My to do list most days requires more time than I have available. Doesn't that seem to be how it goes for most of us?
My mom gave me this short book "All the Time You Need" by Mary Ellen Edmunds. I just finished reading it for the second time and I am looking forward to reading it again with a pen and highlighter. There are so many insightful comments and ideas about time and how we should use it. I will share a few things I have found enlightening.
"Time is a gift. It is a gift from God. We can't demand more, and we can't insist on less." (All the Time You Need, Mary Ellen Edmunds) I personally had never thought about how time was a gift given unto us. I knew from studying the scriptures and personal prayer that my life was a gift and each day I have is precious. But I had never taken it further to realize each minute of the day was a gift given to me. What am I doing with that gift? Am I discarding it? Throwing it aside? Am I using it to it's fullest? Am I sharing it with others to benefit them?
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, "Most of us have more things expected of us than we can possibly do." (Dallin H. Oaks, “Good, Better, Best,” Ensign, Nov 2007) How many of us feel this way? It's true is it not? So since we have more things to do than we have time how do we decide which things to do? Which things get our attention first? "We all have a long list of things to do, whether written down or rattling around in our brains: pray; study; exercise; plant a garden, eat it; raise brilliant, cheerful, reverent children; clean a basement; write in a journal; avoid fat, calories, movie theater popcorn and evil thoughts; pray for your enemies; store a year's supply of food; say yes to everything anyone asks you to do and hunt for more things to do; plant trees; remember the pioneers..." (All the Time You Need, Mary Ellen Edmunds).
We have been told by our Prophets and apostles that if we put the Lord first everything else will fall into place. So how do we put the Lord first? What do we need to do? We need to study our scriptures, say our prayers (both alone and as a family), attend the temple and keep a prayer in our hearts throughout the day. "President Harold B. Lee taught: "Most men do not set priorities to guide them in allocating their time [maybe he meant women do?] and most men [and women] forget that the first priority should be to maintain their own spiritual and physical strength [don't forget that]; then comes their family; then the Church; and then their professions."" (All the Time you Need, Mary Ellen Edmunds). President Lee said our first priority needs to be our own spiritual and physical strength. Why is that so important? If we are to do any other good in the world we need to be strengthened first so that we can do the things we need to do and withstand temptations. "We don't put first things first to get them done and out of the way - we put them first because of the critical effect they have on everything that follows." (All the Time You Need, Mary Ellen Edmunds).
"President Ezra Taft Benson taught us that "when we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the ...demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities."" (All the Time You Need, Mary Ellen Edmunds) What a comforting statement from President Benson! If we do what we should first (and when I do I feel at my best) everything works out. We are able to accomplish the necessary things and get more done. It's kind of like how the tithing principle works. When we give the Lord the 10% He asks of us in return for all He gives us. If we use our time wisely and use it to draw closer to the Lord first we are better able to find ways to use each minute of the day. It's amazing how it happens. I have seen it happen many times in my life.
Now what about using our time to bless others? "One important thing in my life that troubles me, because I'm not good at it yet, is that I don't want to seem too busy for people, to help or just be with people." (All the Time You Need, Mary Ellen Edmunds) I had a recent experience with this. I was working on projects around the house getting things done while taking care of my son Benjamin. I got a phone call from a good friend. She asked me if I was available to go out and help her window shop for material. My first reaction was no, I was too busy getting things done around the house. As we talked for a few more minutes and she explained how her husband had the older kids and she knew it was last minute I came to realize that my household things were good to be doing but that my time would be better spent with my friend. I got myself ready and off we went to JoAnn's. When I got home that day I felt that I had chosen the better thing to do with my time. I had helped a friend in need and strengthened our friendship.
Time is a precious gift that we are given and we need to do our best to put the Lord first and with his help prioritize the things on our long to do list. I personally do so much better on the days that I start off with scripture study and prayer than the days that I skip them.