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Teaching Your Kids Time Management

My wife home schools our children, and the one issue that we had with our eldest daughter was procrastination.

Masha’Allah, she’s very intelligent and does well in school, but one pain point we experienced was that she would really drag her feet in getting work done promptly.

As her father it was difficult to watch because that was exactly how I was growing up – from elementary school all the way through to college.  It took some life missteps to decide to learn to manage my life effectively, and I certainly didn’t want my daughter falling into the same trap as I did.

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Part of beating procrastination is having a plan ahead of you for the day.  The act of making the plan brings clarity, not only to the work you have to do, but also to the time you will have to relax and have fun (which all kids want to do).  Here’s what I did, and insha’Allah you can use it as a starting point with your own kids (or maybe even yourself).

Get out a sheet of paper and let’s get started.

 

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Step 1: Write Down Your Appointments

Appointments are blocks of time that are set and absolutely cannot be moved.  Attending prayers at the masjid is an appointment because the masjid sets a time that can’t be moved.  Classes at specific times are appointments.

Step 2: Write Down Your Important Work To Do

Many time management articles as well as David Allen’s popular “Getting Things Done” (GTD) recommend brain dumping first.  Kids have a fewer responsibilities, so this is actually a good time to train them to think about what takes priority.  At this stage, most of it is some type of educational or developmental activity.

Step 3: Write Down Your Chores

This is for both boys and girls – everyone should have chores they’re doing consistently at home.  Cleaning one’s room, taking care of their own laundry, helping clean up common areas should be part of the daily routine of all children in the home, not just the girls.

Step 4: Write Down the Activities / Fun You Want To Do Today

This is important for a number of reasons.  For one, it gives the child something to look forward to when the work is completed.  For another, it reminds parents that their children should not be working all the time.  Their children need time to unwind and relax so they can refresh themselves and give their best again.

Step 5:  Estimate the Time to Complete Each Item

After writing everything down, quickly ballpark estimate how long it will take to complete everything.  It doesn’t have to be perfect, so use personal experience to estimate how long you think it will take and err on the side of over- rather than underestimating.  Make sure the estimates are grounded in your child’s reality for task completion – if they need 10 minute breaks every hour, then put that in the estimate – don’t imagine, “In the ideal world, if my kid is really motivated, this thing that normally takes 2 hours can be done in 30 minutes!”

Step 6:  Map it out on the Calendar

Start by placing all appointments in the calendar.  Along with the appointments, increase the time to accommodate preparation for the appointment.  For example, if an appointment requires taking time to drive and get ready, include this in the calendar.

Next, add the important work, then the chores, and then the fun activities.  Make sure that they get some time for fun activities, and be willing to move some of their other work and chores to the next day if necessary.

Step 7:  Adjust the Schedule Based on Task Completion

With a plan in hand, your child may find they complete work faster because they have motivation to get to the end of their task list – after all, they have a map of the day, and they can see the light at the end of the tunnel rather than feeling like they’re being bombarded with endless blah stuff to do.  If they’re completing work faster than expected, you can show them how to adjust the schedule to get other work started.  If they’re taking longer than expected, then you should take that into account next time you estimate and help them adjust the schedule to push out other work items, possibly to the next day.  The only time you should really take out their fun time is if they’re being unnecessarily slow or if the work they have absolutely must be completed due to a deadline.

Concluding Thoughts

The first time you do something like this, it may seem somewhat daunting and challenging to teach your kids to think this way, but these are the soft skills that all people should know.  We don’t learn this in school, and many of us unsystematically fumble our way through life’s responsibilities.  As someone who wished he knew this when he was younger, I’ve realized that the best time to teach kids about managing their time and how to make the best use of it is now.  As they get used to doing the activity with repeated practice and correction, you’ll be able to eventually walk away simply assured that they’ve planned their day, and you can then focus on making tweaks and corrections as needed.

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Siraaj is the Operations Director of MuslimMatters as well as its new lead web developer. He's spent nearly two decades working in dawah organizations, starting with his chapter MSA in Purdue University, and leading efforts with AlMaghrib Institute, MuslimMatters, and AlJumuah magazine. Somewhere in there, he finds time for his full-time profession as a software engineer in Silicon Valley. He holds a bachelor's in Computer Science from Purdue University and a Master's certificate from UC Berkeley. He's very married and has 5 wonderful children

8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Avatar

    bint A

    March 18, 2015 at 6:29 AM

    Asalamualaikum
    Can you advise how to sort out this daily gtd list if one does not benefit from using google calendar? (I remember this method of yours from a ramadan time management article i think)
    Please advice us paper and pen people…. do we create a new piece of paper schedule per day?
    The reason I ask is because if i make a personal weekly schedule for myself in a calendar like setup it always fails and so i never resorted to a new daily schedule per day because i thought the outcome would be the same. So ive just been using general to-do list style gtd but feel a need to upgrade in a way that wont take up much time to do/day
    Would appreciate any advice. JazakAllahu khairun!

    • Avatar

      Siraaj Muhammad

      March 18, 2015 at 6:36 AM

      Walaykum as salaam,

      This is actually the kids version, and it’s only paper and pen =) I think step #6 about the “calendar” might be ambiguous, but to be clear, it’s not a google calendar, but siimply writing down the time of day you’ll do your to-dos. This forces you to think in terms of time estimates and whether your to-do list is realistic.

      Hope that helps, let me know if you have any other questions =)

      Siraaj

      • Avatar

        bint A

        March 18, 2015 at 6:45 AM

        JazakAllahu khairun for the swift reply!
        I guess the kid-version might actually function better for us regular folk than the state-of-the-art scheduling of time-management gurus… or those who are taking baby steps towards this direction!

        I’ll try it out for a week and get back to you InshaAllah

  2. Avatar

    bint A

    March 18, 2015 at 6:55 AM

    PS- a sample schedule example for these type of artcles would be helpful as well inshaAllah

  3. Avatar

    Siraaj Muhammad

    March 18, 2015 at 10:26 AM

    Walking through it, the final product will look something like this (let’s assume day starts at 6am and ends at 10pm):

    6am – 7:30: Prep for the day
    7:30 – 9:am: Important Activity #1
    9am – 10am: Important Activity #2
    10am – 12pm: Appt
    12pm – 1pm: lunch
    1pm – 5pm: Important Activity #3 – 6
    5pm – 6:30: Chores / Family Time / Dinner
    6:30 – 8pm: Personal time
    8pm – 10pm: school work for the day

    Before phones and cloud task management, a pen and paper was how i got it done. Just remember you don’t have to be perfect, and you should focus on what you got done rather than what you missed.

    Siraaj

    • Avatar

      bint A

      March 18, 2015 at 4:15 PM

      Appreciate it!
      May Allah place barakah in our time

  4. Avatar

    Muslimah DownUnder

    March 22, 2015 at 9:21 AM

    I do this all the time. I love making lists (of practically everything and anything) so this comes to me quite naturally. I find that writing everything down on a paper makes it “real” and I reckon this sort of pushes me to actually complete all that I need to get done.

  5. Avatar

    seeker of knowledge

    April 4, 2015 at 8:22 AM

    This is a very good idea/advice, Jazakallah khairan. If I may add what I learned from shk. Mufti Mink, that writing down will help us have proper concentration in Salah as well, as our mind is not constantly ‘thinking’ , specially in Salah of the things to be done.

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#Current Affairs

This Eid And Beyond Boycott Goods Made With Enslaved Labor Of Uyghurs Even If It Is Your Favorite Brand

Bidding farewell to Ramadan, celebrating Eid?

Well, the Muslims of East Turkestan under Chinese occupation had neither Ramadan nor will they have Eid…

Not only that, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) run government has transferred Uyghurs and other ethnic minority citizens from East Turkestan to factories across the country. Under conditions that strongly suggest forced labour, Uyghurs are working in factories that are in the supply chains of at least 83 well-known global brands in the technology, clothing and automotive sectors, including Nike, Gap, Adidas, Ralph Lauren, Carters and others. Read Uyghurs for Sale for more information

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CCP is also pressuring governments across the world to extradite Uyghurs back to occupied East Turkestan.

Here is what you can do to help them:

Action Items

  1. Keep making dua for the oppressed of East Turkistan and the world.
  2. Boycott Chinese products! Do not be complicit in slave labour. Start with focusing on the companies in the graphic. Share it with #SewnWithtTears, #StopChina, #BoycottChina. Write to them and demand that they do better.
  3. Raise awareness on the plight of Uyghurs and the East Turkistani cause. Learn more at SaveUighur.org
  4. Work towards reducing your country’s economic dependence on China.
  5. Build alliances with all people of conscience to demand a cessation of China’s oppression of all faith groups, be it Muslim Uyghur, Hui; Chinese Christian; or Tibetan Buddhist.
  6. Encourage and promote fairer trade and commerce with Muslims and others rather than China.
  7. Inquire about Uyghur diaspora members in your area. Organize to help out orphans, widows, and students.
  8. Pressure governments to provide legal protection to Uyghur refugees-exiles by granting either citizenship or refugee/asylee status. Stop the “extradition/repatriation” of Uyghurs to China!
  9. Get your universities/endowments to divest from China. Raise awareness about Chinese espionage and hired guns in academia. Demand academic and financial support for Uyghur scholars and students. Request more academic attention and funds for Central Asian, Uyghur, Turkistani studies. 

Read a greater discussion of action items in A Response to Habib Ali Al-Jifri’s Comments on the Uyghurs, which also contains a greater discussion on East Turkistan’s history and its current situation. A condensed Arabic version of the article can be found here

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#Islam

30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 9: A Good Word

Now that we have learnt about the life of this world, let’s talk about a good word.

I want you all to close your eyes and think of a beautiful tree. 

Question: Who can tell me what their tree looks like? Is the tree big and strong? Does it have lots of branches and leaves? Does it have fruit?

Now, I want you to think of a time when someone said something really nice to you.

Question:  What are some of the nice statements you remember people telling you?

Question: How did those statements make you feel?

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Yes, they fill us up with a warm feeling. We may have felt proud of ourselves and we may have felt loved. Do you know that Allah [wt] describes a good word to a good tree? 

In Surah Ibrahim, Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

أَلَمْ تَرَ كَيْفَ ضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا كَلِمَةً طَيِّبَةً كَشَجَرَةٍ طَيِّبَةٍ أَصْلُهَا ثَابِتٌ وَفَرْعُهَا فِي السَّمَاءِ 

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تُؤْتِي أُكُلَهَا كُلَّ حِينٍ بِإِذْنِ رَبِّهَا ۗ وَيَضْرِبُ اللَّهُ الْأَمْثَالَ لِلنَّاسِ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ 

Have you not considered how Allah presents an example, [making] a good word like a good tree, whose root is firmly fixed and its branches [high] in the sky? [Surah Ibrahim; 24]

It produces its fruit all the time, by permission of its Lord. And Allah presents examples for the people that perhaps they will be reminded. [Surah Ibrahim; 25]

Question: Now, I want you to think of a time when someone said something mean to you. How did that make you feel?

It’s not fun to remember the mean stuff right? Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) continues in Surah Ibrahim and says:

وَمَثَلُ كَلِمَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ كَشَجَرَةٍ خَبِيثَةٍ اجْتُثَّتْ مِن فَوْقِ الْأَرْضِ مَا لَهَا مِن قَرَارٍ

And the example of a bad word is like a bad tree, uprooted from the surface of the earth, not having any stability. [Surah Ibrahim; 26] 

Question: What do you think are good words we can use to build strong, firmly rooted trees?

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30 Khawaatir in 30 Days- A Parent’s Guide | Day 8: The Life of This World

Now that we have learnt about qalbun saleem, let’s talk about the life of this world.

Question: Do you know that there is an ayah in the Qur’an that takes us through all the stages of life and tells us what we find to be the most important aspect based on our age?

This ayah is found in the chapter named Al-Hadeed. 

Question: Does anyone know what Hadeed means? 

Yes! It means iron! The verse in Surah al-Hadeed starts by saying:

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اعْلَمُوا أَنَّمَا الْحَيَاةُ الدُّنْيَا لَعِبٌ وَلَهْوٌ 

“Know that the life of this world is play and amusement.”

Question: When you were really, really young, what was something that was important to you?

Yes, playing! You would use your imagination, play with your toys, and build legos. That is what  لَعِبٌ la’bun means. Then you got a bit older and you wanted to hear stories and be entertained. 

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Question: Can you tell me in what other ways you’re entertained? (Examples can include watching TV, reading books, etc)

Yes! This is what is meant by  لَهْوٌ l(ahwun). Then we get a bit older and our goals change. The ayah continues by saying, وَزِينَةٌ وَتَفَاخُرٌ بَيْنَكُمْ (wa zeenatun wa tafakhirun baynakum). All of a sudden, you become a tween and a teenager, and you really care about your looks. You want to dress in the nicest clothing and look beautiful. This is zeena

Then you get even older and you enter college. You compete with your classmates and show off your knowledge and skills to impress future employees. This is tafaakhirun baynakum , i.e. boasting with one another. 

Then what usually happens after college? Work, marriage, and children! The ayah continues by saying, وَتَكَاثُرٌ فِي الْأَمْوَالِ وَالْأَوْلَادِ (wa takathur fil amwaali wal-awlaad), i.e. and competition in increasing wealth and children.

As parents, we try to give you the best life and education, and we work hard to provide for you. But, we always have to remember that it won’t be permanent, right? 

Question: We will be so happy, like farmers watching our seeds grow into beautiful plants, but what happens in the fall when it’s no longer sunny and becomes windy and cold? 

Yes, the plants turn yellow. Remember that toy you used to love playing with as a really little kid? Is it as interesting to you anymore? Remember that TV show you could not stop watching? You even memorized all the lines in it. Do you remember the title? Are you interested in something else now?

This is the example of our whole life. Once we get something we once were so excited to have, we realize that after some time has passed, that it has “turned yellow” to us. 

Question: What do you think that means?

Yes! It’s not as interesting as it once was. So knowing that this is going to happen, how can we make sure to not get distracted by the bright and shiny and stay focused on Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)?

We’re in luck, because Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) gives us the answer! Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He) says:

 “سَابِقُوا إِلَىٰ مَغْفِرَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَجَنَّةٍ 

Race toward forgiveness from your Lord and Jannah! 

Question: How do you think we can race towards Allah subḥānahu wa ta'āla (glorified and exalted be He)?

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