When reading about the problems Muslim families face we notice that some are general to the culture in which they live, while others are specific to Muslims or predominantly Muslim cultures. Attempts to resolve them usually involve learning Prophetic family best practices as well as educating ourselves about gender and child specific communication techniques via seminars, books, and articles.
While these are important and helpful for developing ourselves and nurturing meaningful relationships with our spouses and children, they are incomplete because life isn’t just about relationships, but includes everything that has to be managed around those relationships. Examples include bills and budgeting, the daily pressures of work, children to care for, home maintenance, errands, emergencies, and others. All of these have an impact not only on our well-being, but that of our family’s as well.
Over the next few weeks, this series will explore not only how to get your own life back on track like a ninja, but how to take care of your family’s well-being as well. Unlike most time management literature, rather than focusing on the dense amounts of theory, studies, and best practices, we will get to the good stuff first. We will begin with action steps, and progress towards discovering the rationale for the recommendations as we go along.
In this article, we will accomplish the following:
- Pick a Calendar Tool
- Understand Your Current Weekly Schedule
- Rewrite Your Current Weekly Schedule
Subsequent articles will provide detailed coverage on items in your re-written schedule. We will explore how to manage the dreaded to-do list without being overwhelmed by the list, or needing a special maintenance system to maintain the system itself.
Let’s get started!
Step 1: Pick a Calendar Tool
To-do lists, as opposed to calendars, are great for killing families. You could be uber-productive but your spouse might be grousing about how you don’t spend enough time with him or her. Your response might be “Psssh, come on, can’t you see I’m being “productive”, this is for you and me!”
While starting with to-do lists can have a calming effect on the mind as it allows you get it all out of your head and onto paper or some app, I prefer using a calendar system. Time is a vacuum, and the more you think, the more mundane to-dos will fill your head and will never stop piling up as the days go by – one task could be checked off today, but three more will be added on tomorrow ad infinitum til death.
For this exercise, we are going to utilize the calendar rather than the to-do list. Pick a calendar – preferably one that’s accessible via the Internet and has an app to go with it for your phone. You can use a paper calendar if you like, but you will save a lot of time and be able to coordinate with others in your family a lot easier if you use a calendar that syncs from your phone to your computer and vice versa. I would recommend Google calendar.
Step 2: Understand Your Current Weekly Schedule
We are going to create calendar blocks in this step. A calendar block essentially represents a block of time when you tend to do certain things daily. For example, a person might write “from 5am – 7am, I pray Fajr and prepare to go to the office, from 7am – 8:30am I commute” and so on.
Plug these blocks into your calendar as in the example below. This will give you an outline of what your daily life is like. Exciting, isn’t it ;)
If for some reason you have an unpredictable daily schedule, try to look for patterns that repeat in a particular type of day. For example if you’re on-call and have to wake in the middle of the night to finish some work, how long does that normally take, and how does it impact the rest of your day? Instead of a Mon, Tues, Wed schedule, you would have a “normal” day vs. a “late night” schedule.
Step 3: Rewrite Your Current Weekly Schedule
This is where the fun begins as you will not be writing this part alone – this has to be written with your spouse, and due consideration must be given to a number of areas of life. Here are a number of suggested time blocks, some of which you may already have:
Personal Time Blocks
- Sleep: Should be a minimum of 6, no more than 8.
- Personal Worship: This includes prayers, Qur’an reading, and if the interest is there, further Islamic studies.
- Personal Space: Time required for you to veg-out and unwind. If you think that you can’t include this because everyone else needs you, you are shooting yourself, and your family in the foot. By not taking time out, you will burn out, your family will be harmed, and your conduct will likely show it.
- Your “Occupation”: Include this whether you work in or out of home. Whatever work you normally do throughout the day for your family is your “job”, be it corporate or stay-at-homeschooling mom.
- Career Training: The work that we do is constantly changing and evolving – how much time are you dedicating to keep up with that?
- Physical Health: Time allocated for fitness and training.
- Planning: Time allocated for planning the day, the week, and managing other systems or making plans (time, financial, family vacations, etc).
Shared Time Blocks
- Chores / Errands: Time in which you and your family clean the home. Yes, even men, as the Prophet did chores in his home, so can you bro.
- Time with Spouse: Time in which you and your spouse spend together, alone. This can be anything from having a conversation over chai to bedroom intimacy.
- Time with Children: Should be self-explanatory ;)
- Family Time: Time where the whole family is together. Examples include weekend outings, a weekly dinner at a fun kid’s restaurant etc.
Enabling Time Blocks
Now that you’ve seen your personal and shared time blocks, you need to analyze what you are doing to enable your spouse and perhaps even children to have their own time as well? For example, if you need time to “veg-out”, it may be that you’re doing it at a time when the kids are awake and need supervision. Someone needs to supervise while you do that so what are you doing to help your spouse have the same? Do you have a consistent alternative if your spouse needs help when you can’t provide it?
What Just Happened?
What I’ve asked you to do is alter your routine so that it correctly balances out your religious duties, family relationships, career responsibilities and growth, maintenance of self, and maintenance of things (systems, chores, etc). I’ve asked you to both, take responsibility for taking care of yourself in the many ways that you need, and to go out of your way to make sure your family members are also happy and taken care of.
Is this all possible? Yes it is, and the articles that follow will cover these in more depth insha’Allah. In the meantime, have a conversation with your family and ask them if they think you’re imbalanced in some way and what they would like more of from you, and what they would like less of in return. Begin the process of looking at your schedules together and try to make adjustments.
You may find that you fail the first few times, and that’s ok. If you’re not failing, you’re not learning. The key is to keep trying and failing until you get it right. May Allah make our family lives fulfilling and a source of comfort and mercy rather than a place of pressure and avoidance, ameen. If you have any questions, write them below =)