Focus on What’s Important (and Not Urgent)

Don’t let whatever shouts loudest keep your attention.

Everything we do can be put into one of four quadrants on a grid, depending on whether or not it’s important and whether or not it’s urgent. Keeping this model in mind as you plan (and work) your day will help you keep your attention where it needs to be: on the most important things in your life.

The Eisenhower Productivity Matrix

7 Reasons to Go First

If you want to get ahead, learn to take initiative.

Most engineering programs culminate in a self-directed design project. Under the direction of a faculty member (to make sure you’re biting off enough but not too much), you select a project, plan it, do it, and present it. It’s a chance for you to showcase everything you’ve learned in the last four years.

The class is also designed to help get you ready for the workplace. You give (frequent) presentations to keep everyone informed of the status of your project. You learn how to estimate the scope of a project. You learn how to adjust if things go off the rails. But the most powerful lesson I learned was the power of going first.

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The fact is all of those years in Royal Shakespeare Company—playing all those kings, emperors, princes and tragic heroes—were nothing but preparation for sitting in the captain’s chair of the Enterprise.

Sir Patrick Stewart, 1940-

To Thine Own Self be True

Integrity starts with yourself.

William Shakespeare is one of the most quoted authors ever. Four hundred years later, he continues to have a profound influence on our literature, films, and philosophy.

One of the famous lines from Hamlet is “To thine own self be true”. I have often heard this quote used to justify what amounts to a lack of character. That usage couldn’t be farther from Shakespeare’s intent.

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As a child, I heard in my home doctors and ambulance men say, “Mrs. Stewart, you must have done something to provoke him.” “Mrs. Stewart, it takes two to make an argument.” Wrong. Wrong. My mother did nothing to provoke that and even if she had, violence is never, ever a choice that a man should make.

Sir Patrick Stewart, 1940–

Choose Your Response: End the Abuse

We have the ability, right, and responsibility to choose how we respond in any situation.

How we respond is largely shaped by our childhood. When we are young, we are impressionable. We learn at a rapid pace. We study our parent(s) and teachers to learn how to behave. I recently heard it expressed that we never really grow up—we just learn how to behave in public.

Ideally, our childhood role models set a good example for us, and we learn how to be kind, considerate, and compassionate. Sadly, this is often not the case.

Photo © 2012 Save the Children