“If only I were stronger, or the days were longer!” we cry as we struggle to “get it all done.” Prioritizing is an answer to “so much to do and so little time.”

The first and second great commandments are highly relevant in helping us prioritize our time. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Matt. 22:37-38). So it is first the Lord, second ourself, and then our neighbors (family, friends, and others) in scheduling our time.

Let’s talk about it in that order.

Love of the Lord

Loving the Lord by keeping his commandments, honoring covenants, and rendering service can bring about remarkable results in increased strength and energy and more effective use of time. This happens because our lifestyle is based upon Church guidelines and standards, and we make decisions regarding the use of our time according to gospel principles and values coupled with an eternal perspective.

The principle of repentance can have particular application in the quality of our time. There’s a quote that reads, “It’s not the mountains ahead, but the sand in our shoes that makes the journey difficult.” Every day we should stop and shake the sand out of our shoes in order to keep going.

In other words, it’s important that we repent of negative actions or feelings such as unrighteousness, guilt, resentment, criticism, jealousy, or self-pity. Such feelings sap our energy, nip away at our discipline and resolve, and cloud our focus. Introspection or self-evaluation and personal adjustments help us along the way. They also help us feel better about ourselves and others and thereby free us of negative feelings that otherwise would get in our way. A pure heart is conducive to feeling energetic.

Above all, loving and serving the Lord and living righteously will bring the guiding influence of the Spirit into our lives as we choose how to spend our time.

Love of Self

Loving ourselves, according to the scriptural admonition, does not mean, of course, that we are puffed up with personal importance. It is not something that is selfish or vain. Loving ourselves is having a healthy respect for ourselves as children of God. It is knowing who we are and who we can become. Loving ourselves is manifested by taking appropriate care of ourselves physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually.

The stronger physically, emotionally, intellectually, and spiritually we as mothers are, the more strength, energy, and time we have to share with our family and others. This principle is brought to our attention each time we fly on an airplane. As the plane prepares for takeoff, the flight attendant demonstrates a standard emergency measure as words to this effect come over the public address system: “In event of loss of cabin pressure, oxygen masks will be automatically lowered. Put on your mask first and then assist your children with theirs.” You have to be breathing yourself before you can help anyone else breathe.

Love of Neighbors (includes family, friends as well as others)

A teenage girl was overheard to say, “I’m not interested in that homemaking stuff — I want to spend my life in service.” She went on to talk about recently helping out at the soup kitchen and she outlined her summer plans for volunteering at the homeless shelter.

These are certainly worthy service endeavors, but in her immaturity she overlooked the fact that service starts at home. It is important to first serve those whom we love the most and who love us the most — our families. Moreover, it is our families, and no one else, over whom we have been given sacred stewardship responsibilities.

Fulfilling these responsibilities in the most effective and joyful manner possible is what homemaking really is all about. This type of service is one’s primary responsibility; other types of service are secondary in importance. (See chapter “On Balance,” The Ultimate Career — the Art of Homemaking for Today, pp. 137-144)

I had a profound experience some years ago when our bishop invited me, as ward Relief Society president, into his office as he set apart several women in our ward as workers in the Relief Society. Among the women being set apart was his wife, and what he said to her as he laid his hands upon her head made a lasting impression on me. He told her “I promise you my best, not that which is left over.” He was a busy man with a large family and with both professional demands and church responsibilities claiming his time, but hers would be the top slice of his day.

Years ago I was covering a platter of freshly baked cinnamon rolls with plastic wrap for a Relief Society social when a remark from one of our sons brought me to a sudden stop. He called from across the room, “Don’t forget that something of everything you prepare stays home for the family.” I had forgotten, in my eagerness to be of service elsewhere, that my family comes first.

I realized, with some chagrin, that he was right. We had talked about it before — some of everything I baked or cooked should remain home for the family. Otherwise family members might get the impression that they were less important to me than others, that I was a better neighbor or church worker than I was a wife or mother. I determined at that moment that at our house neither my husband nor my children would ever be able to complain again by saying, “I smell cookies, but I can’t find any.” There would always be some for them.

A subtle but strong message is sent to our husbands and children when we keep house for the family and company is welcome anytime. The same is true when we set an attractive table and serve a fine meal just for the family. In this way, our family feels like company and our friends feel like family.

In connection with establishing priorities, it is important to keep in mind the wise words from Ecclesiastes 3:1: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.”

Shortly after the death of Sister Marjorie P. Hinckley in April 2004, her son, Clark, attended an auxiliary leadership meeting in the stake over which he presides and where I reside. In addressing the group of women he paid tribute to the women of the Church in general and to his mother specifically. He talked of his mother’s many accomplishments. It was an imposing list. Then he added, “Don’t forget, sisters, that it took her ninety-two years to do it all.”

In summation, a quote by Stephen R. Covey gives us practical counsel regarding prioritizing. He said: “The key is not to prioritize your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” He further said, “You can say ‘no’ with a smile when you have a bigger ‘yes’ burning inside of you.”

Indeed, the first and second great commandments are highly relevant in helping us prioritize our time. It is by first serving the Lord and second by taking proper care of ourselves that we truly find the time and energy to serve our neighbors — family, friends, and others.