Personal Growth & Self-Perfection
Appreciating and Productively Managing Time














So many people in so many life roles and situations find that the effective, organized and productive use of time is difficult at best and impossible at worst. And, there are so many reasons and causes: interruptions, poor planning or scheduling, disorganization, absence of structured and actionable objectives and goals, juggling too many goals or projects at one time, procrastination, inability to make or keep to priorities; you name it.

The observant Jew has extra demands upon his or her time since, in addition to mundane universal activities such as business, housekeeping, paperwork and personal organization; there are such added time-burdens as Torah learning, practical mitzvos, shabos and other holy days, larger families and community projects. Effectively balancing, organizing and using time can seem to be an insurmountable, unrealistic or even frightening expectation!

Pirkei Avos [chapter four] says that one hour used in this world for repentance and good deeds is worth more than all of the pleasure of the eternal world, because time used properly in this world is the means to the pleasure of eternal reward.

Pirkei Avos [chapter two] also tells us, "The time is short, the work is much, the workers are lazy, the reward is much and the Ruler is strict." We have much to accomplish in one short life time.

Time is the most precious and irreplaceable resource of life. This goes for every facet of life. If you do anything, it takes time for you to do it. And the more that any distractions, clutter, laziness, disorganization or other unhelpful things get in your way, the further you can be from using time for the valuable, important, priority things that you should be doing with your life. Appreciate time...the oportunities and gifts that it gives to us...if we use it well, wisely and effectively.

The following will convey how serious time is. In Jewish law, if you steal something you are obligated to return it. This somewhat cleans away the transgression. However, if you "steal" someone's time (e.g. wasting time, keeping them waiting, coming late) it is considered a form of theft which you can never pay back - making it a sin that can never be repaired, which is extremely serious. A man should learn Torah every instant that he is not doing something else that is inescapable.

A religious context for the incalculably vital role of working on and applying Time Management in life includes the values and goals of Torah life; and the eternal world which is beyond time, to which this time-locked world is a stepping stone for those who achieve their spiritual mission here successfully. This world, including effective management of one's time here and achieving Torah essentials, is a means and not an end.

You ask, is there anything that I can do to improve my use of time; to be more organized, productive, calm, in-control, fulfilled and systematic? The answer is a QUALIFIED yes. Why qualified?

1. It takes (re)learning activities, behavior, patterns, habits, attitudes and skills against that which may be deeply ingrained in you. This can only be achieved in accordance with the extent to which you are prepared to take on the "job." It may not always be easy (important projects rarely are) but it certainly is possible. You do not have to be sophisticated or specially qualified. Anyone can do it. The keys are motivation, discipline and consistent and systematic application.

2. It takes learning of actual material and techniques for the effective, organized and productive use and management of time. If at first you don't succeed, try and try again; especially regarding this most precious and irreplaceable resource and component of life.

3. Understand that Time Management is nothing superhuman. For example, if I work an eight hour day but I am only now productive four hours a day and I learn Time Management, I will not produce 53 hours worth of work in an eight hour day. Rather, I may increase my productive time to six or seven hours within my eight hour day.

4. There are 84,600 seconds in a day. How many do you waste, how many are you sloppy with? If you lose a moment, it is lost forever. Guard your every moment.

5. Probably the most important component of Time Management is systematic SELF-MANAGEMENT.

6. If you are diligent and persevering, improvement will gradually come.

The techniques and ideas here are primarily derived from the business world and have been tried and tested successfully in the profit, non-profit and personal spheres of life, to upgrade organization and improve productivity. Adapt the material in whatever way works for you in your various applications; so as to be useful and value-adding.

If we can get more done with our time, we can have more time for spiritual priorities such as Torah, prayer, kindnesses, repentance, character development and fulfilling the commandments. When we strive to get more done for eternity, the value of being effective and productive in earthly life defies imagination. Won't the effort be more than worth it? Your success will be rewarded bountifully by G-d Who put us here in order to give us reward for work done during earthly life. Start now! And influence others too!



In order for our discussion of time to have any purpose, the use of the managed time has to have purpose. Efforts need to be directed towards meaningful and value-furnishing goals.

What is a goal? A goal is a final result produced by effort and investment which were intentionally directed towards that result. You can't do a goal. You can do an activity. Activity produces a result and that result achieves a goal.

A goal is a final result and an objective is component result. If my end goal is to make a big business deal with Yonkel Inc., objectives may include securing an appointment with Yonkel, having a prepared presentation researched and ready, making a journey to Yonkel's factory, etc. I must define and list all component activities so that I can achieve all objectives which, in sum, achieve the final goal of depositing a big profit into my bank account as a result of the huge sale to Yonkel, Inc.

Goals and objectives must be clear, specific and concrete. Seeing them in writing is more motivating and real than having them abstractly hanging in your mind. A goal may be of long, medium or short range in nature. You break a project down from the final desired end result, work backwards subdividing into necessary component tasks and activities (which result in the achievement of each objective) and break the overall project into "bite size" manageable actions. Starting from the end, you keep asking yourself, "In order to achieve this, what must I do?" working backwards to the beginning step at which you must start.

We typically have more than one concurrent goal competing for our time. Therefore, before we can talk about planning and scheduling our time, we must talk about prioritizing our goals and integrating our different efforts into a cohesive, practical and organized program by which to operate.



Priority level is a measure of the amount of value created (or damage/loss prevented) by spending time in any given way. The tasks and activities in your situation/life produce a measure of value. You must evaluate what you spend your time doing in both relative and absolute terms. Only you can make the value judgements which assign priority to the things that you might do with your time. The more value created by any given use of time, the higher the priority. Keep as close as you can to the highest level of value-creating activity always!

I use five priority levels in my priority evaluating system. As you will see, only three of the five levels can be used in planning and scheduling your time.

An "A" priority is the highest. This is something necessary and of the highest value. You cannot put these off if you want to achieve the goal. Time is of the essence. Get "A" priorities done and behind you as quickly and excellently as you are able.

"B" means medium value and importance. Some delay will not be costly or consequential but you should still make sure that you do the task so that you achieve your goal properly and on time.

"C" is a low priority. It would be nice if done but no loss if not done.

"D" means this is a thing to not do. This can be for several reasons: 1. it is of no significant value; or not worth the cost; or do not do because it can harm, backfire or be incompatible or conflicting with something significant that you should do. In projects that have you working with others, a "D" priority brings extra need to communicate when it may appear to someone else to be a worthwhile task but, if engaged in, will cause harm, waste, loss or confusion. If your part of a corporation is inventing the car, and another division is investing heavily in inventing a better horseshoe, someone better tell them that horseshoes are going to be obsolete soon.

"A+" is something not planned on which is so important that it pre-empts even an "A" such as a sudden emergency or important unforeseen opportunity.

Obviously, you cannot build any "D" (don't do) or "A+" (an unforeseen need for which you stop everything else) into your planning and scheduling. You do plan and schedule "A," "B" and "C" level activities. You may use plus and minus levels as you see fit (e.g. B+). Always put "A's" as early into your schedule as possible. The higher a priority, the sooner you want it done and behind you. Evaluate trade-offs when delaying higher priority activities for lower level tasks. For example, in your schedule for next week, you wish to load all of your "A" level activities onto Monday and Tuesday. But one of the activities requires working with someone else who will only be available on Thursday. Or a "B" activity requires use of a machine that you will only be able to use on Monday.

In defining a "A+" recognize the difference between "urgent" and "important." Urgent is often a measure of suddenness. What matters is measure of value-creation. If something is value creating or damage-preventing, this is important and eligible for "A+" designation, and it can pre-empt an "A." If something sudden is not necessarily important, evaluate it's prospective measure of value creation, assign it an appropriate priority level and schedule it accordingly.

Also recognize the difference between a "priority" and "habit." You may do something habitually and this might blind you to its objective importance and value. This is especially of concern in cases where something comes up that you have to do and, because you are doing something "that you always do" at that time, you refrain from something important and valuable at that time.



Planning, essentially, is organizing all necessary tasks that you anticipate needing to do. You must identify objectives, priorities, results which permit you to evaluate your efforts, and the resources needed in order to perform your planned tasks. If resources are not available when you need them, your task cannot be performed on time or as well.

Scheduling is "translating" your plan into an order within manageable time-frames (days, weeks, months, hour or portions of them, or whatever is meaningful in your situation). Since we may have various simultaneous goals, a schedule which integrates several goals will furnish a multiplicity of time-frames.

Build in flexibility for the unpredictable and uncontrollable (traffic jams, flight delays, overlong appointments or waiting, co-worker being out of work, machine break-downs, interruptions, etc.). Often, various undertakings have a ratio of predictable use of time versus unexpected. If, for example, you find that 50% of your time cannot be planned, your 40 hour weekly schedule can only have 20 hours of scheduling; or if 25% of a 60 hour week cannot be planned, you can only schedule 45 hours.

Build in, when appropriate, back-up plans (alternate travel plans, do paperwork or review the weekly Torah portion during "down time," see a different customer when one does not keep an appointment, etc.).

Write down all long, medium and short range goals. For each, evaluate priority, tasks necessary, objectives, measurable expected results, resources needed and time frames (duration of task, span over which it can or must be done, and synchronization with events and people involved). When you write the tasks which you schedule, supply the priority code too (A, B or C) with the time. If any changes occur, this will help you at a glance to decide how best to decide on an alternative use of time.

Be systematized and disciplined when planning, scheduling and implementing. Don't be blown around by people or situations. Create and then stick to your schedule, which is directed towards goals and valuable results. Plan and schedule activities and steps in order of sequence, logic, progression and priority.

There may be different priority values to weigh when considering a plan and schedule. Different priorities may conflict with or contradict each other. Use a prudent and judicious "formula" for juggling and balancing different priorities.

For regular scheduling needs (e.g. every day or week) prepare the next schedule at the end of the previous unit (end of the day or week), not at the beginning of the next. This will allow you to 1. think about the coming time unit and refine ideas and develop insights about it, 2. look forward to the next time frame with eager anticipation and 3. start the next time unit on a prompt, ready, strong, motivated and productive note.

Realistically estimate the time it will take you to complete each objective and task. Consider the quality of effort necessary to create the result effectively and excellently. Skimping and short-cuts promote mediocre results. While you want to be efficient, you want to also be successful.

If it ends up that there is too much work for the time available in your schedule, you can choose to either 1. drop or put off lower priority tasks, 2. work longer than your scheduled time or 3. extend the deadline if there is no harm in doing so. In any event, learn to improve your estimating and scheduling skills.

Use a "to do" list every day. Add and scratch out constantly. Use whatever tools (daily planner pad, pocket calendar, computer program) you can, but be aware that each has pros and cons (e.g. you might not access a computer when on the road). Don't scratch off a task until you have completed it or determined to cancel it. You might find it useful to make two different kinds of marks to differentiate something you've canceled from something you've completed because in the future you may refer to your records and be confused. For example, you might put two lines through something canceled, one line through something completed.

Monitor your time and results periodically. Use logs to discern "enemies" of Time Management; and to analyze problems, patterns, results and how to keep improving. List "time killers," especially recurrent ones, with the amount and nature of consumed time (interruptions, procrastination, disorganization, getting stuck in low priority activities, etc.).



You can plan and schedule, but if you do not take action, you will have no results. Therefore it is imperative that you not be stopped by procrastination. Often, procrastination can be caused by:

* working with numbers, paper or people

* anything forced or imposed

* tedium

* change

* fear of the unknown

* awe of a task that seems to big or impossible

* new technology

* the unpleasant

* fear of rejection or disapproval, or

* being indecisive about a decision, commitment or risk.

When you get a grip on the problem, there are many strategies that can help, and some examples follow.

Break down a huge and awesome task to smaller "bite size pieces" so that you break the hesitation and initiate momentum.

Read up on new technology, ask a friend or co-worker about it and watch people working at it.

Think into the greater harm caused by evading or delaying an unpleasant task.

Work on self-discipline and appreciate the opportunity to grow each time you overcome resistance to doing a necessary task.

Tell others what you intend to do so you will "become hesitant about hesitating" since others expect you to act.

Modify your environment to eliminate barriers and distraction or to introduce helpful elements.

Reward yourself for accomplishment. Give what you promise yourself and never give when you didn't earn the reward.

Recognize consequences, harm, tangible loss or opportunity loss; and find motivation and incentive when you contrast the gain to be had from action.

To overcome indecision as a reason for procrastination; strengthen your skills in the decision-making process including collecting, adding, reviewing and analyzing data that optimizes the quality and value of a decision. Don't get caught in "analysis paralysis." The more time you spend on unjustifiable or excessive deliberation, the more unpleasant and off-putting the task can become. Remember that you scheduled the task in the first place because it has value. Therefore not procrastinating has value.

To overcome perfectionism as a reason for procrastination, determine objectively what are the appropriate standards for collecting information, spending time and achieving results which you are responsible for. You are responsible for diligent best (not perfect) efforts, and never at the price of non-achievement. If you are stuck in perfectionism, stop whatever you are doing and go in for brain surgery or rocket science.

If you are worried about something going wrong, make a "calamity list." Take a sheet of paper and draw a line down the middle. On the left side write down every possible calamity that you fear might happen. On the right side, mark down every calamity that actually does happen, with date, time and description. Most people generally see that next to none of the calamities that justify procrastination actually happen and they can afford to stop worrying - and stalling - most or all of the time.



It is fine to be organized and have a well-planned and actionable schedule that gives you a prudent basis for deciding what to spend your time on. But unless you can retain control of your time, you won't accomplish your goals. Life throws "curve balls" and distractions at us. In Time Management, we assign priority levels to activities which measure their potential for the production of value. Priority levels give us another benefit: the ability to weigh what we are doing against the amount or lack of value in something which interrupts us. We, therefore, have an important tool for evaluating whether the controllable distractions which side-swipe our efforts have our permission to stop our activities or not. Some things (e.g. illness, a bridge collapse) cannot be controlled. But more interruptions can be controlled than you may have thought, so that you can have greater control over your time and the production of valuable results and goals.

By learning how to handle interruptions, you will be able to take external forces which, until now, have been entirely or predominantly out of your control; and bring them more under your control in a judicious, valid and effective manner. If the purpose of an interruption is a higher level priority than the task you are now on, you switch your attention and effort to the matter of the interruption, as appropriate and for as long as necessary. If the task you are now working on is at a higher priority level, you can put the interruption off as appropriate and for as long as necessary.

This never is meant to give you license to be rude or callous to people. They may sincerely think their interruption is important, or may not realize how important your current activity is. ALWAYS BE GRACIOUS, POLITE AND CONSIDERATE WITH PEOPLE. When interrupted, or on an occasion when your time and attention are inconveniently requested, DISTINGUISH THE PERSON FROM THE ISSUE. Don't ever reject a person; just reject the time or the issue or its low priority level on a non-personal, non-hurtful or non-disrespectful basis. It will also help to soften a refusal to be interrupted if you can give the person a short explanation. If there is justifying value to the issue, be sure to offer the person an alternative time. MAKE CLEAR THAT YOU ARE REJECTING THE MOMENT, NOT THE PERSON.

* I'll get back to you at 4:00 when I'll have this mountain of paper cleared up off my desk

* Get back to me at 2:30 when my meeting should be over

* I'll have to defer this till a time when I'm freer

* Let's delegate this to Shmerel who is better at this than we are (or: has more time available than we have)

* Let's do this over lunch when we both can talk with clear heads

* You're right, this is vital, I'll come with you right now

* Thanks for thinking of me but it's not something I can do for the meanwhile

* I can't pull away for this since what I'm working on now is vital and must be completed by a deadline. Please find another way to address this issue.

The greater part of the time of your life that you can control, the more that you can put your life together and the more that you can achieve value-furnishing goals. When you are organizing, managing and controlling your time and yourself; you are determining more and more how much motivation, success, productivity and fulfillment you should achieve with your life. Thank Heaven for the power and opportunity to make your life as constructive, positive and purposeful as possible!