Photo Credit: Jewish Press

Do you feel like you are always pressed for time? Not enough hours in the day to do what you need to do, let alone what you want to do? Wish you could make time for all of the people and things that you love?

In her new book, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, journalist Laura Vanderkam makes an interesting argument for the modern person – in particular how to prioritize and ensure that you use your time wisely, productively, and happily.


Vanderkam does not suggest time saving techniques such as better ways to review your email or ways to better organize your shopping lists. Instead, she writes about the way we can ensure that we get what we want out of the time we have each week.

First, she lays out a very simple principle. There are 168 hours in every week. Even if we sleep 8 hours every night and work a 40-hour workweek, that means that we have 72 hours to use as we would like. If we work a 50-hour workweek, we have 62 hours, a 60-hour workweek, 52 hours. Vanderkam also argues that hard research shows that no one really works more than 60 hours on a consistent basis.

So, what can you do with your 72, 62, or 52 hours? First, think about what a really great year would look like for you. In other words, if you were to look back at the end of a full year and say, “Wow, that was a spectacular year! I feel really good about it,” what would you have done during that year?

Using a pen and paper, write down the wonderful things that you did during that year in three categories:


Career Relationships Self



A lot of people remember to include their career, but people often forget about their relationships and themselves. Maybe the list includes writing the novel you always wanted to write, getting into shape, reconnecting with the brother that you haven’t been in contact with in years, or playing with your grandchildren a bit more.

Now that you have that list, take a look at your week. See if you have scheduled in time to meet those goals. Have you blocked out two hours a week for your grandchildren? Have you blocked out three hours a week to write? Have you blocked out time to exercise?

The idea behind Vanderkam’s theory is that if we are not mindful of the time we spend (and its relation to our goals), we end up wasting it. Therefore, look at your week as a blank slate and start reapportioning those hours based on long term goals that will make you happy and fulfilled.

Sound like you still don’t have any time for this? Vanderkam says that when we say, “I don’t have time for that” we are actually saying, “That is not a priority.” You don’t have time to dust your blinds, but if someone told you that they would pay you $100,000 if you dusted your blinds, you would make time for it. Likewise, if you have a major leak in your house and you need to get a plumber, a carpet cleaner, and someone to repaint, you are spending hours and hours on something that you did “budget” time for, but somehow you found it anyway. The point is that we make time for our priorities.

When we use the language of “It’s not a priority” rather than “I don’t have time,” we understand that time is a choice. If we want to feel good about our careers, our relationships, and ourselves at the end of the day, week, or year, we need to assess what our priorities are and then schedule them into our weeks. We need to fill our time and our lives with our core priorities.

Now, a downside of this theory (and Vanderkam also points this out) is that the theory comes from a place of privilege. If keeping your home clean is a priority, but you don’t want to have to take several hours of your time each day to maintain your home, Vanderkam argues that you should pay for someone else to do it. This will ultimately give you more hours in your day to work, play with your children or grandchildren, have dinner with your spouse, or otherwise pursue your other priorities. But not everyone can afford cleaning help or can outsource other priorities that are not necessarily fulfilling. In that case, Vanderkam suggests swapping things you are good at and make you feel good for things other people are good at and make them feel good (like an evening of babysitting for several days of laundry).

Regardless of the flaws in this system, the idea that we have more time that we think is very appealing and has made me rethink the way that I plan my week. After all, as Vanderkam explains, small moments can have great power.


Register now for an anger management workshop by Dr. Ross Greene on November 14, 2017. Please call Mrs. Schonfeld at 718-382-5437 for more information.


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An acclaimed educator and social skills ​specialist​, Mrs. Rifka Schonfeld has served the Jewish community for close to thirty years. She founded and directs the widely acclaimed educational program, SOS, servicing all grade levels in secular as well as Hebrew studies. A kriah and reading specialist, she has given dynamic workshops and has set up reading labs in many schools. In addition, she offers evaluations G.E.D. preparation, social skills training and shidduch coaching, focusing on building self-esteem and self-awareness. She can be reached at 718-382-5437 or at