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Katriel Reichman
Katriel Reichman

Is Jewish Standard Time an obstacle to success?

Are you really in control of your time? (Licensed from Bigstock)
Photo by Heather Zabriskie on Unsplash. Time is precious. Don’t let procrastination (Jewish Standard TIme) stop you from meeting your goals

“Jewish time” means different things to different people. For the more spiritually inclined, living in Jewish time means living in synch with the Jewish week. Hurry up during the six weekdays, prepare for Shabbat, and then disconnect for 25 hours. Slow down. After Shabbat, make havdalah and then restart the weekly cycle. Startup nation gets back to life again.

For soldiers in the IDF, time means “hurry up and wait”. Hurry up because the army is a hugely complex interconnected organism and all parts need to be coordinated for the mission to succeed.  Wait because it’s so complex that all the moving parts almost never work together seamlessly.

In popular usage, however, Jewish time just means being late.

Not perfectly on time; possibly somewhat late, but no harm is done as a result. The implication is that there is no need to be exactly on time, and starting a little late is acceptable.
– From the Urban Dictionary definition of Jewish Time

Some of the suggestions in the Urban Dictionary get pretty specific, suggesting that Jewish Standard Time (JST) is a standard of time, “about 26 minutes after the rest of the people within your time zone.”

From my own experience, these definitions are undercounting our propensity towards lateness. If the wedding invitation says that the chuppah will start promptly at 7:00, it’s not happening until at least 7:30. If the invitation doesn’t specify promptly, you won’t miss anything if you arrive by 7:45.

Licensed from Bigstock

This relaxed attitude towards punctuality puzzles me. Aren’t we the people who have set times for when we can pray, when we eat matzah, when we can have ice cream after eating meat, when we can shake the four species, and when we need to blow the shofar? Isn’t Shabbat (and the sabbatical year) all about time?

Some tendencies towards say, being less than punctual, may be built into the system

It is true that much of our rhythm is regulated by time. It’s time to light the Shabbat candles. It’s time to pray the afternoon service.  It’s time for Passover.

On second look, however, our laws build in a sort of relaxed approach to time. I can light the Shabbat candles up to 18 minutes after the time printed on the calendar and I’m still okay. I can pray the afternoon service early in the afternoon, or just before sunset. In olden times, I even had a “make up” date for Passover if I was delayed getting to Jerusalem and I could bring the Passover sacrifice a month later.

While the flexibility built into Jewish law may provide a partial explanation for Jewish Standard Time, it doesn’t explain what happens when being relaxed morphs into inconsiderate to others, and when being relaxed becomes procrastination that can derail our lives, ruin our lives, and sabotage our plans.

When lateness becomes getting blocked or falling into a procrastination trap

According to Oxford Languages, the word pro·cras·ti·nate was coined in the late 16th century from the Latin procrastinat (deferred till the morning), which itself derives from pro (forward) and cras (tomorrow). It’s probably safe to say that procrastinating behaviors predate the word for procrastination. In fact, in the very beginning of the Torah, Noah delays (according to the rabbis) boarding the ark until the last possible moment.

Being a bit late is okay. If your host invites you for Shabbat and says “see you on Friday,” you aren’t going to be super welcome if you show up at 4:00 AM. But for many people, sliding into chronic procrastination can be life-destroying.

The 5Hs – test yourself to see if procrastination is holding you back

I had the chance to talk with Ross Grossman of Get-Focus, an online group therapy program that helps people who are stymied by writer’s block, and other types of procrastination. Ross suggested the 5H rule that you can use to determine when you need to address procrastination. If you meet any of the criteria, it’s time to get help.

Is the inability to get things done:

  • Hurting you financially.
  • Holding you back professionally.
  • Hampering your creative expression.
  • Health – damaging your physical health.
  • Harming your relationships.

Freeing ourselves from paralyzing procrastination is the essence of being free

The very first commandment in the Torah is to establish the calendar. This mitzvah is given as part of the process of being freed from bondage in Egypt. A slave has no control over their time. A free person is the arbiter of his own schedule. He determines when he will wake in the morning and when he will work. When he will play, and when he will study.

When we lose control over our ability to control our own time, when we can’t stick to a schedule or meet our goals, we become less free.

My own writing about mental health and about how mental health practices are marketed is sometimes derailed by chronic procrastination, I have been challenged more than once by procrastination. If you are challenged as well and group therapy seems attractive to you, you can check out the Procrastination Group or the Writers Accountability Group at Get-Focus.

Failure to launch (or difficulty fulling embracing adult life)

The recent graduate who has trouble transitioning to adult life, the young computer professional who just can’t seem to get his act together to develop the skills needed to advance his career, or the young adult who is having difficulty dating or forming relationships all experience a particular form of getting stuck. Team CBT, a form of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), can be highly effective in helping you move forward in life. I was introduced to Team CBT for getting unstuck by Dr. Daniel Hermann, a clinical psychologist in New Jersey, and he is a great resource for people who are stalled.

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About the Author
CEO of MethodM Ltd. Working hard to match clients and therapists (therapyeverywhere.com, psychologyeverywhere.com), and enthusiastic advocate for trial and error in technology and content management (methodm.com).
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