With curfew measures and stay-at-home orders in place across the world, most of us find ourselves cooped up at home for much longer than we are used to.
Worse still, trying to work or study with multiple family members competing for space and time is a recipe for distraction!
Politicians liken the fight with Coronavirus to a war – it’s like a battle humanity must win.
Productivity experts like to use the same analogy for time management. You are battling with your life, your week or your day.
Islamically, we have an even better model (because it’s true!). Spiritual masters have described our real battle to be with four: our nafs (selfish ego), our hawa (obsessional tendencies or ‘stubborn, wilful folly’), Shaytan (we all know him!) and the Dunya (defined by Imam al-Ghazali as anything that distracts one from Allah).
Whichever model you look at, the point is the same. If we do not actively battle with the enemies of our time, then we will lose.
Remember what Imam Shafi’i (r.a.) learned from the Sufis:
“Time is like a sword; if you don’t cut it, it will cut you!”
What does any military leader do before any battle?
Preparation is EVERYTHING. If there’s just one time management habit you get from all my articles, I hope it is this: plan your weeks and plan your days .
(If you want a deeper dive into the basics of planning, goal setting and other time managements tricks, you could look into my self-study course Time Tactics 101: https://tusharimdad.
If you don’t plan, this is what happens:
You’re right in the middle of an essential task and your son comes in the room to ask for something.
You’re trying to concentrate but the sound from the kids is driving you nuts!
You are about to finally finish that complex report when your spouse reminds you that you promised to get lunch ready.
It’s like waking up late and spending the whole day fighting fires.
(I contrast a well-planned day with a distracted, ineffective one in a previous article: https://
Imagine moving city, or starting a new job. Wouldn’t there be so much research and prep you’d do? The unprecedented situation we find ourselves in is no less dramatic – indeed, for many of us, it’s even more disruptive.
The more disrupted your life is, the more you need to plan for it.
So HOW do you optimize your time at home to ensure continued productivity at home.
Below I share 10 pro tips, all of which I practise myself:
1. Sit with your spouse and plan your week.
If you want to be a ‘super couple’ I recommend you do this every week, but for now we ALL need to be doing this. Since you’re both working under the same roof and kids are home, you need to thrash out the following:
- Who will home-school/ monitor the kids and when?
- Who and when will shop online or locally
- Agree meal times, start of work times, end of work times
2. Define and agree clear work times.
You will argue. You will get stressed. It’s all normal and all part of the process. Arguments always happen when expectations are not met. So you need to COMMUNICATE and AGREE what your expectations are for work time and family time. If you are the husband, you need to make sure your family understands when you are unavailable. If you are the wife, you must communicate and discuss any help you need from your husband BEFORE he gets absorbed in his work. Nothing starts an argument like being interrupted from an important task and being asked to help with something not agreed to before!
3. Set up a defined work area.
Hopefully, you have a study or a room which you can designate as your makeshift ‘office’. Even if it’s a bedroom, that’s fine for now. Just ensure your family know that between work hours you are unavailable.
4. Put up a sign.
My coach has us print ‘Do not disturb’ signs and stick them on the door when we are embarking on ‘deep work’. Some office workers will even stick such a sheet on their backs . The point is to communicate deadly seriousness that your work time is sacred. Because it is.
5. Share breakfast or lunch with family.
To make strategy 4 more palatable for your family, give back by being really present for a family meal – either breakfast or lunch. You’d normally be eating alone or at the office. Take advantage of the curfew by enjoying a bonus 30 minutes purely with your family. If you do this with presence, your family will be more than happy enough to then let you work intensively later.
6. Set an alarm for all your salahs.
It’s surprisingly easy to get into bad habits with salah when working from home. Your whole routine has changed and the usual cues – including the chance to pray in the masjid – are gone. You can read my brief LinkedIn post about this point here:
7. Keep to clear boundaries.
As my wife has reminded me on many of the occasions when I’ve slipped up on this point, there’s nothing more frustrating for your family than when you keep working past your agreed end time. If you decide and agree that you will finish at 6, then stop at 6. You’ve given your word. Stick to it. Go and be with your family for Allah’s sake.
When you keep working past your set boundaries, it communicates indifference and disrespect to your family. Your kids and your spouse see that you value your work more than them. Don’t let this happen – especially in these fearful times – when they need you to lead and guide them most.
8 .Go for a morning walk.
I won’t hyperlink again, but I’ve written before about the power of a morning walk. In countries like the UK, we are restricted to just one session of outdoor exercise outside. Ironically, this may help families exercise MORE than before! Make it an unmoveable part of your schedule to go on a 10-30 minute morning walk. If you can bring family with you, then you kill two birds with one stone! A brisk, morning walk can bring wonders to your energy, mood and sleep. Don’t miss it.
9. Schedule time for Islamic gatherings or learning LIVE.
One of the hardest aspects of the current pandemic is our isolation from each other. When in our lives have we ever been prevented from attending the masjid? As such, it is vital we replace this with the best, possible substitute: online halaqas or lectures or lessons where Islamic knowledge is being imparted and pious ‘ulema are present. Try to attend live as there is much more barakah in live sessions. Seekersguidance.org have a whole range of quality courses from absolute beginner to those proficient in Arabic – all completely FREE. Aim for at least one weekly majlis that you attend.
Aside from the social and spiritual benefits from this, spending time with those beloved to Allah palpably helps your mindset. It’s a soothing antidote to all the fear and negativity from news and social media.
10. Calendarize and timetable all the above.
I can’t emphasize this enough. You must schedule all the above in writing, or on your app. Once you write it down in your calendar, it becomes concrete. It becomes a commitment. So many good intentions float away as they simply weren’t tied down to a written plan.
Try implementing these 10 steps methodically and you’ll experience a profound sense of control and order in the midst of turbulence.
As we enter Sha’ban, our minds will start preparing for Ramadan. Allah has blessed us with a whole month to get to grips with the new unexpected lifestyle changes brought on by Covid-19. One of the best things you can do in this month is to get organized, start mastering your schedule and live optimally as possible.
That way, when Ramadan arrives, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running.
Praying for barakah and taufeeq in your time,
P.S. I run an Islamic-oriented online homeschool academy, specialising in quality English teaching suitable to support any Western curriculum. We are due to expand to meet the new demand caused by school closures and also add science and maths to the programme. If you are interested in learning more, please complete this short survey so I can understand your needs: https://www.
If you enjoyed this article, you can sign up to Tushar’s mailing list for his weekly Jum’a articles, free content about Islamic Time Management as well as updates for exciting courses or services: https://mailchi.mp/