How to have an Incredibly Productive Day at work

At ProductiveMuslim Productive Day at Work, 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.

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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.

The Morning

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.

Dhuhur Prayer

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.

Questions:

- 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!


34 thoughts on “How to have an Incredibly Productive Day at work

    1. This article and this page “Productive Muslim” is all I needed today! very very helpful jazakallah K’her. I think I will need to tweek just some of the suggestions a bit. I have an executive position job and when I first come in the morning, replying to e-mails is a must rather than a mid-morning/early afternoon task. Also, I find it very difficult to come home and think about what I will do the next day for work. I rather finish that at work and come home to my family without even thinking about work. All in all, an excellent article and may Allah reward you for it.

  1. Excellent tips, masha’Allah! I find thesame with ProdM.I keep checking it for new articles and productivity tips…little realising that I’m actually losing out on productivity. But insha’Allah, I will put this one into practice from tomorrow onwards. Jazakallahu khair.

  2. MashaAllah, JazakAllah, brother keep them coming… it was great!
    For college/uni students, i guess, you have to twist it aound the schedule. Most of the classes are in the morning, so one resorts to late night sudy hours. Is that against productivity?

    1. @Sunds – Even for college/uni students, I’d still recommend an early morning start. Don’t sleep after fajr but use that time to either read up on lecture notes, revise or finish off assignments. Head off to Lecture, pray duha at uni if you can, back home for lunch//dhuhur if possible (otherwise at campus). I’d also highly recommend a 20 minute nap you should take right after or before Dhuhur, it’ll keep your mind alert for the next half of the day.

      When you get home, relax for an hour, have something to eat, pray maghreb/isha (depending when you’re back) and do a maximum of 90 minute working. Then hit the bed early, ready for an early start next morning. Hope this helps!

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  4. Very Good tips MashAllah.. but when u said that we’ll be more productive after the Salah inshAllah,,then you also mention in the brackets that make sure that you are productive.. i dont quite get this point…

    JazakAllah Khair

    1. I believe the brackets meant that if you try to explain to others (those who think that Salah is a waste of time) that you are more productive after Salah, you must make sure you actually are – don’t let yourself become distracted after making such a statement because then you’ll be “proving” yourself wrong in the eyes of those people.

  5. MashaAllah.. JazakAllak, Found this a very useful one … May the almighty grant you all that is good!

  6. Jazakullah khair for these tips.
    How do you recommend planning your morning in summer months? (for UK and parts of USA Isha is 10-11pm and Fajr is 2-3am)

  7. Great tips brother, your post was informative and concise it is very useful. At work this is how I stay productive I list my entire tasks, organize it depends on priority level, set an estimated amount of time when working on each task. I actually automate it all with the help of this time management tool. Working online often makes you vulnerable to distractions such as social networking sites, games, casino and etc. The key that I can follow scheduled task and finish it on time is through with discipline. It also helps me stay focus on tasks and ignore work distractions. I would say that with the right tools and discipline it can help you stay productive at work.

  8. ya akhi, thanks for the great advice! but it seems that only MIT technique that suits me at this moment as I’m working on 12 hours shift, i.e. 12pm till 12 am..any advice for such roster schedule? syukran

  9. MashaAllah amazing advice, planning on being more productive this year. Also I’d be absolutely grateful if there was an article or something on methods of revising/absorbing max info in a short span of time into the long-term memory etc. Including obviously Islamic teachings jzk

  10. Jasak Allahu chairan. Thanks for this advices. This works fine in spring/ autumn, but what do you do in summer, when Fajr is very early (4 am) and Isha very late (11 pm) or in winter, when Fajr is very late (6.30 am)?

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