Major Time Management Considerations
As alluded to already, one may have to adjust one’s sleep pattern. The Sunnah of sleeping after Zuhr (qaylula), is practised by many to help them re-energise. For workers fasting, the time immediately upon arriving home is ideal. Sleep can also stave off hunger. Just remember to make an intention before flopping down in exhaustion!
An oft-neglected Sunnah is to talk less after Isha and to sleep early. After a whole day of fasting and the long rakahs of Tarawih, most of us are pretty tired and so should be able to take advantage of this practice. Consequently, one should have more energy in the day.
2. Nutrition and Energy
Like me, I’m sure you’ve felt the surprising increase in energy when fasting. Modern eating habits include excessive eating of sugary snacks, junk food and meat. As we lighten our stomachs, it’s as if our bodies become more lithe and freed to work for us.
Much of this can be undone by the famous cultural problem of overeating during Iftar, dinner and Suhur. Scholars, magazines and radio programmes discuss this issue so much, that I’ll say quite simply that if we want to be more energised in the day, what we eat is far more important than how much we try to stuff in. A nutritious breakfast of organic muesli, hard-boiled egg, wholemeal toast and fresh fruit is superior to stuffing oneself with the previous night’s oily samosas, pakoras, fried paratha and Coke!
Also, on a time management note, the time we save in missing breakfast, lunch and snacks is incredible. When I completed a personal time-log I found that it was not uncommon for an average meal to take 15 minute preparation and 30 minutes eating time. If tea breaks take half this time, then during our fasting hours we save at least 2 hours quality time to devote to other projects.
Naturally, there are times of the day when you want to divert yourself from the rigours of fasting. Reading, sport, relaxation or socialising for a short period can be recommended here. Having worked at several Muslim schools, I can attest to the fact that our children can be just as vigorous in their playtime during Ramadan!
For ideas on how to create energy for yourself, consult http://zenhabits.net/55-ways-to-get-more-energy.
3. Time Blocking
Blocking out chunks of time to devote to specific activities is particularly imperative in this month. Most obviously, I’d recommend making the generic block of working for ‘worldly’ concerns, such as your job, community projects or studies, in the day and devoting oneself for ibaadah in the night. This follows the Quranic indication, ‘And we made the night a covering, and the day for seeking livelihood’ (Surah Naba) and is the practise of our pious predecessors.
Similarly, time in the weekend can be blocked out for chores or projects you don’t have time for during the week.
As the ‘Month of the Quran’ we should all have a programme of recitation and/or study of the Quran. Make a target for the month and then divide by the number of days. Don’t sleep till you meet your daily target.
5. Habit Forming
30 days is the ideal time period to form a habit. Daily habits are very powerful because they enable you to perform small but regular deeds which the Prophet has informed us are the ‘most beloved to Allah’. You could choose a daily word (a formula of dhikr you want to continue daily), a portion of Quranic reading or study of a sacred science, such as Tajweed. Just as important, but usually neglected, would be to form an inward habit, for example, speaking only good or being generous. For some excellent tips on habit forming, I recommend you read http://zenhabits.net/tags/habits.
6. Laylat ul-Qadr
The wisdom in having one night equivalent to 80 years worship, and then withholding the precise date of that night, is to make us avid to seek it. I’tikaf enables one to seek this night; if we can’t do all ten nights we should at least endeavour to perform a nafl (optional) itikaf of a few days. And if we can’t do any days of itikaf, we should certainly increase the intensity of our ibaadah.
7. Leaving the Wasteful or Bad
One of the most comprehensive hadiths which touch upon time management is ‘From the beauty of a person’s Islam is to leave that which does not concern him.’ Leaving aside TV, excessive socialising, playing of computer games and internet surfing are all praiseworthy objectives. Out of sheer respect for the month we should leave all sins and pointless activities. I won’t dwell on this point, though. If you focus on all the recommendations above, Ramadan is such that you won’t have time to waste time!
Whatever you do this month, realise that Allah has placed immense barakah (blessings) in Ramadan. That’s why thousands of Muslims this month start wearing hijab, or grow their beards, give up music, start learning their religion or change their trend for the better. This is a month of training. All the practices suggested in this article are recommended at all times and so it is hoped, with Allah ‘s help, that whatever we pick up in Ramadan, we continue forever afterwards. Ramadan is the best time of year to reassess and reorganise our priorities, putting Allah first. If this is not ‘effective time management’ for Muslims, then I don’t know what else is.