Recently, I posted a series of Time Management tips on my Facebook page. I decided to put them together as one post here so everybody can benefit from them inshā'Allāh. So without any further introduction, here are seven time management tips that I try to live by and which make life very productive for me, alḥamdulillāh.
Tip #1: Work in small chunks
Don't try to get something done in one sitting, especially if it takes a lot of time. Split it up into smaller chunks so that it is done by the deadline without affecting your other tasks.
Example 1: You have an assignment due on 15 May. Split up your work into one hour daily chunks of research, drafting, writing, referencing and editing so that it is done on time without seeming like a burden.
Example 2: If you have a 200 page book to read, split it up into 20 pages a day so that it is done in 10 days without affecting your other tasks and responsibilities.
Tip #2: Discipline is Key!
To be successful in anything in both worlds, self-discipline is necessary. This applies to time management as well. One needs to be very strict on oneself to stick to times, stick to schedules and not get distracted from priorities.
Alḥamdulillāh, Islam teaches us self-discipline through our daily prayers, especially trying to pray with khushū', as well as through Ḥajj, fasting and other aspects of our religion. We need to take the discipline we learn from this and apply it to other areas of our life including time management.
It takes discipline to make schedules, checklists, etc. and even more discipline to stick to these schedules. It takes discipline to ignore distractions and avoid unnecessary phone conversations. This is a habit all Muslims need to develop.
Tip #3: Eliminate Time Wasters!
For people who don't constantly monitor their days, a lot of time is wasted in useless activities (lughw as the Qur'an refers to it). A simple step to avoiding time wasters is to keep a log for a few days of everything you do in a day. You will be surprised at how much time is wasted in useless activities that do not benefit you in this world or the next.
By cutting down our time wasters to just the necessary means of relaxation and fun, we can free up a few more hours in the day for other beneficial projects.
Common time wasters to look out for include:
1. Wasting too much time on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube or browsing non-beneficial websites
2. Talking on the phone for hours (this can also lead to sins like backbiting)
3. Television and Video Games
By cutting down the above to just the necessary amount you need to function properly in a day (6-8 hours sleep, 2-3 hours of fun), we are able to free time for things which matter.
“Successful are the believers…those who stay away from lughw (things which waste time)” (Surah Mu'minoon 23:1 & 3)
Tip #4: Make a schedule
I prefer a weekly schedule to a daily one as it gives you more time to schedule more things and allows for planning in advance.
Stephen Covey says about weekly schedules, “Organizing on a weekly basis provides much greater balance and context than daily planning…Business, education and many other facets of society operate within the framework of the week, designating certain days for focused investment and others for relaxation or inspiration.” (7 Habits of Highly Effective People, p. 161)
A weekly schedule should have the days of the week on the x-axis and the hours of the day split into half an hour segments on the y-axis. It should include all the hours of the day and certain hours must be designated for sleep, family time, Ṣalāh, etc.
Such a schedule helps one to plan ahead for the week and will prevent a person from oversleeping, wasting time, etc.
Also note that the schedule should be flexible enough to be adjustable for sudden emergencies, so I recommend leaving one hour a day open for any adjustments.
You can read more about making a weekly timetable and how to prioritize it in the chapter “Habit 3 – Put first things first” in Stephen Covey's “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”.
Tip #5: Plan your day around Ṣalāh
Some Muslims make the mistake of trying to fit Ṣalāh into their daily schedule and complain that they can't find the time to pray.
The mistake is two-fold:
1. Trying to find time, instead of making time
2. Fitting Ṣalāh into your schedule, instead of planning your schedule around Ṣalāh
As Muslims, Ṣalāh should be our highest priority in the day and as such, when making our timetable/schedule, the first thing we need to fill in are the Ṣalāh times so that nothing else clashes with it. In fact, fill in the Ṣalāh times in RED and BOLD writing so that you know that those times are off-limits to anything else.
Do that and you will never find yourself in a position in which you don't have time to pray, bi idhnillah.
Tip #6: Learn to say No!
Think about what are the biggest time wasters. Usually, it has something to do with excessive socializing. Whether it's long phone class, instant messaging, social networks or hanging out. Much of our day goes in useless discussions.
The only way to avoid this is to learn to decline such offers…politely of course. :)
I'm not saying don't phone people or visit them but if a phone call is going on too long and is cutting into your work time, there is nothing wrong with excusing yourself and saying you need to get back to work. Do this often and people will get the message and will only contact you when necessary or when they know you have time to chat.
Declining offers for long chats and useless conversations not only will help you stick to a schedule and accomplish more but will protect you from sins like backbiting and gossip as well.
Tip #7: Beneficial Hobbies
We all have that time of the day and that day of the week (and that month of the year sometimes) in which we are tired, don't want to do any work and just want to have fun. There is nothing wrong with this as long as the means of fun is halal and you do not go into excess.
However, even better is if we establish hobbies which are both productive and fun! This could be a physical sport, reading, watching beneficial videos, playing educational or puzzle solving games, the list of beneficial hobbies can go on and on.
Inshā'Allāh if we establish beneficial hobbies, then even our fun time becomes productive and is not wasted!
So these are my seven time management tips. Feel free to share your own in the comments section so that we can all benefit.