Habit 3: A Family Exercise in Putting First Things First

Author: Tara West
June 2, 2019

habit 3

Habit 3®: Put First Things First, is a habit about priorities. We all juggle multiple hats in our lives, whether it be professional or personal, we need to develop habits that help us manage the day-to-day. Habit 3 talks in-depth about “Big Rocks” and “Little Rocks” in our lives.

“Big Rocks” are the most important things for you to do, such as spending time with your family or getting an education. “Little Rocks” are the less important things for you to do, such as watching T.V., or aimlessly searching the Internet.

So, whether Habit 3 is new to you, or engraved in your memory, let’s take a moment to reflect on this habit. For me, Habit 3 means making time for my family. As you read, take the time to reflect on what Habit 3 means to you. What do Habit 1 and Habit 2 mean to you?


Habit 3: Making time for Family

Download Family Exercise Worksheet 

Like every other mom out there, I have my name said by my kids ten thousand times a day. For me, it starts at 6:15 a.m. It’s “Mom, will you help me make my lunch?” “Mom can you sit with me?” “Mom, why do I have to go to school?” or my favorite: “MOM! COME WIPE ME!” By the time I get them all dropped off at their three different schools and start my “to-do” list, I feel like it’s time to pick them up again and I haven’t accomplished very much. From 11:30 to 2:30, it is just me and my four-year-old boy at home. I help him with his homework, we eat lunch together, then he likes to play. If a friend isn’t available to come over to play with him, he is usually pretty good at entertaining himself; however, there are some days he gets very needy. These days always seem to fall when I have a deadline I am working against or have a big project going on at the school. I work very part-time from home, and this year I am the president of the elementary school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA). My sweet little boy turns into a broken record of…

“Mom, look at me, can you play with me?” (Yes, he likes me to look at him so he knows I’m listening.)

I may say this to him on occasion:

Me: “Let me finish the dishes, then I can.”

(1 minute later)

The Boy: “Mom, look at me. Can you play with me?”

Me: “Let me finish the dishes, then I can.”

(1 minute later)

The Boy: “Mom, look at me. Can you play cops and robbers with me?”

Me: “Let me finish the dishes. I will get it done so much faster if you quit asking me questions.”

(Just as I am done answering)

The Boy: “Mom, look at me. Can you play cops and robbers with me right now?”

Me: “No.”

Don’t judge me here. I did feel a twinge of guilt as I put him off. Then he delivered a punch in my gut…

The Boy: “Okay, I guess I’ll just go play all by myself.”

Now, at four years old, I don’t believe he intentionally used that phrase to get me to go play with him immediately, but it worked. We played cops and robbers for a good half hour. A half hour might not seem like a long time, but to him, it was heaven on earth.

That experience became a tipping point for me. Now, when my boy asks me to play, I make a real effort to go the first time he asks. Wouldn’t you know it, even as little as ten minutes of undivided attention fills his tank for pretty much the whole day. As I take more time to put him and time with my other children first, I am learning new things about them and we are developing deeper relationships. I have also observed that my children are more willing to do the things I ask of them the first time I ask, rather than me nagging them. It’s amazing how when I, as the adult, set the example of taking time to put my family members first, they follow suit. The other side of this is when I do have something I need to accomplish at that moment, I can explain to my children what I am doing, give them an expected end time, and then make sure to follow through. Consequently, they have been a lot more patient when I can’t be available right away.

I have started to weigh what I am doing by asking myself, “What is the consequence if this doesn’t get done right now?” Really, most of the time what I am doing can be put off for a while. Dishes and laundry are always going to be there. Always! Trust me, it is not easy for me to leave a full sink of dishes sitting for very long, but I am seeing how worth it it is. Putting first things first looks different in every situation for me. I have discovered that because my family is most important to me, if I keep them first, I am at peace with the other things I am doing.


More Leadership at Home Activities


To learn more about leadership at home, check out:

Creating a Family Mission Statement: Being With the End in Mind 

Family Engagement in Schools: Leadership Skills Start at Home 

Habit 5: Practicing and Teaching the Principle at Home 

Synergy Saturdays: Practicing Habit 6 with the Family 

Habit 7: Why It’s Important to Remember to Sharpen the Saw 

Share Article on

Tags: , , ,

Franklin Covey Education