At ProductiveMuslim , we have yet to cover where the bulk of our time is spent: work!
Depending where you work and what your role involves, you will find in this article some useful advice on how to organize your work day to ensure that you have a productive time at your workplace insha-Allah.
Preparation for Work
Preparation for work starts the night before. When you sit down in the evening and think what you need to do next day, part of your planning should involve what you plan to do at work in great detail; what to wear, what to have for breakfast, documents you need to take, phone calls you need to make, e-mails you need to send, your MIT (Most Important Tasks), and general list of things to do. If you have been a follower of ProductiveMuslim, you’ll learn that we use our Daily Taskinator to help us plan our days, hour-by-hour ensuring balance between different areas of our lives. So use this tool or a simple pen and paper and make sure everything is ready before you hit the bed.
Of course, our Rabb (Subhanahu wa Ta’ala) has beautifully organised our time so that we wake up at dawn and sleep after Isha, so we’re already trained to have an early start. However, the mistake that many professionals and workers do is to sleep right after Fajr, or leave late for work. You are missing out on a great blessing of the morning; Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said in a hadeeth “O Allah, bless my Ummah in its early hours”. And the narrator of the hadeeth continues and mentions the example of a merchant who used to send his workers early in the morning and became very rich.
Personally, I prefer to wake up before Fajr and get ready for work in terms of showering and getting dressed before Fajr athan. This allows me to go pray Fajr in time, relaxed, read some Quran, do some dhikr, come back home, have breakfast and head to work before rush hour hits.
It’s a great feeling to be “ahead” of the crowd and already out seeking the bounties of your Lord.
Those First Few Hours
Upon arriving to work, the first hours at work are the most crucial hours of your working day. Do not let yourself be distracted by anyone or with pointless e-mails and useless chatter. If you start your day with e-mails and talking to people, the rest of the day will go extremely unproductive and you’ll find it hard to focus. Rather spend the morning either reading important material that would advance you in your work or working on important tasks that you need to achieve that day.
The moment you finish some of these important tasks, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment that you will want to continue being productive throughout the day, and hence stay focussed at work.
Many people complain that they don’t focus at work, I say that the reason they can’t focus is because they have a bad start to their day.
As the Morning Progresses
Try to work for 90 minute “work bites”, taking a 10-15 minute break in between to refresh and rejuvenate.
Normally, after 2×90 minute work bite sessions in the morning, I start feeling a bit tired and my mind starts going numb especially if I’ve been involved in “heavy-thinking” work. This is where I take a slightly longer break (around 30 minutes) and go to make wudhu and pray 2 rak’ah duha prayers. I then have a small bite (a fruit salad) or drink some tea. Moreover, normally after these sessions, I work on admin related tasks that take 10-15 minutes to complete, for example: replying to e-mails, making work-related phone calls, delivering some paper work around the organisation, etc.
At Dhuhur prayer, as soon as the athan goes off, drop everything and again refresh yourself with wudhu, and pray the Sunnah for Dhuhur and if you’re with other Muslims or there’s a mosque nearby you, go pray in Jama’a and enjoy your Salah.
Unfortunately, some people have been blinded from their purpose of life. Salah is not a “waste” of time, just like eating food is not a waste of time. It’s an essential element of your purpose of life, and do explain to people who feel this way that that Salah is important for you, not just because it’s obligatory but it revives your productivity and ensures that you work even harder after Salah. (Note: Make sure you walk your talk though and show high levels of productivity after Salah).
I’d also recommend here that you have a small bite (not a heavy lunch) after Dhuhur- perhaps a sandwich or a chicken salad with some fruit or fresh juice – and that should keep you going till end of the day insha-Allah.
Dhuhur till Asr
Around this time, I highly recommend that you schedule your meetings/or what I call your “networking time”. This is the time when you go and meet people who will help you advance your work, perhaps meet with your “mentors” and people who give you sound advice (both technical and career advice). Also, this is a good time to call your family, ask how they are and if they need anything on your way back home.
Asr till the End of the Day
If all goes well, you will have had finished important tasks in the morning, completed admin tasks around mid-morning, knocked out few meetings after Dhuhur and now you’re praying Asr and getting ready to leave (notice how your day is managed around your salah time).
Here’s the important bit to remember before you leave work: Do not leave work without specifying at least 3-6 things you need to get done the next day. This is what I referred to above as “your important tasks” or MITs. If you’ve decided on your important tasks for the next day, it allows you to come in the morning and hit the ground running with your important tasks, instead of fretting about and not being sure where to begin.
– What if I have meetings early in the morning?
Most meetings start at least 30 minutes after the beginning of official working hours, this is why I recommend that you come extremely early to work to get that focus time and get important work done before everyone else starts arriving.
– My colleagues keep bothering me when I work, I can’t focus!
If you don’t have an office that you can shut its door, consider hanging a sign somewhere at your cubicle saying something like _“Focus Time: Please Do Not Disturb”. Speak to your colleagues about your need to focus, most people are understanding. Also, get a pair of headphones and download some natural sounds(e.g. bird chirping or sea waves) and you’ll find that these natural sounds not only improve your mood but they make the noise of your colleagues not as bothersome.
– I’m addicted to facebook/the internet; I can’t stop checking my e-mails.
The hardest part of trying to work these days is probably the constant ‘pinging’ of e-mails, Facebook, and/or twitter. I found the best solution is to simply turn off these devices during your 90 minute “work bite” sessions or download internet blocking software like Freedom which can set time limits on how long you want to go without internet. Then once you finished your work session, you can “reward” yourself with checking e-mail/Facebook, but again try to limit this “break time” to a maximum of 10-15 minutes.
Now I do have a confession to make: There’s one distraction that I also find particularly hard to keep off. Yep, I can’t stop checking ProductiveMuslim.com! I guess this is what you call a healthy distraction? ;).
I hope this gives you a clear overview of how to have a productive work day! Now it’s your turn: How do you organise your work day? What productivity tips do you use? Let us know in the comments below!