The Power of “First Things First”


The saying “first things first” is an idiom that means prioritizing the most critical issues before dealing with less important ones. It emphasizes the importance of organizing one’s priorities and focusing on what truly matters.

The phrase itself has been in use for centuries, and its origins trace back to ancient wisdom and various philosophical teachings. However, it became more widely known in the English language through literature and speeches.

One notable instance is from the works of the English author and philosopher Thomas Fuller, who used a similar expression in his book “Pisgah Sight of Palestine” published in 1650: “First, God first, and God last, or God all in all.” The concept of putting first things first has echoed in different forms across religious, philosophical, and self-help literature throughout history.

In more recent times, the phrase gained further prominence as a key principle in management and productivity literature. The grandfather of modern management, Peter Drucker, emphasized the importance of focusing on key priorities and concentrating efforts on the most critical tasks to achieve success in business and personal endeavors.

Author Stephen Covey, in his influential self-help book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” popularized the idea with the habit “Put First Things First,” which is about prioritizing important, non-urgent tasks over urgent but less important ones.

Examples of First Things First Priorities

Spirituality: Connecting with the Creator can be the highest and most meaningful aspect of life.

Health and Well-being: Physical and mental health are typically considered foundational for a fulfilling life. With good health, it can be easier to enjoy other aspects of life. Exercising and meditation can have a long-term positive impact on health and well-being.

Family: Many people prioritize their responsibility to family. Meaningful connections with loved ones contribute significantly to happiness and a sense of purpose and belonging.

Personal Growth and Education: Continuous learning, self-improvement, and personal development are valued from formal education to gaining and refining skills and expanding one’s knowledge.

Career and Financial Stability: A satisfying and stable career can provide financial security and a sense of purpose. Many individuals emphasize building a successful career and achieving financial goals as a top priority.

Creativity and Expression: Many people find fulfillment in expressing themselves through art, music, writing, or other creative outlets.

Community and Social Engagement: Involvement in the community, social groups, and civic activities can provide a sense of belonging and contribute to the well-being of society.

In essence, the saying “first things first” encourages individuals to focus on what truly matters and to allocate their time and energy to tasks that align with their long-term goals and values.