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First Things First

By Will Edwards

Stephen Covey's book, 'The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,' had a real impact on my life. In fact, I always recommend it to people who attend my Personal Development workshops. When my boss read it, however, his first comment to me was that there was something missing - his problem was that he didn't see how you get from the theory to the practice.

There is no doubt that the principles outlined in the book are fundamental truths, indeed they were even known to Aristotle. He said that there are three basic steps that you must take to get what you want out of life:

  1. Understand that you can achieve success
  2. Define what success represents, for you
  3. organize your life around its achievement
And he was absolutely right. Don't under-estimate the value of these simple steps because here you have the ultimate success formula. It is the secret that everyone who has ever been successful, in any field of endeavor, has used.

In his follow-up book, 'First Things First' - the definitive work on Time Management - Stephen Covey explains that most people are driven by the concept of urgency. But to really effect positive change in our lives, we need to reorganize the way we spend our time; based on the concept of importance - not urgency. For most people, the problem is that we are continually doing the urgent stuff, at the expense of the important.

The result of properly dedicating ourselves to the important (what Covey calls 'Quadrant 2') activity is that we will gain control over what is happening in our lives: we will thereby reduce the time we spend being driven by the concept of urgency. Time for 'Quadrant 2' activity, of course, must come from elsewhere. It must come from saying 'no' to some of the urgent stuff!

But how do you go about defining what is important; and what is it, in your daily life, that you can do differently to produce the product you want? These were the questions my boss wanted answered. It was for this reason that I wrote two complementary resources - my book 'The Deepest Desire of Your Heart,' and a time-management tool for applying Quadrant-2 principles, which I call the '4tm System.'

In my workshops at Quanta Training, I have been privileged to be able to teach these important principles and I have been encouraged see people re-define their lives as a consequence, and go for what they really want.

My comprehensive E-Book, 'The Deepest Desire of Your Heart,' contains all the information and practical exercises I used to transform my own life, and which can be used to transform your life too. The '4tm Systemt' is the practical time-management tool my boss wished was available after reading the 7 Habits book.

The 4tm System provides an instant analysis of where your time is being spent in relation to your mission and goals. An extremely useful aid to instantly see if you are spending enough time on your important priorities and whether or not you are getting better at the process of realigning your effort to achieve your purpose.

Using the 4tm System is very simple. It takes no more that one or two minutes at the end of each day to enter an approximation of where you have spent your time that day. It then produces two important graphical representations. Immediately, you can see where you have been spending your time; you can tell whether or not you are getting better at managing your time based on the 7 Habits principles. Not only that, but it also produces a helpful breakdown of your most important priorities.

This spreadsheet enables you to get from theory to the practice. It will help you to ensure you focus your efforts on your most important priorities so that you will absolutely get what you want out of life.

Interview with Peter Shepherd...

Peter: You said to me earlier, "We want to take our message to the world. That's why we are here, after all." I know you are passionate about this - can you briefly explain what you mean by your "message"?

Will: OK - our message, in a nut-shell, is that every human being has the capability of becoming a person who can truly make a difference in the world. We want to encourage more and more people to really think about their lives, decide what is important to them and then actually go for what would bring them greatest satisfaction and fulfillment.

Peter: So are you suggesting that people should consider changing their jobs and careers? That's quite a message!

Will: Yes it is but I really believe that people need to hear this message because so many people - we think the figure is around 80% - are busy doing jobs they don't really care about; their heart is just not in what they are doing. You know, someone once said, "it's not the things we do, in life, that we ultimately regret, but the things we don't do," and I think there's a lot of truth in that.

Peter: You have written a book on this subject... please tell me a bit about it.

Will: Well, it's called: 'The Deepest Desire of Your Heart' and it contains all the information and practical exercises I used to transform my own life... to complete my own career change and begin living the life of my dreams.

Peter: Do you think it is realistic that people can actually start living the lives of their dreams?

Will: Yes, I do believe it's possible to live the life of your dreams! In fact, it's my belief that's exactly why you have the dream in the first place. I believe that desire has been implanted within your heart and it is for you to find out what is in your heart, and then to achieve it. That alone will bring you happiness, success and deep satisfaction in life.

Peter: What if I don't know what my dream is - what if I don't have a dream?

Will: Well, that is in fact the basic problem for many people - they just don't know what they really want. But they can know - they can become aware of what I prefer to call their life purpose. And when they do, nothing can stop them - nothing can hold them back from achieving it.

Peter: But then how does someone go about turning their dream into reality?

Will: Do you know of Seneca? I'm sure you do. Well, I believe he gives us the treasure map. He shows us that our thoughts, actions, habits and character are all important in achieving our destiny. This is the second basic problem for many people: the area of translating their vision into action; and that's where our other resource, the 4tm System can really help. It's a system that allows people to see and measure their progress toward their most important goals.

Peter: It uses a spreadsheet to do that doesn't it?

Will: Yes. The spreadsheet provides graphical feedback showing you how well you are doing. It basically allows people to improve their effectiveness over time.

Peter: You say 'graphical feedback' - what do you mean by that?

Will: The spreadsheet delivers a pie-chart showing your use of time, divided into four quadrants - anyone familiar with Stephen Covey's work would recognize these quadrants. Covey's work tells us that quadrant two is the key to effectiveness. A problem for many people is that they don't know how much time they are spending on quadrant-two activity and this spreadsheet removes the guesswork. It also provides a bar-chart breakdown analysis of quadrant two activity.

Peter: Sounds interesting. Where can you get the spreadsheet, and does it work on the Mac?

Will: The spreadsheet is part of The 4tm System - and it comes free with the book! It runs under Excel, and on Mac or Windows equally well.

Peter: Sounds like a good deal to me. I am certainly pleased to be able to recommend your program to our Newsletter subscribers.

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