Today’s post is about commuting ProductiveMuslim style! ;) How you can make the most of those long hours on the road so that they truly add value to your life (and afterlife) instead of subtracting from it.
Now this all depends on which commuting vehicle you’re using (and trust me, I’ve used them all). Below is a breakdown of what you can do in each type of commuting vehicle. But before we get into that, a few prerequisites:
1. When you leave your house, remember the dua for leaving the house
بِسْمِ اللَّهِ تَوَكَّلْتُ عَلَى اللَّهِ وَلَا حَوْلَ وَلَا قُوَّةَ إِلَّا بِاللَّهِ
Bismillahi tawakkaltu allah lah la hawla wala kuwata ila billa
‘In the name of Allaah, I place my trust in Allaah, and there is no might nor power except with Allaah.’
اللَّهُمَّ إِنِّي أَعُوذُ بِكَ أَنْ أزل أو أُزل أو أَضِلَّ أَوْ أُضَّلَّ أَوْ أَظْلِمَ أَوْ أُظْلَمَ أَوْ أَجْهَلَ أَوْ يُجْهَلَ عَلَىّّ
Allahumma innee a’uoozubika an adhilla auw adhalla auw azilla auw uzalla auw auw uzhlama auw ajhala auw yujhala ‘alaiyya
‘O Allaah, I take refuge with You lest I should stray or be led astray, or slip or be tripped, or oppress or be oppressed, or behave foolishly or be treated foolishly.’
2. Remember the dua for riding/mounting a vehicle:
بِسْمِ اللّهِ ، الْحَمْد’ للّهِ ، سُبْحانَ الَّذِي سَخَّرَ لَنَا هَذَا وَمَا كُنَّا لَهُ مُقْرِنِينَ وَإِنَّا إِلَى رَبِّنَا لَمُنقَلِبُونَ
Bismillah. Alhamdulilah. SubhanAll-ladhi, sakh-khara lana, haatha, wa-ma kunna lahu mukrineen. Wa inna ila Rubbina lamunqalibuun.
‘In the name of Allaah and all praise if for Allaah. How perfect He is, the One Who has placed this (Transport) at our service and we ourselves would not have been capable of that, and to our Lord if our final destiny.’
3. Invest in a good MP3 player
Either an MP3 player with A-B functionality or an iPod Touch/iPhone with a Quran Application installed (here’s a guide on how to “Islamize your iPod Touch/iPhone”)
With the above sorted, here are some ProductiveMuslim to-do’s whilst commuting in each vehicle:
Things you can do while riding your bike:
1. Memorize the Quran:
Using your MP3 player with A-B Functionality you can specify where your MP3 player should start on a track, and where it should end, then loop it. This means you can choose a Quran track and specify from which verse the recitation should begin and which verse it should stop at, then repeat these verses as many times as you want. The result: memorizing a whole set of new verses!
Next day move on to the next set of verses and repeat the process as you cycle along. (For this to truly work, I suggest you memorize the verses at home first before you leave your house, ideally after Fajr Salah, and then listen to them on your way to work and back). The iPod Touch/iPhone can be used in a similar way using the excellent iQuran Pro software. (here’s a guide on how to “Islamize your iPod Touch/iPhone“)
2. Contemplate on Allah’s creation:
The most enjoyable part for me when riding a bike is contemplating on Allah’s creation: the heavens, the earth, the mountains, and the scenery that surrounds us truly reminds me of the verse:
إِنَّ فِي خَلْقِ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَاخْتِلَافِ اللَّيْلِ وَالنَّهَارِ لَآيَاتٍ لِّأُولِي الْأَلْبَابِ
“Verily! In the creation of the heavens and the earth, and in the alternation of night and day, there are indeed signs for men of understanding”. (3:190)
To contemplate most effectively, I suggest you use a map and leave early for work so that you can try a different route each day or get a chance to cycle around your favorite park at least once before you go to work. Breathing in the fresh air and entertaining your eyes with Nature is an absolute joy that will set your mood straight for the rest of the day.
3. Remember Allah:
Connected to the above. Simply saying “SubhanaAllah, Al-Hamdulillah, La ilaha illa Allah, Allahu Akbar” or any other supplication or remembrance is a truly productive and rewarding way of spending your commute. It connects you to the Hereafter, makes you focus on the “bigger” picture beyond this life and reminds you of who you’re worshipping. A great way to start or end your day!
Riding a bike is a natural exercise, so not only are you commuting but you’re also exercising! My only advice here is to make sure your work place has a shower room (and of course don’t forget to pack a change of clothes!)
If you’re driving a car (you can do all of the above (except the exercise part) + the following:
I’ve recently rediscovered the joy of learning through listening with my iPod Touch connected to my car’s radio device. I can listen to any audiobook, lectures, Islamic MP3 courses, or Podcasts I download to my iPod. I completed a 2 hour life coaching course, a marketing course (36 CDs), an Islamic seerah course (32 CDs), and 100s of hours of other talks through doing so.
Now most people do the above one way or another, BUT here are some advanced tips to really make the most of ALL your audio files:
- Have a structured course planned out – so you know exactly what you’re listening to and when, and can build on your knowledge instead of starting on something then changing it to something else… then coming back to where you started!
- If you truly want to make the most of what you listened to, try taking notes as you wait in busy traffic OR when you get home. That will help reinforce what you learnt, and you will be more likely to use it inshaAllah.
Trains/Bus/Plane/ Personal Chauffeur:
Again, you can do all of the above + the following:
1. Video Podcasts:
Watch Video Podcasts/Courses through your iPod Touch/iPhone or any other MP4technology that displays video on small screens. Again, you can download these courses (some of which are free) to your laptop then sync with your devices.
2. Read Books/Study:
Spend a weekend in a bookstore and purchase a set of beneficial books to read on your daily commute. Nothing like lifelong learning :). Again, make sure the books are part of a “plan”, i.e. let’s say you’re interested in marketing this week, then all your audio files for the car rides and the books you read should relate to that subject.
3. Reply to your e-mails offline:
If you carry your laptop with you, you may find it very useful (especially on trains/planes) to catch up on e-mails and prepare draft replies to them. For those of you who check your e-mails online, I highly suggest you set up your laptop so that it downloads ALL your e-mails from your different accounts to one e-mail client, e.g. Microsoft Outlook, Apple Mail, Mozilla Thunderbird and so on. That way, you don’t need internet connection to check your e-mail, the e-mails are downloaded when you’re connected to the internet, and you can read them/ and prepare draft replies at your convenience.
4. Set Agendas:
I learnt this from David Allen’s Productivity System “Getting Things Done”: Prepare an agenda for every person you’re going to meet. Isn’t it annoying when you meet somebody that you had so much to tell or ask of, but can only remember 2 things from that list?! Writing down ‘an agenda’ for everyone you’re going to meet or need to see is a helpful and productive tip to make the most of that meeting. So if you’re sitting in your train or on the plane… write out those agendas! If you’re traveling for a meeting and no agenda has been set, use the time you have to write an agenda. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, a ‘short list’ will do.
5. Phone Calls/SMS:
Yup, I’m that annoying person who never stops talking on the phone from the moment the train/bus starts moving till the end. OK, I’m not. I actually hate those people. But a train ride/bus ride is prime time for a quick catch up call/SMS. Those who know me, know that I cannot sit down and speak over the phone and I just love walking and talking… so I normally use the time going to and fro from train stations, or up and down the terminal to really get most of the phones calls out of the way. (p.s. By the way, that’s a life coaching tip there: NEVER sit down when talking over the phone, especially if you need to convince the person on the other end of the line of something or you’ll be asked difficult questions. I guess that’s where ‘thinking on your feet’ comes from).
6. Think & contemplate – brainstorm ideas/Journal:
Whilst contemplating on Allah’s creation (see above) thoughts and ideas enter (& leave) my mind! I need to capture them. Hence, with my trusted Moleskine Folio Journal, I write down ALL the ideas in the form of mindmaps, journal entries, pictures, charts etc… Most of my favourite posts on ProductiveMuslim were born in those precious me-time moments on the train/bus/plane with dear old Moleskine ;) They provide a very useful platform for developing ideas that just got captured during my journey.
You can now see why I love commuting! No matter which vehicle you put me in, with the proper planning and right tools, my daily commute becomes a true asset to my daily life instead of a time-waster in traffic :)