Monday, June 23, 2014

The 7 Habits of Mental Wellness: Habit 3 - Put First Things First

This is the fourth article in the series: The 7 Habits of Mental Health Recovery - based on the late Stephen R. Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective PeopleSee "The 7 Habits of Mental Wellness" for the introduction to this series, as well as "Habit 1" and "Habit 2"

Habit 3 is Put First Things First. It is the habit of action. As with Habit 1 and Habit 2, before I go into how it relates to mental health, let me give you a little background on Habit 3 from the late Stephen R. Covey. 


Covey says that the way we spend our time is based on importance and urgency - that all activities fit into one of four categories:  urgent and important (Quadrant I), not urgent and important (Quadrant II), urgent and not important (Quadrant III), and not urgent and not important (Quadrant IV).

Quadrant I includes "crises, pressing problems, and deadline-driven projects"; Quadrant II, "prevention...relationship building, recognizing new opportunities, planning, and recreation"; Quadrant III, "interruptions, some calls, some mail...some meetings, proximate and pressing matters, and popular activities", and Quadrant IV, "trivia, busywork, some mail, some phone calls, time wasters, pleasant activities."

Quadrant III is driven by other people and not by our own goals, and Quadrant IV is entirely wasted time. The goal is to only spend time on that which is important - and ideally, to reduce Quadrant I by spending more time in Quadrant II.

[For a good visual, see Forbes.]

We can do this by learning to say "no" to Quadrants III and IV and by scheduling into our weekly plans Quadrant II activities which are based on our personal vision (see "Habit 2").


When one is suffering from mental illness, time management usually falls by the wayside; but managing one's time in alignment with one's vision is one of the best things we can do for our recovery.

There are many ways to do this. Cell phones come equipped with calendars, reminders, and time management apps; and there are online to do lists like and However, I think they all fall short in connecting activities to vision.

The best tool I have found for this is the traditional, hard copy planner. I prefer it because it's actually quicker to enter something into a hard copy planner than a cell phone. Also, there are planner sections for capturing on paper the notes and activities of the various roles of one's life, as well as one's goals and vision. And, quite frankly, a planner is attractive to carry around!

Planners come in myriad colors, sizes, and materials; and there's a wide variety of inserts available as well.

For planners, check-out:

For inserts, check out the above and, my absolute favorite, Life Is Crafted. With prompts for thought and inspirational quotes built right in, Life Is Crafted inserts capture your vision and passions and help you incorporate them into your monthly, weekly, and daily planning. For a great overview, check out A5 Planner Inserts Dotty 2014 Starter Pack Day Per Page and their other videos

Regardless, the medium you choose, the idea is to link your activities to your personal vision, so that you are living in alignment with your highest priorities and not carried away by the whims and urgencies of the day.