Saturday, April 18, 2015


by Mary Kennedy                            
I was so struck by this quote from Stephen Covey, I decided to write a blog about it. The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing. What if it were possible to do this, every single day?
Think of all the obstacles you could eliminate.  No more procrastination, no more second guessing yourself, no more false starts, no more wasted time. You wouldn't be at loose ends when you start your day because you would have a blueprint right in front of you. It would be simple. No more dithering about, wondering what to do. You would just do THE MAIN THING.
How would you "operationalize" this concept? (to use another Stephen Covey term). Here are a few hints I've shared with my clients when they've  asked for help with setting and accomplishing their goals.
1. Prioritize. This is a snap, now that you know you are going to be focusing on "the main thing," no matter what it is. It doesn't matter whether it's writing a novel, following through with a daily exercise plan or organizing your paperwork. Prioritizing--or keeping your eye on the prize--will pay off big-time.
2. Remember to keep an absolute YES list by the phone.  This is an important adjunct to place to Covey's strategy.  If someone calls you with a request (no matter how tempting or worthwhile), you simply must decline...unless it fits in with THE MAIN THING. You can't let yourself be distracted if you are serious about concentrating on the main thing. Say yes to things connected to the main thing, say no to everything else. Yes, I know personal emergencies come up and life takes some twists and turns, but for the most part, your day is predictable. How you spend your time is up to you. At least your "free" time.
3.You should feel a sense of peace and calm descend on you. Now that you have a goal and a road map, there should be less stress, less chaos in your life. A burden has been lifted. Your focus today is simple: just do the main thing! Everything else is a distraction. When you fall into bed at night, you should feel a sense of accomplishment. You are one day closer to your goal. Why? Because you did the main thing.
4. There are loads of other tips in Covey's books. Start the day by doing the hardest task, divide a task into do-able pieces, take short breaks to reward yourself, etc.
But nothing compares to his concept of the MAIN THING. I hope you write down what you want to accomplish and ask yourself if you are *really* making it a priority in your life. Is it really the main thing? Or are you frittering away your time watching TV, chatting with friends, or spending too much time on social media?  This is a time for total honesty. Try it and let me know how it works out!
Mary Kennedy


Diane said...

Mary, are you talking to me? I'm sure you are. I seem to spend my day going from one thing to another or doing just what I feel like. There are lots of things I never seem to get to. I will have to try this and see how it works out.

authorlindathorne said...

This is interesting. I blame my day job for a lot of what I don't get to with my writing. I'm so tired when I get home it's tough to concentrate. Right now, weekends or taking a PTO day off just to write is about all that works for me. I'll re-read this and see if I can come up with some more ideas that prioritize my main thing. Thanks.

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

Linda, it's very hard to write when you come home exhausted from a day job. I wonder if there is some way you can carve out small sections of time here and there? Some people have to have a pretty substantial time in front of them to "get in the zone" but my background is in advertising and TV newswriting, so I learned to write fast and to write wherever I was. No excuses. Even if I had 15 minutes, I could write something or check over a manuscript or scribble down plot ideas for a new book. But everyone has a different style. Sometimes it helps to set a timer, say for 20 minutes. Sit at the computer, open up whatever you're working on say to yourself, "Okay, I'm going to sit here for 20 minutes anyway, so I might has well write something." Sometimes that works! My pal, Julie Hyzy, said once, "The only way to write a book in six months is to write 2 pages a day." She's right and I often think of that quote.

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

Try it and see what you think, Diane. Also, try the "timer" idea I suggested to Linda (below). That seems to help a lot of people. Good luck and thanks for stopping by.

Kate Collins said...

When I do THE MAIN THING, I get my book done in a timely manner. When I let other things fill my time, I don't, and that makes me crabby because I'm not DOING THE MAIN THING. You're right, Mary. A sense of calm comes over me when I'm writing. Good post!

Mary Jane Maffini said...

Very powerful stuff, Mary. I found a lot of interesting insights from Covey. You are right. This is number one. Thanks for the reminder.



Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

So glad you liked it, Kate. You are one of the most organized (and prolific!) people I know. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

Thanks so much for stopping by, MJ, glad you liked it. I'm a big fan of Covey's-he has terrific strategies and they are so easy to grasp. I encourage my clients to read him.

Duffy Brown said...

Thanks Mary. I’m putting this over my computer!

Dr. Mary Kennedy said...

HI Duffy, you don't need any help! You are amazing...I don't know how you accomplish everything that you do..

Lynn Cahoon said...

I listened to 7 Habits this week on the way to work. Covey's book on time management - First Things First is gold.

I'm attracted to the bright and shiny, but when I think about the main thing, I'm calmer. Thanks for the reminder.

AnneL said...

Thanks for this timely reminder. I've been using excuses to not focus on my main objective and this will help me focus to achieve it.

Leslie Budewitz said...

I won't even tell you how long it took me to read this smart post -- b/c of all the distractions I let myself follow. "Prioritize, she said. Okay, better stop to do that." And off I went.

Thanks for the wise words.

Laura S Reading said...

So glad I saw this shared. I want to print this out and post it over the computer monitor.
When I try to do too many things at the same time and nothing gets the desired results. And the important tasks don't get done in a timely manner.
Having this in plain sight may remind me to prioritize.