Nov 02

“First Things First” In Three Different Ways

Online dictionary definition of “First things first”: Used to assert that important matters should be dealt with before other things.

First things first. Whether regarding time management, addiction recovery, and/or decision-making about one’s primary romantic relationship versus another, this slogan may seem simplistic—but often comes in handy.

I. Time Management

Stephen R. Covey (1932-2012) wrote First Things First, about time management, in the 1990’s. Joan Price‘s Amazon Review states that Covey’s organizing process is designed to help you prioritize what’s truly important. Four quadrants represent the tasks you find at hand—and your job is to figure out what goes where:

  1. Important and Urgent (crises, deadline-driven projects)
  2. Important, Not Urgent (preparation, prevention, planning, relationships)
  3. Urgent, Not Important (interruptions, many pressing matters)
  4. Not Urgent, Not Important (trivia, time wasters)

Focusing on quadrants one and three, the urgency realm, is what many people do:

We get a temporary high from solving urgent and important crises. Then when the importance isn’t there, the urgency fix is so powerful we are drawn to do anything urgent, just to stay in motion. People expect us to be busy, overworked. It’s become a status symbol in our society—if we’re busy, we’re important; if we’re not busy, we’re almost embarrassed to admit it. Busyness is where we get our security. It’s validating, popular, and pleasing. It’s also a good excuse for not dealing with the first things in our lives. ‘I’d love to spend quality time with you, but I have to work. There’s this deadline. It’s urgent. Of course you understand.’ ‘I just don’t have time to exercise. I know it’s important, but there are so many pressing things right now. Maybe when things slow down a little.’

Focusing on quadrant number two, on the other hand, is more likely to be constructive.

II. Addiction/Sobriety

So, there’s urgency addiction, according to Covey, and of course so many other types of addiction. How exactly can “first things first,” a key 12-step slogan, apply to addiction recovery? For those early in the process, expert Lisa Frederiksen, Breaking the Cycles, offers the following steps, noting in advance that it’s either the addict or the caring loved one who can start the process toward health. (Click on the link for details.)

  • Accept that addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease.
  • Learn as much as you can about what happens in the brain of an addict/alcoholic as a result of the brain disease of addiction and about what happens in the brains of the family member, as well.
  • Let go of the old notion of control.
  • Do what you can to improve your diet, get regular exercise and get enough sleep.

III. Relationship Decision-Making

A common dilemma: Person A is in some level of commitment to one partner (B) but having an affair, emotional or otherwise, with another (C). Often at some point A has to determine, is it B or or is it C? Or maybe neither. “First things first” requires time and space to re-place more focus on both the problems and benefits of being with the one who was a priority first, B. Only then can A become rational and free enough from outside pressures to make appropriate decisions in this regard.