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The Seven Habits of Highly Effective Social Media – First Things First

Habit 3: First Things First

This habit is a critical one, and one that gets a lot of attention.  Before we delve into First Things First, let’s take a step back to place this habit in the proper context.

Covey’s first three habits are described as habits of independence.  They are introspective in nature.  When adopted successfully they provide a stable foundation for engaging the outside world with purpose, conviction, and confidence.  Habit 3, First Things First, is the final of the 3 habits of independence.   I view habit 1 as the realization that you control your life through your thoughts and actions.  Habit 2 then extends this realization into a vision and purpose for future actions – personal leadership rooted in changeless principles.  Which brings us to Habit 3, First Things First.

Habit 3 is about execution.  It is the carrying out of the first 2 habits.  First things first is about taking the necessary steps to bring the mental creation of “Begin With the End In Mind” into the physical world.  This is accomplished by focusing time, talent, and energy on the important things in your life as opposed to those that are simply urgent.  Important is determined by your principles, not by the opinions of the outside world, the demands of others, or the shifting fads of popular culture.

Steven Covey asks readers of the book to answer the following question with regard to habit 3 – “What is the one activity that you absolutely know that if you did it superbly well and consistently well would produce marvelous results in your personal or professional life?”   Why are you not doing it?  This is where you should focus your time and talent – on that which is important.

How does this apply to social media?

In the digitally connected, always-on world in which we live, there is no shortage of urgent demands imposed us.  Some by others, most by ourselves.  Blog posts, microblog posts, links, news articles, projects, videos, podcasts, phone calls, new tools and technologies, events, email, online friend requests, comments, and on and on… This list is just the “digital stuff.”  Now add to these, the bulk of your life, which includes family time, social and professional events, meetings, education, exercise, entertainment, and more.  You quickly get a sense of how much we all have to manage day to day.  With all of this urgency, how on earth would you ever find time for social media?  The answer – you make it by getting rid of activities that are not important.

Do you watch television every night?  Is this important to you?  Does it have a positive impact on your life?  Is it important?  Is it urgent?  Sure it might be important for relaxation, entertainment, socialization, or even education.  And yes, sporting events and live television could be legitimately viewed as urgent within logical bounds.  Even still, there is a good chance that you can “make time” for social media by simply turning off the television one or two hours a week.   How many other activities like this do you have in your life?  No, you can’t truly make time, but you can choose how you use it.

To be effective in the world of social media, you need to develop a plan and then commit to it.  It does not just happen.  You need to determine what you want to accomplish, create a plan for moving forward, and then execute on your plan.  Note that this plan probably does not mandate that you be on every social network,  forum, site, and platform that you discover.  That is neither productive nor possible.  Instead of trying to be everywhere, all the time, connected to everyone,  make social media about learning, connecting, and building interactive relationships with people.  Educate and be educated.

With regard to technology, yes it is fine to explore your options from time to time.  There is nothing wrong with exploring new platforms, just realize that you don’t have to use them all.  Manage the time you spend wisely.  Figure out what works for you and leverage it.

Let’s look at First Things First in the context of blogging.  Suppose you choose to start writing a blog – commit to it.  Create a schedule for posting content.   Set aside time for thinking, researching, and writing.  Regularly post content on a schedule that works for you.  For some that might be several times per day.  For others once a week.  Develop a plan, stick to it, and refine it based on your principles.  The same can be said for social networks, RSS feeds, communities, and other social media technologies.  Focus on the important.

It is far too easy to lost sight of what is important- to just wait until next week to write that blog post.  If you want social media to be truly effective, you must view it as important.  Make the commitment, follow your principles, and put first things first.  Manage your social media activities based on your principles, and you will make important changes in your life and your world.