practice this you are becoming more organized and disciplined with your time. This will lead to a feeling of calm and control, even in a time when most things may seem out of our control.  

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