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Islamic Time Management During COVID-19 – Sidi Tushar Imdad

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?

PLAN.

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.thinkific.com/courses/time-tactics-101. Before you buy, email me for a massive discount)

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://seekersguidance.org/articles/featured-articles/islamic-time-management-series-power-your-day-with-pre-planning-sidi-tushar-imdad/).

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:

  1. Who will home-school/ monitor the kids and when?
  2. Who and when will shop online or locally
  3. 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:
https://www.linkedin.com/posts/tushar-imdad-0a466b13_islamictimemanagement-productivitytips-timemanagement-activity-6648563223773745152-Yo0x

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,

Tushar Imdad 

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.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/VHFF356

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/5879bd7982eb/tusharimdad


Biography:
Tushar Imdad (aka Tushar Mohammed Imdad-ul-Haque Bhuiya) is an Islamic Time Management Coach and Educational Entrepreneur. Professionally trained as a high school English teacher, Tushar has taught or managed prominent Islamic schools in Leicester, UK, between 2007-2016. With a flair for managing multiple roles, Tushar is also a GCSE English examiner, a teacher trainer for AMS UK; professional proofreader; former lead instructor at Madrasa Manara; and is currently the Director of Shaykhspeare’s Online English Academy and High Impact Tutors.  
 A long-term student of knowledge, Tushar has studied a range of Islamic sciences at the feet of scholars such as Shaykh Nuh Keller, Umm Sahl, Shaykh Faraz Rabbani, Maulana Ilyas Patel and Ustadh Tabraze Azam. In 2015 he completed Level 5 of the Classical Arabic Program from the prestigious Qasid Institute, Amman.   
Throughout his varied career, Tushar has always been driven by a passion for time management. Starting in 2009, he has delivered a mixture of workshops, webinars, web-coaching and client visits, attracting delegates as varied as CEOs, corporate professionals, housewives, dentists and scholars from places spanning the UK, US and Middle East. Tushar has published articles and delivered training for ProductiveMuslim.com, SeekersGuidance.org and Qibla.com (now Kiflayn). In recent years he has immersed himself in  productivity systems, learning from world-class experts such as Demir Bentley, the authors of The One Thing, Leo Babuta and James Clear. His recent courses have included  ‘Principles of Islamic Time Management’, ‘Time Tactics 101’ and ‘The Breakthrough Habit’.

Conquering Mount Sawm, by Tushar Imdad-ul-Haq Bhuiya

Especially motivating for those dreading the long summer fasts, the following diary entries, written by British educator Tushar Imdad-ul-Haq Bhuiya, should provide reassurance that keeping hunger at bay isn’t as hard as it seems.Although describing the challenge of keeping a voluntary fast, the lessons are just as relevant for Ramadan.

After reading extracts from Brad Pilon’s Eat. Stop. Eat, encouragement from my teacher and reflection upon the Sunna, I decide to embark on the ultimate challenge for a food-loving Muslim: a voluntary fast. (And since it’s British summer time, the fast lasts from 02:30 till 9PM – 19½ hours!). What encouraged me was last Ramadan’s experience; we British Muslims dreaded the long summer fast of 2012 – the longest of its kind for almost 30 years! And yet, we did it. It wasn’t that hard. Indeed, I found this extract from a hindsight entry made last year under the title ‘Miracle of Fasting’:

“I somehow fasted from 4.50am till 9.30PM, possibly my longest ever. And it wasn’t hard – despite my normally having 3 square meals and 2 tea-breaks in that time! Allah made it easy, put baraka in my suhur and gave me energy, Alhamdulillah!”

So I went to sleep last night, after a late Isha, with the intention that if Allah would get me up at Tahajjud, only then would I fast with the following intentions:

  1. To follow the exalted Sunna, which should suffice us from having any other motive (though, as with other Sunnas, modern scientific findings help us appreciate the worldly benefits)
  2. To discipline my mind and nafs (self/soul) not to think about food all the time, and therefore
  3. Have a more productive day

02:50 AM

Allah woke me at 2:05AM and I knew He wanted me to try this experiment (perhaps so I could share it with SeekersHub Global readers!). I scrambled to the kitchen to prepare an odd suhur of instant porridge, last night’s pizza & chips leftovers, tea, a date and orange juice. Suitably stuffed, and after some fervent du’a, I’m ready to face the day… after the small matter of sleep!

1:15 PM

Breakfast wasn’t an issue as I was still full from suhur. No headaches or tiredness either. Skipped my compulsory tea-break at work without fuss. This is a big deal as, normally, the first moment after finishing my lesson at 10:30  I’d be rushing to the kitchen to make a cuppa! Got some less intensive down-time for the next few hours. Over half way now: so far, so good.

From a teacher’s point of view I find the ability to fast extraordinary. The nafs is like a teenager/child. Where it knows it has options, it’ll test the boundaries and ask for more than it deserves. However when the boundaries are clear from the outset of the day and one has made the firm resolve NOT to eat until sunset, the nafs grows quiet and barely a squeak of defiance is ever heard!

4:30

Three hours later and still no pangs, Alhamdulillah. I got a slight headache after hours of study on a Seekers Guidance course,  email checking and internet research. The research was worth it though: found out about The Fast Diet which contains much of the inspiration that got me started.

Now, after a brief rest, am pretty energized whilst tutoring the first of two lessons. Only two problems I’ve encountered so far: tendency to do excessive or useless internet jobs, and a longing for Maghrib time to come!

7:00

Last lesson done. Slight headache. Will rest for 20 mins before Tai Chi class at 7:30.

10:00

OK, Tai Chi was agony on my legs for some reason (found out later that this was due to my incorrect posture in one of the positions!) But Maghrib came upon me far from passing out due to hunger.

Conquering Mount Sawm…From the Outside

So if I could climb and conquer Mount Sawm outside Ramadan, anyone can. I’ll leave you with a few top tips that helped me get there:

  1. Have a strong intention for Allah.
  2. Consume a hearty, nutritious (I did have porridge remember!) suhur
  3. Read inspiring literature about benefits of the fast: if you’re not up to date with the two world famous and highly popular diets that lead incredible scientific support to the Sunna fasting system, then do read The Fast Diet by Mosley and Eat.Stop.Eat by Pilon
  4. Keep really busy. I’m sure you noticed my day was quite packed with different activities including work, study and fitness.
  5. Ponder that if millions of other Muslims around the world can do it, so can you. Mothers do this to get over the fear of childbirth. Fasting is not nearly as painful. If you need motivation outside Ramadan, when you are struggling to fast when most people aren’t, then there are a few things to consider: a) Your worship is especially likely to be more sincere. Keep your fast secret (as is recommended with all voluntary acts) and enjoy the special connection you have with Allah, knowing that you are fasting sincerely for His pleasure alone; b) The health benefits you learn from acting upon point 3 above is enough to inspire anyone to take up fasting weekly. Non-Muslims throughout the UK are ‘fasting’ Monday and Thursday due to the proven long-term benefits to health. As Muslims we have even more motivation; c) Although, not everyone is fasting, you can be sure that the ‘ulema of Taqwa, awliya and saliheen all fast regularly. It’s certainly comforting to know you are united with them in following the Sunnah of regular voluntary fasting.
  6. Allow yourself a Sunna qaylula (afternoon nap) after Zuhr; in long summer days this means you can get through plenty of work before your nap. Many nap straight after work. When you wake, it’s just the final lap with the finish line in sight.
  7. Enjoy and take advantage of the fact that you can be so much more productive on a fast day.

The Thought is Scarier Than the Experience

As we’ve all experienced, the thought of fasting – of not having one’s regular meals, of skipping one’s normal snacks – is actually a lot more frightening than the fast itself. Ironically, this is like productivity generally: the anticipation of how difficult it will be to achieve important goals is normally much worse than the actual experience.

And so the upshot is also the same: stop worrying; just do it! Ramadan Mubarak to all reading this and I’d be so grateful if you could remember me in your duas when you break your fasts.

Fruit Photo by Michael Stern. Clock picture by Christine Callahan.

Resources for Seekers

Videos from “Make My Summer Productive Webinar” – Mohammed Faris (Productive Muslim) and Tushar Bhuiya

Productive Muslim has uploaded a recording of the Make My SUMMER Productive Webinar! Sidi Tushar Bhuiya, who is organizing the Shaykh Faraz Rabbani’s UK Tour, was one of the presenter.

Part 1 –  Presenter: Br. Tushar Bhuiya (etimemanagement.co.uk)

Part 2 –  Presenter: Br. Mohammed Faris (ProductiveMuslim.com)