"A wise man once distinguished between 'the noble art of getting things done' and 'a nobler art of leaving things undone.' True 'wisdom in life,' he taught, consists of 'the elimination of non-essentials' (Lin Yutang, The Importance of Living, 162, 10). May I suggest that you periodically evaluate how you are doing in this area? What are the nonessential things that clutter your days and steal your time? What are the habits you may have developed that do not serve a useful purpose? What are the unfinished or unstarted things that could add vigor, meaning, and joy to your life?
"Sometimes we make the mistake of neglecting the essentials of life. The Savior had harsh words for the scribes and Pharisees of His day: 'Woe unto you,' He told them, 'for [you] have omitted the weightier matters of the law, [justice], mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done' (Matthew 23:23).
"Although the Savior's words were directed to a specific audience thousands of years ago, they apply to us as well today.
"In modern revelation, the Lord has commanded, 'Thou shalt not idle away thy time, neither shalt thou bury thy talent that it may not be known' (D&C 60:13). It is quite common to hear people and friends of ours say, 'Where has the time gone?' or 'If I only had more time.'
"In reality, time is perhaps the only commodity of life that is divided equally among every person in the world. Think about it—we all have 24 hours in a day. Though some people have more demands on their time than others, we all have an equal opportunity to use those 24 hours wisely."
- Dieter F. Uchtdorf, "As You Embark upon This New Era," BYU commencement address, April 23, 2009
Click here to read or listen to the full talk
In our society, we often feel ingrained with counsel on the "art of getting things done." But I love the parallel insight about the importance of the "nobler art of leaving things undone." Wise men and women make careful choices about what in their lives should be done, and what should be left aside. And those choices are often not just stopping unproductive or unworthy activities; sometimes we have to choose not to continue with valuable or useful activities, in order to focus on the "things that matter most."
What a valuable exercise to do periodically: to carefully and prayerfully evaluate the various activities in our lives and choose those that truly matter most, eliminating others that might not be as valuable. That will lead to wise and productive use of our allotted time!