After a long semester of late night work on assignments, exhausting exams and deprivation of night sleep; winter break has finally arrived! Like many students, I intend to have a relaxing, stress-free break. However, there should be a limit to relaxation. Winter break should be approached with an organized plan to achieve a truly fulfilling and productive time. That’s what we’ll try to discuss in this article, in sha Allah.
Many universities have about a month off for winter break. That’s 30 full days to make use of! Wouldn’t you hate going back to school with regrets that you haven’t achieved something meaningful during this time? We should learn how to organize our break to make the most of those days.
Prophet Muhammad said:
“The feet of the son of Adam shall not move from before his Lord on the Day of Judgement, until he is asked about five things: about his life and what he did with it, about his youth and what he wore it out in, about his wealth and how he earned it and spent it upon, and what he did with what he knew.” [Tirmidhi]
Allah will ask us about each hour we spent in our lives; be prepared to answer that question.
Know that if we do not take control of our time, it will control us and fill our time with laziness and unproductivity. There is a popular Arabic saying: “Free time is the playground of the Devil.” Shaytan wants to push us away from being Productive Muslims. It is in our own hands to stop him.
Therefore, I like to approach winter break with a plan set for what I intend to do each day of my break. The best way to organize your break is to divide it into three categories: leisure, religion and education.
Leisure with the right intention
Every person deserves a break to relieve stress. Students deserve it after all their hard work at school. Many activities can be done as leisure and still be a form of worship with the right intentions. Put down the electronics, turn the television off and stay away from social media as much as possible. This is the best opportunity to reconnect with your inner self and with your family and friends. With each hour you are spending scrolling the internet, you are making yourself an easy prey to fitnah and Shaytan. One hour of Facebook or Netflix could easily turn into two or three hours, if not worse. Take control of your time and do something that will benefit you on the Day of Judgment. Prophet Muhammad himself used to take time out of his busy schedule to spend time with his grandchildren, family and companions. He would make jokes and play with them.
Some suggestions to get you started:
• Read a book (Ex. Purification of the Heart by Sheikh Hamza Yusuf).
• Visit family members.
• Spend quality time with your parents. For example, ask them to tell you a story from their childhood.
• Do a kind act for them each day: cook them dinner, buy them a gift, help out around the house.
• Have a potluck with your friends.
• Watch a documentary.
• Start learning a new language.
• Take your little siblings or cousins to the park, library or carnival. Give them the attention you cannot give them when you are busy with school!
Revive your faith
There is no better way to spend your free time than in the remembrance of Allah . Allah tells us in the Qur’an:
“Remember Allah abundantly, in order that you become successful.” [Qur’an: Chapter 8, Verse 45]
Take some time to focus on strengthening your faith and expanding your knowledge. All Muslims need a faith booster every now and then. For those who are living in a country where they’re not surrounded by many practicing Muslims, sometimes they can slowly be pulled away from their religion without even knowing. By listening to influential lectures online, attending events at your local mosque or simply looking up the tafsir of a new surah, we renew our knowledge in our beautiful religion and remember the honor it is of being practicing Muslims.
Sometimes during the semester, we find excuses for delaying prayers such as being in class, finishing an assignment and so on. Even though those are not permissible excuses, we make them. In your break, use the time you have to pray on time, especially fajr prayer. Make it essential to pray each prayer at its right time. Start your day and end your night with the remembrance of Allah by doing adhkar and set a specific time during the day to read Qur’an, even if it’s a page after each obligatory prayer or five pages before you go to sleep. It takes 30 days to make or break a habit, so use this break to build important habits like these.
Some suggestions to get you started:
• Listen to lectures on your topics of interest online. You can find plenty of lectures on Bayyinah Youtube, Ilm Flix, Halaltube. Download podcasts to listen to them during your commute or shopping sprees.
• Look up the translation and/or tafsir of verses from the Qur’an to learn more about them.
• Make up your missed fasts from last Ramadan, now that Maghrib prayer is earlier in winter.
• Pray qiyam al-layl (night prayer).
• Read and/or memorize surahs from the Qur’an. You can also memorize the first 10 verses of Surat al-Kahf.
• Review surahs you have memorized.
• Volunteer your time with a non-profit organization, in a soup kitchen or at a homeless shelter.
• Start your own donation drive (clothes, food, etc.) with your friends.
• Learn a new hadith each day and try to apply what you learn.
• Ask your mosque for upcoming lectures or halaqas you could attend or participate in organizing.
Keep an eye on next semester’s work
Preparation is key to success. I like to get comfortable with my classes and schedule for the new semester before the first day starts.
Look up your new professors, ask friends about the classes you plan to take, purchase your textbooks beforehand and take a look at your course syllabus. The more comfortable you are with your classes and schedule, the easier of a transition you will have with your new classes. Also, if you know any of your new classes are going to be difficult, get a head start with your coursework.
Some suggestions to get you started:
• Ask friends for advice on your new classes.
• Look up the textbooks you will need. See if you can purchase used ones online.
• Look over your schedule and make sure your workload suits you.
• Email your new teachers for course materials and guidelines – if possible.
• Get a head start in your difficult classes.
Put it all together
Now it’s time to plan! Sit down for an hour and organize a schedule for each day you have in your break (yes, every single day!). Set your goal to complete one activity from two different categories each day, or three if you feel up for it. Be flexible though; this schedule is just meant to keep you productively busy. If you wake up feeling like doing something else, go for it!
Also, take advantage of Productive Muslim’s Taskinator to help plan your day and achieve your goals. Finally, remember to continue to sleep and wake up early and resist the temptation to turn your day upside down, as that will do you more harm than good.
Applying these tips to your winter break will improve your time management skills and you will learn how to prioritize and balance your actions.
Finally, use this break to break free from your bad habits and focus on something more important. If the first few days of your planned schedule are difficult for you, do not give up. It will get easier and you will realize the barakah (blessing) in your time, in sha Allah.
How do you plan on spending your winter break? Feel free to share your planned activities; we would love to hear from you!