Sometimes there is so much on my task list that I feel like I will never get caught up. I don’t have all the answers, but I have learned this: there are some things that will always be priorities in my life and other things that will come and go, depending on what season of life I am in.
Stephen Covey developed a 4-box grid to evaluate the importance and urgency of our various activities and assess whether we are spending our time in the most effective way. Determining the true importance of what I am trying to accomplish gives me perspective and helps me to set reasonable expectations of myself. My “fixed” priorities are “Quadrant II” activities: important but not urgent. That makes them easy to put off – with unhappy consequences.
My Relationship with God
Maintaining a close and meaningful relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is a top priority for me. If I sacrifice those relationships because I am “too busy” (with urgent things that may not be very important) I have less power and less ability to meet all the other demands of my life.
Personal Recovery and Walking in Faith
As a recovering addict, I cannot let my abstinence and working my program become low priorities. I have to focus on them every day and always be listening for the promptings of the Spirit. I need to do the footwork the Lord assigns to me in order to stay sane and sober and to be able to do my best in the other important areas of my life.
Marriage and Family
Marriage and family are always high priorities for me, although what that looks like has changed over the years. I make sure that my husband and I spend quality time together, talk to one another about meaningful things, and speak one another’s love language. I try to stay in touch with my adult children and see/video chat with my grandchildren regularly. When I remarried four years ago I had been an empty-nester for 7 years. My new husband had 5 children, including one in elementary school and one teenager. I put thought and effort into building and maintaining relationships with my new children and grandchildren, both those at home and those who are grown.
Magnifying my Church callings in a spirit of love and service is a priority for me. The Lord would not have called me unless he was prepared to give me the power and the time to do the work required. (See Moroni 7:33.) This may include unofficial callings, like family history work, as you feel prompted by the Spirit.
Work and Resource Management
Working to support my family, and/or being a good steward over our family resources needs to be a priority. If I am not a good steward over the temporal resources the Lord provides, I cannot expect others to “cover the slack” for me. This was not always an area of strength in my life, and my husband and I are working very hard to manage our resources wisely.
The Seasons – or – Other Priorities
What about other things? What about travel, hobbies, entertainment, reading, service, friends, and video games? Don’t I get any down time?
Well, how much downtime you get depends on the season of your life. And a lot of those things can be worked into one of the 5 main priorities I have listed above. For example, you may need a getaway, just to nurture your marriage! If I am on top of these 5 things and I still have free time, great! I can do what I want with that time. However, if the important stuff is falling apart – I don’t have time to play.
For example, when I have been actively raising children, and especially while I was also working, I did not have time to do much on the “optional” list. It was my season to focus on the basic 5. Working my program was critical for me at that time because it helped me to be a better parent and raise healthier children. If you don’t put enough time into raising young children they can turn into teenagers who do unwise things to get your attention! I have a responsibility to the Lord and as an example to my children to magnify my callings. I taught my children to love the Lord and serve others by my example, and as I felt prompted to do so I included them whenever possible. And I am teaching my children how to have an eternal family by working on my marriage. Let children observe these things so that they will know what to do when they enter that season themselves.
There will be other seasons of life to develop additional talents and explore other options when parenting isn’t so time consuming. Aren’t you glad you have something to look forward to when you are no longer raising children or working?
I have a vague memory of a Relief Society lesson from many years ago in which former General Relief Society President Barbara Winder was quoted saying that women would comment to her, in awe, about all she had done and accomplished, expressing doubt that they would ever be able to approach her accomplishments. “Yes,” she would say, “I have accomplished all those things, but not all at the same time.”
- Look at how you actually spend your time now. What does this analysis tell you about how you prioritize your time right now?
- Are these the priorities you think the Lord wants you to have? If not, what needs to change?
- Do you trust the Lord to give you the power to do the things He wants you to do?
- What are you willing to change about your life to bring your time usage into harmony with the priorities you want to have? Ask the Lord to help you to make these changes.