Mustard Seeds and Time Management

I’ve been thinking today about the practical implications of the following brief parable:

The kingdom of heaven is like to a grain of mustard seed, which a man took, and sowed in his field:

Which indeed is the least of all seeds: but when it is grown, it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a tree, so that the birds of the air come and lodge in the branches thereof.

Matthew 13:31-32

This reminds me of Alma’s parable of the seed, in which he emphasizes that our process of spiritual growth can start very small:

If ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed…behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed.

Alma 32:27

If we nurture that seed patiently and diligently, Alma says, eventually “it shall be a tree springing up unto everlasting life” (Alma 32:41).

Alma later explained to his son Helaman, “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6).

This principle has been on my mind today as I’ve considered my own time management and goal setting. Several projects which have been languishing in my life would be relatively easily completed if I would just complete a small portion of them each day. A small contribution to a creative work, an organizing effort, or the development of a new skill might not seem like a significant accomplishment, but the cumulative effect of consistent small contributions over time may be extraordinary.

Elder David A. Bednar observed:

Many people in our contemporary world are drawn to promises of big results that occur quickly and all at once. Consider, for example, all of the money spent on lottery tickets. Recall the claims of advertising messages you have received that pledge immediate weight loss, instant health, fast hair growth, and a more youthful appearance in just 14 days. We are bombarded constantly with messages from a variety of sources promoting speedy supersizing, instant gratification, and outstanding performance that will impress our families and friends….

In contrast to what we so often observe in the world, the Lord…accomplishes His work by bringing to pass great things through
small and simple means.

I believe many, if not all, of the most satisfying and memorable accomplishments in our homes, in the Church, in our jobs and professions, and in our communities will be the product of this important spiritual pattern—of simple and small things. We should find great comfort in the fact that ordinary people who faithfully, diligently, and consistently do simple things that are right before God will bring forth extraordinary results.

‘By Small and Simple Things Are Great Things Brought to Pass’ (Alma 37:6-7),” BYU Women’s Conference, 29 April 2011

Today, I will make “mustard seed” sized contributions to the projects I’m working on. I will trust that, with God’s help, I can achieve significant goals through the consistent completion of many smaller accomplishments over time.

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