Time is a most precious commodity. It is what life is made up of. It can’t be stored or saved. It can only be used. The truth is: Everyone could use it more wisely. Often we simply let life take us down the “river of time.” Whatever is going on today we simply partake of. The TV is on, so we watch it. Bargains are at the store, so we go there, whether we need something or not. Yes, we are subject to all things that are going on. However, the pivotal idea about the use of time is that you can choose how to use it—you can plan what you want to have happen. There are emergencies from time to time, of course, but you can usually stay in control. Someone said once, “Time is the element we work with to create events.” If you can control your time, you can control your productivity. Most of all, you’ll enjoy life more and feel enhanced self-esteem. In terms of ultimate goals, the most productive use of time was identified by the Savior: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matthew 6:33). If our time is spent fulfilling that commission faithfully and valiantly, then we will have mastered time in the way the Lord has ordained.
“Time and the ability to labor are the capital stock of the whole world of mankind, and we are all indebted to God for the ability to use time to advantage, and he will require of us a strict account of the disposition we make of this ability; and he will not only require an account of our acts, but our words and thoughts will also be brought into judgment” (Brigham Young, Discourses of Brigham Young, selected and arranged by John A. Widtsoe [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1954], 301).
“So commonplace is time that it is frequently wasted. Around us we constantly see those who are throwing large amounts of time to waste with such abandon as to suggest that they have a great surplus, even unlimited wealth of the commodity. Almost never in this life does one see a balance sheet showing a total of just how much remains. Such a statement of account would surely compel us to use our time prudently.
“Often we awaken to the realization that we have been duped—swindled of part of our priceless legacy by one of many agencies clamoring for the attention of mankind. No protective agency can redeem it. It cannot be insured; it will never be recovered and returned. No public statutes compel the wise use of time, perhaps unfortunately so, else many a speaker and many a teacher could be charged with embezzlement.
“Teachers are treasurers of time. They act as brokers assisting large groups of students to invest time wisely. They are charged with the responsibility of providing each student with dividends worthy of his investment.
“In acting as the broker for someone else’s time, consider the following: A careful audit of the use of time is always appropriate. Consciously determine what you expect to accomplish with the time. In other words, have an objective” (Boyd K. Packer, Teach Ye Diligently [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1975], 257).
Here are four strategies to help you be more efficient and effective with the use of your time:
1. Commit your time to things that matter most.
- Focus on priorities. Set a few top priority goals for your life, and concentrate on the daily and weekly actions that will bring you closer to the realization of these objectives.
- Make plans based upon Christian values and standards.
- Be active. Curtail passive activities that consume time unproductively (excessive television watching or interminable telephone conversations or texting, for example).
- Try to de-emphasize those things in life that have no lasting value. Place the accent on family, friends, and relationships, rather than worldly possessions.
2. Use a few wise and proven methods of time management.
- Prioritize daily. Charles Bixton counseled: “You will never find time for anything. If you want time, you must make it.”
- Learn the art and science of teamwork, delegation, and accountability.
- Plan and organize your activities using a system that works for you.
- Keep meetings to a minimum.
- Evaluate the results of all important activities. If you can’t measure it, it probably is not serving useful ends.
- Avoid procrastination. Said Charles Dickens: “My advice is, never do tomorrow what you can do today. Procrastination is the thief of time. Collar him.”
3. Don’t forget to have fun.
- Stay flexible and resilient. Make time for the family. Be flexible enough to enjoy life. Don’t become a slave to your planner.
- Avoid perfectionism. It is not a good use of our time.
- Save time for meditation, exercise, and recreation. It is time used wisely because it will make you more productive in your other pursuits.
4. Don’t forget the Lord’s time.
- Measure with a higher clock—In our frantic daily pursuits, we sometimes forget to measure with the clock of heaven. Make time for scripture study, family activities, personal time, expressions of love, and service. It is a most valuable use of time.
- Pray. Express gratitude. Ask for guidance. Ask for wisdom in the use of your time.
Bernard Baruch taught: “The man who can master his time can master nearly everything.” It is our commission to use our allotted time to master Christian principles with sufficient devotion and charity to be adjudged worthy of the Lord’s blessings. Let us make time our ally. We can achieve our goals if we use our time wisely. When we truly gain control of our time, we are in control of our lives. It would be prudent to remember the words of Reinhold Niebuhr: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference.” As we plan the use of our time, let us consider the words of Edwin C. Bliss, “The more time we spend on planning a project, the less total time is required for it. Don’t let today’s busywork crowd planning time out of your schedule.” From this we also learn that if we don’t have time for the things that count, then perhaps we have chosen a different (and suspect) value. When our life is in harmony with our deepest values, we will feel peace. In other words, when we use our time according to our prioritized goals and plans, we’ll achieve our objectives and feel successful in our lives. Above all, let us use our time wisely for godly pursuits, such that we can say, with Paul, on that day of accountability “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).
This article has been adapted from What We Need to Know and Do, by Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen.