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Putting First Things First

In a previous article, we highlighted Stephen Covey’s time-tested book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People [1] and discussed how it can be applied to leading healthcare interoperability initiatives [2].

With all the activities occurring on Meaningful Use, it may be a good time to focus more on Habit 3 – Put First Things First. This is always a tough one, especially when it comes to managing multiple projects plus doing the normal daily activities required of each of us. What do you do first? What can wait?

A way to think about selecting the first things to do is with the following two-by-two illustration.

Habit 3 of the '7 Habits' - Putting First Things First, two-by-two illustration


Essentially, the two dimensions define:

  1. What is really important given my organization’s mission and my role in achieving it?
  2. What really needs to be done right now?

Based on answering these two questions, the activities can be placed in one of four quadrants. Think about each quadrant in the following way:

Many of us get stuck in the lower half. We need to shake it off and set aside time to spend in the opportunity quadrant. It is what leaders do, and it is the art of saying “yes” to the right things and saying “no” to the distractions. Time management is a central part of achieving this habit. At the core, it is the only way to convert ideas and missions into action.

In the tangled mix of meaningful use, workflows, quality patient care, and health IT, there are many projects to balance [3] and connect. Doing this right is the difference between stalling out at Stage 1 and moving successfully through all three stages [4] of meeting the meaningful use requirements. If there is ever a time for bringing your leadership skills up a notch, it is now.

In each organization, we need to think more about delivering meaningful leadership rather than meaningful use. The first will facilitate getting to the second. It is time to put first things first.

Key start points: 

For an Integration Generation perspective on the 7 habits, please read our white paper [5].