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First Things First

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First Things First

To Live, to Love, to Learn, to Leave a Legacy

Simon & Schuster,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Text available

What's inside?

Kick the urgency addiction: get back to the important stuff.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Applicable


Most time-management schemes fail because they don’t address basic principles. But this is a rich, moving and powerful book for anyone who is open to its message. While the language is a little overblown, the basic message is truly profound. The authors have identified a clear path to a way of life that enriches the person, the people around, and the world at large. For principle-centered living, it is critical to focus on activities that are important, and not just urgent. We must learn to live by the compass of principles instead of focusing on the clock. We must also have the humility to understand that importance is defined by principles that are larger than our values. Don’t focus on urgent activities. Focus instead on important things – first things. Set principle-based goals. Try to do the right thing, for the right reason, in the right way. Focus on working with others to create win-win situations. Not everyone will be willing to live the humble, giving, and spiritual life, but for those who are, this book is all but unassailable. getAbstract recommends this book to everyone in business.


The Clock and The Compass

Traditional time management focuses on to-do lists and prioritizing tasks, calendars and appointment books, or planning, prioritizing and controlling, with short, medium and long-term goals in mind. This book presents a principle-centered approach to time management. Traditional time management suggests that if you do things more efficiently, you will get control of your life and find peace and fulfillment. This notion is wrong. We cannot control everything, so it is pointless to base our happiness on our ability to control. We are not in control of our lives; universal laws or principles are. The struggle to put “first things first” can be summarized by the difference between the clock and the compass.

The clock symbolizes how we manage our time: Appointments, schedules and goals.

The compass symbolizes vision, values, principles and conscience. It represents what we feel is important and how we lead our lives.

Problems arise when there’s a gap between the clock and the compass, when our activities don’t add to what we feel is important in life.

For most people, there is still a gap between what’s important to them and how...

About the Authors

Stephen Covey is an internationally respected authority on leadership. He holds an MBA from Harvard and a doctorate from Brigham Young University. He is founder of the Covey Leadership Center. His book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, has sold more than 4 million copies and has been translated into 26 languages. A. Roger Merrill is a leader in time management and leadership development. He has a degree in business management and is a founding member of the Covey Leadership Center. Rebecca Merrill is co-author of Connections: Quadrant II Time Management and assisted Stephen Covey on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

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