Dear Rachel,

I realize that time is our most valuable resource, and I know that Judaism places emphasis on using time wisely for Torah study and doing mitzvahs, but I find myself wasting a lot of time on the Internet rather than spending my time on worthwhile activities. How is it possible to use every minute productively?

Thanks,

Counting the Minutes

Dear Counting,

It is true that Judaism puts a lot of stress on using our time productively. We see this in the way the Torah describes Abraham and David reaching old age. The verses say that they were "coming with their days." In other words, they reached old age with a life that was filled with days, each used to the fullest.

So, how to use your spare time and live your life more fully? Here are some suggestions that might help you keep your days focused on what really matters:

  • Plan. Planning your day in advance is a good way to ensure that you use your time how you truly want it to be used. The more structured your day, the less likely it is that you're going to waste it. Plan to help people and learn Torah every day.
  • Learn Torah online. There's an infinite amount of Torah to be learned. If you're already on the Internet, read an article on Chabad.org or watch a Torah lecture. Time spent on the Internet can also be imbued with holiness. When you catch yourself wasting time, stop and switch activities.
  • Pause and reflect. The most important question to ask ourselves is if a given activity is helping us develop a closer relationship with G‑d (and our higher selves) or distancing us from that goal. What we're doing is of less importance than why we're doing it and how the activity affects us. Every moment has the seed of greatness in it, depending on how we use it.
  • While you go through your day, evaluate your activities to see if they are bringing you closer to your ultimate spiritual goals. Sharing lunch with a friend, laughing together and giving each other emotional support can be a positive activity. Sitting together and gossiping isn't. Find a way to imbue all you do with a spiritual dimension.

  • Unplug on Shabbat. The ultimate time manager is Shabbat. When your week flows towards Shabbat, it takes on form and substance. With time set aside for spiritual rejuvenation, you can start each week refreshed and with clarity.

"More than the Jewish people have kept Shabbat, Shabbat has kept the Jewish people," goes the famous saying. Separate yourself from the demands of the week (and the Internet) for one day a week, and you are setting the tone of the rest of the week.

We use our time best when we live a life of purpose—doing mitzvahs, learning Torah and contributing to tikkun olam (the rectification of this world and our portion in it). However, we also need to make sure that we are recharging our batteries so that we have enough energy to serve G‑d. There are people who try so hard to squeeze every second out of every moment, thinking that it's a waste of time to relax and enjoy themselves, spend time with their families or just commune with nature. But these are very important ways to keep our spiritual and emotional balance.

Each one of us has a choice as to how we spend the days of our years here on earth. Sometimes we're not going to make good choices. That's human. However, every second holds the potential for a positive choice. If we strive, most of the time, to use our days to develop and actualize our spiritual potential (and that includes chilling out watching the clouds as they drift over the sky or the sound and light show of a storm, or spending time with the people we love), then we will come, G‑d willing, to old age in the way of our holy ancestors, with all of our days.

Wishing you a great time,

Rachel