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I remember once hearing about a productivity system called First Things First. What is the system, and how does it work?

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That's a book by Steven Covey. The important take-away I learned it worry about "quadrant 2", i.e., important but not urgent. It is easy to be caught in the urgent important and urgent not-important and never get to quadrant 2.

First Things First quadrants

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The method got a lot of attention thanks to Covey and is also known as the Eisenhower method, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Time_management#The_Eisenhower_Method –  Bernard Vander Beken Jul 25 '11 at 20:17

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