Do you ever feel like there isn’t enough time to do everything that you need to do? How do you deal with that situation?
In January of 1832, Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon had multiple competing demands on their time. They had taken a break from translating the Bible to preach the gospel (Doctrine and Covenants 71). Now, the Lord said, “It is expedient to translate again.” But He wanted them to continue preaching “inasmuch as it is practicable,” until the next church conference, after which they should dedicate themselves to the translation (Doctrine and Covenants 73).
I’ve been thinking today about that phrase—”inasmuch as it is practicable.” The word practicable means doable or feasible. The Lord was asking them to manage their time, to be aware of their constraints, to do what could be done and not to try to do more.
As I’ve pondered this principle, I’ve noticed a number of occasions in the Book of Mormon where people did the best they could within their constraints. For example:
- When Nephi passed the sacred records on to his brother Jacob, he commanded him “to touch upon” the sacred experiences of the people “as much as it were possible” (Jacob 1:4).
- When Alma was chief judge, he was concerned about growing misbehavior among his people. But he was able to maintain peace generally by enforcing the law “inasmuch as it was possible” (Alma 1:32).
- As Mormon’s armies lost more and more ground to their enemies, he made an effort to gather his people as much as possible and as quickly as possible, for their protection (Mormon 2:7, 21).
What do all of these examples have in common? In all three cases, there was no way to achieve perfection or completeness. Jacob couldn’t possibly write every sacred experience of his people. Alma couldn’t punish every crime. And Mormon was unable to instantly gather all his people to safety. All three of them had to do the best they could with the resources they had.
It strikes me that we can be diligent and productive without getting stressed out, if we are accurate in setting expectations for ourselves. The key is to understand our limitations and to do what we can within them.
Sometimes, if we can set aside the anxiety of not being able to do everything, and just start doing something, we may be surprised what actually gets done. This past weekend, I had a task to complete that seemed impossible. I resolved to do some of it, and not to worry too much about partial completion. To my astonishment, I soon found that the task was nearly done and that I could finish it after all.
Today, I will be diligent. I will strive to do as much as is “practicable.” I will be careful not to overreach or to set unreasonable expectations for what I can accomplish, but I will be diligent in doing what I can.