Using time wisely

My husband and I were invited by one of the West Indies returned missionaries (WIRMs) to do a fireside for a BYU ward tonight. I am to talk about using time wisely and my husband will discuss becoming anxiously engaged. I thought it would be helpful to share some notes, quotes and links here since there is no way I will be able to get through all my ideas and materials in the allotted 15 minutes. Maybe this can serve as a resource for those who want to learn more.

My main source is Preach my Gospel. This book is NOT JUST FOR MISSIONARIES! It is a fabulous resource for anyone who wants to study the Gospel of Jesus Christ and how to live and share it. You can access text and audio versions of Preach my Gospel here. My favorite section for personal and family study is chapter 3 where all the key doctrines and principles of the gospel along with scriptures are summarized.

For my discussion tonight I will be focusing on Chapter 8 – “Use Time Wisely”

Here are some questions to consider:


I expect that everyone could do something to improve in their productivity, goal setting and time management.


What is the doctrinal foundation for this principle?

For me, the answer is found in  Alma 34:32

“For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.”

Time and agency are two precious gifts God has given us. They must be used wisely, and never wasted, in order to prepare to meet Him.

I love this quote by President Eyring:

It is hard to know when we have done enough for the Atonement to change our natures and qualify us for eternal life. And we don’t know how many days we will have to give the service necessary for that change to come. But we know that we will have days enough if only we don’t waste them.” – Henry B Eyring,  April 2007 General Conference

Doesn’t that sum it up perfectly?

Here are a few excerpts from chapter 8 in Preach my Gospel on using time wisely:

“You are assigned to do the Lord’s work in a specific area. He wants you to watch over your area with love and great care. Your purpose is to help others come unto Him…”

“Do all you can to leave your area stronger than you found it. Meaningful goals and careful planning will help you accomplish what the Lord requires of you. As you care for the people in your area, you will account to Him…” (p 137)

So – does this apply only to missionaries? I don’t think so. The command to love our neighbors and bless their lives does not end when a formal mission is completed. It is something we need to be engaged in every single day. We are assigned to do the Lord’s work in our own particular area or realm of influence and we will someday account to our Father on how well we cared for our neighbors. (see Mosiah 18:8-9)


The next few pages of Preach my Gospel illustrate the planning and goal setting system used by missionaries. We too, need a system. There are so many possibilities! You can go high tech or as simple as a stack of index cards (my personal favorite). I love learning about productivity (probably because I am not naturally organized and need to work hard to overcome that weakness). Here are a two of my favorites ideas:

Getting Things Done

The “Getting Things Done” system is based on the book by David Allen. It’s a wonderful productivity system and reading the book helped me develop my own personalized simpler system.

I can’t begin to share everything about Getting Things Done – so here are some places you can learn more:

–       Wikipedia –

–       43 folders –

–       zen habits – and a simplified version –

Hipster PDA

I love this planning method! It’s simple, cheap, fun and effective!

What is it? Just a simple stack of index cards held together by a clip. It was created by Merlin Mann, author of 43 folders – a popular productivity blog. (an interesting side note – I just opened his site and here is the lead quote on his latest post: “We procrastinate when we’ve forgotten who we are.” Isn’t that perfect?) He created the  hipster PDA (hPDA – stands for Parietal Disgorgement Aid) to poke fun at the increasing cost and complexity of Personal Digital Assistants. What started as a joke is now quite popular.

Here are a few links on the Hipster:

–       Wikipedia –

–       43 folders –

–       DIY planner (all kinds of downloadable templates for pre-printed cards) –

If you don’t like the idea of a pile of cards and a clip, you can go a little fancier. I found this $6 Circa notebook that works perfectly for me.

The only complication – you need to either buy pre punched cards or buy a special paper punch ($38-$58)

The particular system doesn’t matter – just find one that works for you. Whatever you choose, there are some important principles to consider.

Goal setting

Goals reflect the desires of our hearts and our vision of what we can accomplish. Through goals and plans, our hopes and are transformed into action. Goal setting and planning are acts of faith. Prayerfully set goals that are in harmony with the Savior’s command[ments]…”

“Carefully considered goals will give you clear direction and will help fill your days with activities that help people strengthen their faith in the Savior…” (PMG p 146)

Here’s a few goal setting guidelines from PMG:

  • Follow the Spirit
  • Be specific and realistic, but set goals that make you stretch
  • Set weekly, daily and long term goals
  • Measure your progress each day, each week, and each month (p 146 PMG)

Elder Russel M Ballard:

“I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don’t set goals in our life and learn to master the techniques of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principles of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life.” (PMG p 146)

Planning Sessions

“Once you have goals, decide how you will achieve them.” (PMG p 147)

This needs to be done regularly. Here’s what I try to do (always pray first):

Each month – take time to ponder what is most important, what you want to achieve in the future, and then write down long term and monthly goals.

Each week (Sunday night works for me) –  set goals for the week, plan how to achieve them and write them on an index card; update my calendar

Each day (I do this first thing): take an index card and write down the most important things to be accomplished for that day. Use another card to write down the day’s schedule including any key location information or phone numbers.

This key bit of information from Getting Things Done really helps me – when planning how to achieve goals, be sure to write down your next physical action step. For example, if you want to organize your office, write down what you need to do first to get it done – maybe go buy file boxes or plastic bins (my favorite organizing tool!). Write that down and do it.

I like to keep running to do lists. Following the Getting Things Done model, I make them context specific. Here are my current lists, each on an individual card in my Hipster:

  • To do @ home
  • To do @ errands
  • To do @ church office
  • To do @ school
  • To do long term

Preach my Gospel ends chapter 8 with a section on accountability:

  • Approach your goal setting and planning with the idea that you will account for your efforts…to the Lord through prayer.
  • Feel responsibility for the sacred trust the Lord has given you.
  • Set meaningful goals.
  • Choose to be proactive in accounting for your work to the Lord.
  • Accept full responsibility for your efforts. Never blame others for difficult circumstances or lack or progress.
  • Seek to learn from [others] and invite them to suggest ways you can improve.
  • Be motivated to do your best work.

“As you pray personally…seek inspiration on what you should do each day. As you follow your plans, pray and ask the Lord for guidance. Have a prayer in your heart throughout the day that the Spirit will help you know where to do, what to do and what to say. Ask yourself, ‘What more can I do?’ In your prayer at the end of the day, give an accounting of your work.” (PMG pp 150-151)


During my mission, I taught these principles a number of times – and I ended up with quite a few good quotes:

“Genius is the power to visualize the objective.” – Benjamin Disraeli, former Prime Minister of Great Britain

“Imagination is more important than knowledge” – Albert Einstein

“You won’t see how to do it until you see yourself doing it” – David Allen, author of Getting Things Done

“I always wanted to be somebody. I should have been more specific” – Lily Tomlin

“Your automatic creative mechanism is teleological. That is, it operates in terms of goals and end results. Once you give it a definite goal to achieve, you can depend upon its automatic guidance system to take you to that goal much better than “you” ever could by conscious thought. “You” supply the goal by thinking in terms of end results. Your automatic mechanism supplies the means whereby. “ – Maxwell Maltz (author of Psycho-Cybernetics)

“When in our minds we pre-live our marriage, we help to determine the kind of person that we would like to be when that event arrives. As we pre-live our success, we develop the abilities necessary to bring it about. And with the information and direction given us in the Holy Scriptures we can even pre-live that important period that lies beyond the boundaries of this life.” – Sterling W Sill,  April 1964 General Conference

“After this life you will be restored to that which you have allowed yourself to become.” – Richard G Scott, Ensign, May 1997, 54

“The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts – what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effects of our acts and thoughts – what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions.” – Dallin Oaks, October 2000 General Conference

“Now those men, or those women, who know no more about the power of God, and the influences of the Holy Spirit, than to be led entirely by another person, suspending their own understanding, and pinning their faith upon another’s sleeve, will never be capable of entering into the celestial glory, to be crowned as they anticipate; they will never be capable of becoming Gods. They cannot rule themselves, to say nothing of ruling others, but they must be dictated to in every trifle, like a child. They cannot control themselves in the least, but James, Peter, or somebody else must control them. They never can become Gods, nor be crowned as rulers with glory, immortality, and eternal lives. They never can hold scepters of glory, majesty, and power in the celestial kingdom. Who will? Those who are valiant and inspired with the true independence of heaven, who will go forth boldly in the service of their God, leaving others to do as they please, determined to do right, though all mankind besides should take the opposite course. “ – Discourses of Brigham Young, 383

“The gospel of Jesus Christ is the plan by which we can become what children of God are supposed to become. This spotless and perfected state will result from a steady succession of covenants, ordinances and actions, and accumulation of right choices, and from continuing repentance.” – Dallin Oaks, October 2000 General Conference

Quoted by Brother Robison during his talk about “Being Anxiously Engaged.”

Ezra Taft Benson explained that “usually the Lord gives us the overall objectives to be accomplished and some guidelines to follow, but he expects us to work out most of the details and methods.  The methods and procedures are usually developed through study and prayer and by living so that we can obtain and follow the promptings of the Spirit.  less spiritually advanced people, such as those in the days of Moses, had to be commanded in many things.  Today those spiritually alert look at the objectives, check the guidelines laid down by the Lord and his prophets, and then prayerfully act–without having to be commanded in all things.  This attitude prepares men for godhood.  Sometimes the Lord hopefully waits on his children to act on their own, and when they do not, they lose the greater prize, and the Lord will either drop the entire matter and let them suffer the consequences or else He will have to spell it out in greater detail.   Usually, I fear the more He has to spell it out the smaller is our reward. (April General Conference, 1965, pp. 121-122)”


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