The countdown has begun and we have less than one and half months left until the greatest month of the year, Ramadan! I’m sure by now most of you are stock-piling the goodies for iftar and downloading as many resources as possible for Ramadan preparation but the question remains “How can I manage my time well enough to get it all done?”
That is what this series of articles is going to assist you with, insha Allah. Without any further intro, let’s jump right into our Time Management Tips for Ramadan:
1. Plan in Advance
Time Management is divided between planning and application. Without adequate planning, there isn’t anything much to apply and the result is another Ramadan that just flies by. Don’t allow this to be such a Ramadan. You have a few weeks to plan this properly, so let’s start working on our plans now.
To plan for Ramadan, we need to be clear regarding the goals (Maqasid) of Ramadan. As per the Qur’an, we know that fasting has been obligated on us to increase our Taqwa (God-consciousness) and that the Qur’an was revealed in Ramadan as a guidance for mankind. (See Surah Al-Baqarah, verses 183 and 185)
This means our overall objective of Ramadan should be an increase in Guidance and Taqwa. Every goal you formulate must work towards these two ends. With this end goal being clear, let’s move on to the next step.
2. Calculate how much Ibaadah time you will have daily
Ideally, we all want to spend Ramadan performing acts of worship 24/7, but this isn’t realistic and most of us have other obligations that we need to take care of as well. As the zeal dies down towards the middle of Ramadan, many people get caught up in their work, family responsibilities and rest, resulting in less Ibadah (acts of worship) being done than initially desired.
This can be avoided by working out in advance how much time you will have daily for Ibadah, then setting goals to get that much Ibadah done minimum daily. The formula is simple: 24 Hours – (Sleep time, Work Time, Family Responsibility) = Ibadah time.
For example, if you need six hours sleep daily, work an eight hour job every day and spent at least an hour helping the children with their homework, add in time for eating Suhoor and Iftar, time spent in traffic and rest time after eating. The average person can free up between four to six hours a day for Ibadah in Ramadan. (Makes me wonder why we can’t do the same outside Ramadan)
Let’s work with a smaller number though, as many people have other responsibilities like preparing meals and visiting relatives. Let’s bring it down to a minimum three hours Ibaadah daily. If you work out that you just have three hours for extra Ibadah everyday in Ramadan, that is still enough time to accomplish some major goals. Multiply three by 29 and you get 87 hours of Ibadah. 87 hours of optional Ibadah in one month can transform your life and increase your Taqwa dramatically.
This means if you just schedule in an hour of Qur’an reciting, an hour of studying Islam and an hour for dua and dhikr, you can really get a lot done if you stick with that for the entire month. This brings us to point number three.
3. Set Clear Goals
Now that you know the overall goals of Ramadan and how much time you have available daily to chase these goals, the next step is to set S.M.A.R.T goals to dedicate this time to. S.M.A.R.T means that the goal is specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Let me give you an example.
If you make it a goal to study some Tafsir this Ramadan, the problem with this goal is that it is too vague (which Tafsir), not measurable (How many pages), and not attainable or realistic (does one page of Tafsir fulfil the goal or five books of Tafisr?)
A S.M.A.R.T goal would be: I want to complete studying this 800-page book of Tafsir this Ramadan. In order to complete 800 pages in 29 days, I need to read an average of 28 pages a day. This goal is:
Specific – It is a specific book of Tafsir you plan to read
Measurable – It is easy to measure and keep track of 28 pages daily
Attainable – It is possible to read 28 pages of Tafsir every day if you dedicate an hour to reading daily
Realistic – The book is at your level so it won’t be too difficult to read
Time-Bound – Ramadan takes care of this naturally as all Ramadan goals are time-bound to 29 days
4. Allocate time to each goal
Now that your goals for Ramadan are clearly defined and you know how much time you have daily for Ibaadah, the next step is to combine this by allocating specific times daily for chasing each goal. Eg: If you have the goal of reading 30 pages of Tafsir daily and that will take you an hour, and you know that you have an hour a day free every evening before Tarawih, then allocate that time to be your Tafsir time.
Likewise, allocate specific times of each day things for each important act of worship. This means that you will set a specific time of the day for reciting Qur’an (perhaps before or after Fajr), making dua (before Iftar), having a family Halaqa (perhaps after Asr or after Tarawih) and any other goals you are working towards. Be specific as possible and stick to your times.
There may be days when you are unable to stick to the times completely due to elements beyond your control, but at least by having such a schedule, even on such days, you will make time to get these things done. If you are having an unusually busy day, instead of abandoning these goals completely, try halving them. So instead of not reading Tafsir at all for a day, try reading for half an hour or at least twenty minutes. In this way, you stay on track, even on your busiest days.
5. Utilize the early hours of the morning
Depending on whether Ramadan falls in Summer and Winter in your country, this would refer to the time before or after Suhoor. In Summer countries, Suhoor is quite early and many people can’t wake up too early before it. In that case, I recommend utilizing an hour after Suhoor for Ibadah.
In Winter countries, Suhoor is quite late so waking up an hour before it is easier. In such countries, I recommend waking up an hour earlier (or at least half an hour early) and dedicating that time to Qiyam Al-Layl (Tahajjud), dua and reciting Qur’an.
The reason I emphasize the early mornings is because it is a time known for having Barakah (blessings) and it is a time when we are not pre-occupied with work and family obligations. Making it the best time of the day to dedicate to intense ibadah, a private time alone with Allah.
6. Schedule in a family Halaqa
If this is not already one of your established habits, I recommend starting it this year. Ramadan is the perfect time for the family to bond and grow in Iman together. The devils are locked up and everybody is more spiritual. This spirituality needs to be nurtured so that we can benefit from it after Ramadan. One way to do this is to establish a family Halaqah (study circle).
This can be done by getting to together before Iftar or after Taraweeh, reading a chapter of an Islamic book (or listening to a lecture) then discussing its contents with each other. Involve every member of the family in the discussion, this will train the younger minds of the family to think and reflect, helping them grow into practicing thinking Muslims. The habit of having a family Halaqah is one that should continue after Ramadan.
7. Dedicate time daily for Qur’an
Ramadan is the month of the Qur’an and so it is obvious that time must be dedicated daily to the Qur’an. In some communities, the practice exists of reciting the Qur’an very quickly each Ramadan to get it over with or to complete as many Qur’an recitals as possible. Instead of doing this, focus on reciting properly, studying the Tafsir and reflecting on its meanings. This will have a longer lasting effect on one’s Iman and Taqwa.
8. Avoid Multi-Tasking
This is a general time management tip that applies outside Ramadan as well. In my book “Getting the Barakah” I have the following to say about multi-tasking:
Recent studies have proven that multi-tasking actually slows down productivity and causes sloppy work. When we multi-task, our brains are unable to give any task full attention and as a result, we end up with not much to show for it.
Modern time management experts all agree that focusing on one task at a time gets the task done faster with better quality than multi-tasking. If you are talking to someone, stop everything else you are doing and give them your full attention. If you are writing a book, close everything else and focus on the book and nothing else. If you are preparing for a meeting, focus on that alone and nothing else.
Do this and you fill find yourself accomplishing the task in record time and producing really high quality work too. Then you will still have plenty of time for all the other things you were supposed to do while multi-tasking. (Getting The Barakah, p. 84)
The way this applies to Ramadan is that for each goal, take out time to focus on it and devote proper attention to it. Don’t try to recite Qur’an, while browsing through Facebook and taking care of a child all at the same time. You are unlikely to benefit from a Qur’anic recital unless you are giving it your full attention. The same applies to studying Tafsir or making dua. Choose a place, time and situation in which you will have the least distractions and give the act of worship your undivided focus. This is why I recommend doing the acts of worship during the early parts of the morning, as it is the time when life is least busy and the mind less cluttered.
9. Fast from excessive socializing
This includes both social media and physical socialization. Ramadan is the month of Itikaf, one of the goals of Itikaf is to take a break from our social lives so that we can focus on our relationship with Allah. Even if you are unable to make Itikaf, you can still get this benefit in Ramadan by cutting down on socializing and dedicating more time to Ibaadah. Attend a few less Iftar parties, log into Facebook and Twitter for shorter durations and excuse yourself from unnecessary gatherings. Doing this will free up more time for worshiping Allah.
10. Stay Healthy
You cannot accomplish your goals if you are feeling lazy, weak, agitated or sleep-deprived. Some of us do too much during the first few days of Ramadan and end up without any energy to push on for the remainder of Ramadan. Don’t let this happen to you this year. Pace yourself and take care of your body by getting enough sleep, eating healthy and staying hydrated.
The average person needs between 6-8 hours sleep a night, so make sure you are getting it, even if it means going to bed a bit earlier. Avoid sugary and oily foods and eat wholesome foods for both Suhoor and Iftaar. Research the types of food that give more energy and consume more of those. Drink a lot of water at night before bed as that will keep you hydrated during the day.
Staying healthy includes taking care of our emotional health, but I will tackle that topic in details in a separate article insha Allah.
Ismail Kamdar is the author of Getting The Barakah: An Islamic Guide to Time Management, available via most major e-book stores.