By Alyssa Sloan, Ph. D., Guest Author
As a communication professor at King’s Knoxville campus, I get to teach a leadership communication class regularly. One of the required texts for that class is Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. As a result, alongside my students, I am consistently challenged to evaluate my life in terms of priorities and efficiency.
Covey’s third habit encourages people to put first things first. He writes that “the best thinking in the area of time management can be captured in a single phrase: Organize and execute around priorities”. In order to accomplish this habit, we must KNOW our priorities and then CENTER our lives upon identified priorities.
How do we know our priorities? The simplest approach is reflection. What are your priorities? What traits, experiences, actions, and pursuits do you hope will comprise your life story? Carve out time to label your target characteristics and hopes. Covey says we must experience a mental creation before a physical creation. In other words, identifying our priorities internally paves the way for us to externally live our priorities.
For Christ followers, a central priority is love. Jesus instructs: “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, and with all your mind.” In fact, Jesus describes this must-do as “the first and greatest commandment.” Jesus goes on to explain that the second essential command is like the first, “love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39).
How do we “organize and execute” our lives in a way that prioritizes our established purposes? A mix of self-knowledge and practicing boundaries is necessary, otherwise our time is consumed by demands and expectations around us—not within us. Covey explains: “you have to decide what your highest priorities are and have the courage… to say ‘no’ to other things… by having a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside”.
To maintain sanity now and to claim the life truly desired, take Covey’s third habit to heart by actively putting first things first. In the process, we must trust our inner voices as we discern what matters most and consult Scripture as a means of confirming values.
As we discover our priorities, may love be central. As we develop a stronger sense of our own bigger, burning “yes” inside, may that clarity help us build lives steadfastly centered upon core priorities.
Truly, “there are far, far better things ahead than any we leave behind” -C.S. Lewis
Alyssa Sloan is an Associate Professor at King University where she teaches classes at King’s Knoxville campus and online. Alyssa is the Communication Program Director and enjoys teaching communication courses because each class offers practical, immediate applications to personal and professional relationships. Alyssa serves the Knoxville community as a communication trainer for the Alliance for Better Nonprofits as well as for nearby professional associations. She is married to Adam Sloan, an engineer by day and astute handyman by night. They have two toddler boys and an aussiedoodle that keeps their home lively. In her free time, Alyssa usually finds herself chasing kids around their property but sometimes manages time for reading, gardening, and cycling.
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