As a Muslimah working in the West, I know the demands of managing work life, giving quality time at home and then being involved in contributing to the wider community. This is one of the biggest challenges I hear from working Muslimahs, which often leads to sisters burning out before they get to put dinner on the table! In light of these challenges, I thought I’d share some of the life hacks which have helped me improve my life as a Professional Muslimah. I work full-time for a leading international charity as the Campaigns & Education Coordinator (a long title for a big job!), but one thing I always tell people is that alhamdulillah I have been blessed in regards to my job – because I absolutely love it! I am always trying to become a ‘Productive Muslimah’, like many of you!
Here are some of the ‘life hacks’ that have helped boost my productivity both at work and home. In sha Allah I hope it will also allow you to gain more control over your time to do the things that matter most in your working day:
1. Do a “Week Ahead View”
For me, preparation starts on most Sunday evenings. I start to plan and assess my forthcoming week, by doing simple things like looking at my calendar plans for the week for any important meetings or deadlines, to help me get a sense of what my week will look like. This allows me to factor in a ‘buffer zone’, which is the time needed to prepare for a meeting or travel somewhere. If I know that the week ahead will be particularly busy in meetings or other deadlines, then I am very careful to accept any ‘non-urgent’ tasks – sometimes it is better to say no! Additionally, I almost always leave my weekend for family and social events and try to divide my time between late evenings and early evenings at work, so I can spend quality time at home. This “week ahead view” also helps me to set my intentions and think positively about getting into the office at the start of the week with an action plan, instead of dreading that Monday morning!
2. Create Priority Task List
As soon as I get into the office, I write a task list for the day. Whether it is in the form of an (evergrowing!) to-do list, or using ProductiveMuslim resources like the Taskinator, having a hand written list to stick on your desk is an immensely helpful tool to keep your day focussed. Answering emails is a tempting thing to do as soon as you reach the office, but it might be helpful to extract key tasks from emails and add them to your task list. For example, our Content Co-ordinator, Sister Samira, checks her daily emails by reading the subject line and email preview, and tagging the most important ones, like articles she is expecting etc. This way, her most important emails stand out and she doesn’t get too bogged down with non-urgent emails.
Usually by the time the afternoon comes, you have all sorts of unexpected interruptions so it’s essential you get the most important task done, or at least started, in the morning. It is also useful to use breaks between tasks to catch up with colleagues (work-related talk only!) to give you an idea about what is going on in your organisation.
3. Don’t Forget Family Tasks!
As women, I share the pain that there isn’t enough time in the working day to take care of unmet family tasks, especially in the West where working hours tend to take a large part of your day. So in order to get tasks done for my family, I usually list any important family errands on my way to work like ‘call doctors to book an appointment’ or ‘pay bills over phone’ – I usually then complete these during my lunch hour, breaks or commute from work. This ensures the family-related duties are completed and are not forgotten in my list of priority tasks for the day.The worst thing is when you have been asked by your spouse or parent to do something and then forgetting to do it, or running out of time.
4. Get a Workplace Mentor
Since I got into the working world, having an experienced mentor has been invaluable. Most companies and organisations are very understanding and accommodating in giving new employees a mentor to shadow. My manager is a female who has 10+ years of experience and so alhamdulilah, she is more like a mentor than a manager. We have a very special relationship as she offers me advice on how to progress professionally, advising me on how not to make the mistakes she has made, right down to personal advice in my life choices which I truly value and cherish. Within 2 years of joining the company, I got a promotion and raise in my salary which was due to having a supportive mentor in my manager, alhamdulilah. Having someone who sees your work day in day out and can advise you to improve in certain areas of your career is essential for growth.
5. Pursue a ‘Passion Project’
It is essential to make time to pursue your passions and interests outside of work to boost your energy and creativity as a Muslimah! These are what I call ‘passion projects’ which are causes or projects outside of work, usually limited to 3 per year to avoid burnout! Having a hobby (sports, art, reading, knitting, baking, etc.) and volunteering are great projects to pursue, giving you something to look forward to during the working week. Throughout my working life I have always been involved actively in community projects and, of course, the best is getting to work with ProductiveMuslimah! Research has shown that when people lead lives with projects they care about without any incentive of being paid, they are motivated to do well in other areas of life including their paid work.
Last but not least, the best advice to a working Muslimah would be to make sincere dua to Allah for success in every aspect of your life, for barakah in your time and work, and to make you of benefit to the Ummah. This has undoubtedly helped me throughout my life, academic, working and family life. Ultimately, there is no success except by Allah .
What other hacks can you think of for professional Muslimahs? Share your thoughts with us below!