Photo Credit: Rifka Schonfeld


My students all say they are tired,
all-nighters spent working while wired
have taken their toll
on their brains and their souls.
In the depths of despair they’re now mired.


So I tell them to get to bed early
to sleep more and not be so surly.
They’re not always willing
to risk not fulfilling
their world-saving hopes prematurely.

But you will never help all mankind
if you never have time to unwind.
If you’re sleeping so little
that you’re grouchy and brittle
then you’re probably losing your mind.
So sleep, my dear student, please sleep.

With your health it’s not good to be cheap.
You need sleep to learn well.
A tired brain’s a death knell
to success among Stanford’s elite – Adina Glickman, Associate Director for Academic Support, Stanford University


How many people wish there were more hours of the day to get things done?

I’m guessing just about everybody!

There are those people, though, who seem to always get things done. They have a successful company, spend quality time with their families, have interesting hobbies, and volunteer for chesed organizations. “Where do they find the time?” you ask yourself, as you go to bed with a to-do list of uncompleted items. Is the answer to go to sleep, like Adina Glickman suggests above?

Charles Duhigg, the bestselling author of The Power of Habit, recently wrote a new book entitled Smarter Faster Better: The Secrets of Being Productive in Life and Business. Of course, everyone is reading and writing about productivity today, and perhaps Duhigg’s book is an oversimplification of our daily race against the clock. However, there are a few key concepts he presents that have helped me gain a few more productive hours in my day. I’ve shared them with you below.


Goal Setting

We all have long-term goals we want to accomplish – we want to write a novel, lose twenty pounds, start our own business, or pursue a hobby. If, in the morning we woke up and wrote a to-do list with the words “write a novel,” we would never get anything done. Thus, Duhigg suggests creating a smarter to-do list that will ultimately get things done faster and better.

The top of your to-do list should contain your “stretch” goal. This is your long-term goal like running the marathon. Below your stretch goal you should place your “SMART” goal for the day. SMART stands for:


Specific: a specific small goal
Measure: can I measure whether I have done it?
Achievable: is it possible to achieve?
Realistic: can this be done in the timetable I am suggesting?
Timetable: when am I going to do this? In the morning? Afternoon? Evening?


That means that underneath your stretch goal, you might put several smaller goals that will slowly get you toward your goal. And it also means that when distractions arise, you can look back at your stretch goal and decide whether they are worth addressing. If you are distracted by something that does not pertain to your stretch goal, ignore it! Duhigg says, “We all know it’s so easy to get lost in the weeds. You can start working on something, and then in retrospect you think ‘Why did I spend all that time getting that thing done? It doesn’t get me any closer to the thing I care about.’”



Part of being productive is knowing what to do with all the ideas floating around your head and world. Today, those who are productive in the field of creativity are “innovation brokers” who bring together old ideas in new ways. Rather than reinventing one old idea, they take a number of ideas from different fields and bring them together in one place.

Duhigg explains, “The secret to being more productive is understanding how to manage your brain better. You can choose to activate your self-motivation. You can choose to direct your focus. You don’t have to react. You can be in control. And when you are, you get more done with less stress, less time and less waste.”


Write it Down. Teach it.

One of the ways we can ensure that how we do spend our time is productive is to hold onto the knowledge and skills we have gained – to make it stick. Research shows that writing by hand helps us pay more attention to information; so write your to-do lists by hand. Ultimately, you’ll get more done.

And, once you’ve learned a skill, teach it to a friend. This isn’t so that your friend can learn the information, but really so that you can continue to educate yourself. After all, medical education is based on this model: “See one. Do one. Teach one.” The teaching isn’t for the next student, but for the person who is doing the teaching to cement that learning.

 * * * * *

Duhigg concludes his introduction with words of inspiration: “Productivity isn’t about working more or sweating harder. It’s not simply a product of spending longer hours at your desk or making bigger sacrifices.

“Rather, productivity is about making certain choices in certain ways. The way we choose to see ourselves and frame daily decisions; the stories we tell ourselves, and the easy goals we ignore; the sense of community we build among teammates; the creative cultures we establish as leaders: These are the things that separate the merely busy from the genuinely productive.”


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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