There has been a lot said and written on the subject of time management mostly from non-Muslim Western sources. Unfortunately most material available only addresses the problem of wasting time in fragments. There has not been a holistic treatment of this subject from an Islamic perspective. We Muslims repeatedly find ourselves at a loss at organizing our affairs and achieving our multi-faceted goals due to mismanagement of time. In addressing this subject, I will attempt to share a holistic methodology which over the years I have found effective. It should be helpful for most practicing Muslims, insha Allah.
First of all, one should realize the importance of life and time which are gifts from Allah (SWT). Life is a one-time opportunity whose proper use will ultimately decide one’s destiny in this world and the next. Since Allah (SWT) is the Creator and Regulator of all affairs, it is only appropriate that we use the blessing of time in accordance with His wishes alone. Thus we must first make a clear intention to dedicate one’s life and all our actions based on an overall mission to serve Allah (SWT) and His deen and thus qualify for Paradise. This mission should not just be given lip service. It should be sincerely implemented in all aspects of our lives.
Once this realization and intention is established, one automatically begins to filter all one’s activities to remove those that hinder its achievement. One becomes driven by clear goals and tends to carry out routine activities in the most efficient manner. One feels is no craving for addictions like TV viewing, computer games, movies, shopping sprees, collecting stuff, etc. Weekly grocery shopping can be achieved in 30 minutes flat with proper planning and timing. Children can be taken to parks and beaches on an early weekend morning when the people sleep so that there is plenty of parking, no crowds, no traffic and no indecency.
By resolving to implement a Sunnah lifestyle, one organizes one’s daily activities to become focused in achieving the supreme mission. The Sunnah teaches us to live simply and efficiently, focusing on those aspects which are really important for us and doing away with time wasters. Not only that, it is the pattern of divinely inspired, human lifestyle that helps achieve the supreme mission in the most optimum way. The Sunnah is a most natural lifestyle, in which one consciously aligns oneself to the natural rhythms and forces of Creation. One synergizes with the natural world and achieving goals becomes a natural outcome. This is what is meant by having tawfeeq (divine alignment of opportunity and preparedness) in realizing one’s ambitions. The levels of stress, anxiety and effort are the least compared to any other possible means. This makes it possible to achieve multiple synergistic goals simultaneously.
For a practicing Muslim, the five salwaat are the milestones in one’s daily routine which he uses to organize his activities around in well-defined chunks. It is found that doing work in well-defined stages is more beneficial than during prolonged uninterrupted sessions. Prayer must be established at its earliest time and with the first congregation at the masjid, whenever possible. The prayers fulfill the essential purpose of connection to Allah (SWT), reinforcing the mission, self-reflection and resolving/planning to work on pending tasks through divine inspiration which comes after supplications. The masjid and the congregation are means to help one meet one’s goals and mission. By frequently visiting the masjid, one becomes involved with others who share one’s mission, thus synergizing with them. One should involve oneself and one’s family in the local masjid activities. Time should be invested in socializing with people of positive outlook who support and share one’s mission.
The choice of residence should be in that neighborhood of the city which is closest to a masjid, work, relatives, shops and other places where you do your chores. By avoiding frequent out-of-town travel, one gets more time to focus on one’s goals. Traveling and traffic jams not only waste time and resources but they also make one tired, hindering one to work on goals. One should try to find and use local resources as much as possible, rather than going to distant places to reach them. The internet makes it possible to engage in dawah, order things and study subjects online.
Proper planning is essential for success. Thus waking 30 minutes regularly before fajr for tahajjud makes one better organized as you ask Allah (SWT) for help in the day’s activities. Waking early and planning the day is much better than spending the late night tossing and turning in the bed, anxious for what tomorrow will bring. The latter is very counter-productive. Contrary to general assumption, waking for tahajjud makes one more alert throughout the day. One regularly falls easily to sleep right after ishaa as the Prophet (SWAS) recommended.
It is important to try and always plan your work, projects and activities. At work, avoid sitting after office hours. Do not make unreasonable commitments on project deadlines. Always give yourself a reasonable time margin. Let your colleagues know you have many commitments other than work. At the same time make sure you are known for working honestly, efficiently and produce good results. Do not sacrifice the essential balance in life to ever get ahead at work, no matter how many people are doing this around you. Whatever achievements you make will not be lasting and will return to haunt you in later stages of your life.
The choice of a life partner influences how organized you end up being in life. Marry someone for their deen, so that the whole family is organized around the supreme mission. Their support is essential for your success. Empower people under you by delegating and learning to trust them. Write a family mission statement and constitution with your spouse when you get married and try to live up to it. Try to pass on good time management habits to your children.
Lastly, it is vital for all family members to take the time to raise their emaan frequently. It will give everyone the energy to achieve their other goals. Worshipping, reading, learning, researching, teaching, writing, doing good works, dawah, avoiding sins, contemplating and spending time with the Quran are some activities that are useful. Make these activities the means for you and your family’s genuine contentment rather than wasting time in some other forms of senseless entertainment. Always look out for ways to make you and your family more efficient.
We learn from the Seerah, how all aspects of the Prophet’s (SWAS) life were aligned to his mission. There was wisdom and lessons in every mundane thing he did in his life. In order to use time wisely, we must make our intentions and mission the same. What better way to do this than to adopt the Sunnah in our lives? Worship as in the salawaatul khamisa, qiyaam and reciting Quran, planning, socializing, work, choice of residence and spouse, learning, entertainment, dawah, etc. can all be a means to our ultimate success if we have the right intentions and use them properly towards the right end. By doing so we would use our time efficiently.
I ask Allah (SWT) to give me and all the Muslims more blessings in use of our time. Ameen