I’ve observed that we love telling others how busy we are… how we’re drowning under the burden of our work… how little time we have for ourselves…
Interestingly, some of us are actually up to our necks with commitments and responsibilities. In that case, you may not have a lot of free time each day. However, I’m going to challenge you by asking how exactly are you spending the free time (no matter how little) you have? That’s a question many of us shy away from answering.
And what about those of us who are busy but not ‘too busy to breathe’… we have free time but sadly we don’t know where it goes…? *raise your hand if you can relate*
I’ve observed the one thing that’s common to most of us, no matter how busy we are, and that is – wasting time ruthlessly. Either we waste our time intentionally or unintentionally by not being ‘mindful’ of where it goes.
Even in those early times, the Prophet (S.A.W.) said that “There are two blessings which many people waste: health and free time.” [Sahih Bukhari]
And unfortunately, today, we have even more tempting reasons to waste time than the early Muslims did.
Let me share a small excerpt of my story here just to show you how bad my ‘time-wasting situation’ was back in the day.
At one point (when I was dumb & didn’t understand that it’s totally possible to balance work and Deen as a Muslim professional) – I’m not going to lie, I seriously considered dropping out of med school, just so I could be a better Muslim. *eye-roll*
Now here’s where things get ironic: Whenever I had free time (and trust me I had PLENTY), I would waste all of it by spending hours on-end with my friends talking about the food shop’s samosas or curling up in my corner with a stack of novels and snacks.
In those times, where did my Islam go? Where did all those noble thoughts of being a “better Muslim” disappear off to? *tsk-tsk*
Looking back- I’ve learned that it’s EASY to blame our jobs and responsibilities for having a poor connection with the Quran and Allah S.W.T.
When the brutal truth is- we are just not using our time right!
We are straight-up wasting so much of our time every day and the worst part is- we don’t even deny it! (in other words, it’s become so NORMAL to carelessly waste time).
Muslim A: “Man, I wasted so much time last night binge-watching this show that has aired recently”.
Muslim B: “I envy you man! Which show are you watching? I have so little time to watch shows. I don’t even know where my time goes.”
Muslim A: “I’ve noticed that you waste a lot of time on your phone! Try cutting down on that and making an hour to watch this show with me. It’s SO GOOD! You HAVE to watch it.”
Muslim B: “Yeah man, you’re right!”
Errr… Hold on a second. WHAT? *baffled*
Our time-management skills tend to work brilliantly if it means having more FUN. 😀
But when it comes to making time for Deen, we complain and in the end settle with “I don’t think I can be a good Muslim with my job” or “My family responsibilities take up all of my time. I’ll make time for Deen when my kid grows up”.
I want to tell you that I’ve experienced firsthand the powerful results of using my time right. And then I’ve also seen what happens when you grow your time with Barakah. SubhanAllah.
Why am I telling you this? This is my way of showing you the ENDLESS possibilities waiting for you— only if you use your time better, which I know you can. 🙂
I sincerely believe that if our Ummah stops wasting time so brutally, Allah S.W.T. would open all doors of Barakah for them.
Prophet (SAW) said: “Take advantage of five matters before five other matters: your youth before you become old; your health, before you fall sick; your wealth, before you become poor; your free time before you become preoccupied, and your life, before your death” (Musnad Ahmad).
Wasting Time in Islam:
The most obvious ways in which we waste time
So first, let’s see some of the most obvious ways in which we waste our time. This is where it all starts. We figure out our time-wasting habits and then we fix them! Note which one of these time-wasting habits are you a victim of:
- Using social media/ apps on your phone/ texting all day/ calling
- Binge-watching TV shows
- Gossiping with friends/ family
- Procrastination and laziness
- Overthinking about trivial things/ over-planning
So I think you’d agree with me when I say that those were some of the really common ways in which we waste time. They were all no-brainers. No mystery there.
Now, I want to share something fascinating with you. There are so many ways to waste time – but probably the most interesting one of all is wasting time in the process of ‘managing time’. *facepalm*
See, I wanted to highlight the most obvious ways of wasting time that everyone can recognize (procrastination, etc.), before revealing the other ‘more deadly’ ways that are so common yet pretty much invisible.
I call these special ways of wasting time ‘time management mistakes’.
We need to be aware of these time-management mistakes because they are WORSE than the obvious/common ways of wasting time. Here are a couple of reasons why:
- Most of the time we are oblivious to their existence which makes them even more damaging. That’s because we can’t fix a problem unless we know exactly where the problem is.
- Since we make these mistakes in the process of improving our time-management skills, these mistakes can keep us STUCK and we may end up seeing no substantial change in our behavior. What’s worse is that we might even GIVE UP after repeated failed attempts at time-management. And that’s when it’s truly game over.
So can you see why these mistakes are worse than the common ones?
I’ve put together 3 of these deadly mistakes. Go over them and see which ones apply to you!
3 deadly time management mistakes that may be keeping you stuck
1) Forget ‘time management’ – it’s all about ‘self’ management
The most common of these mistakes I see people make is learning and applying all methods of ‘managing time’.
Like I talked about this in detail in the second article of the time-management series, time is an asset that literally can NOT be managed.
Management implies some sort of ‘control’. Can we pause, rewind, increase or decrease time? We can’t. So much so for ‘managing time’. It is how it is. Time is not money. It’s time we let go of this bizarre idea and focus on something that actually CAN be managed… your NAFS. The Self.
Now tell me- if it’s all about SELF management (in other words – self-discipline), how can we find answers to our self-discipline problems under modern research on time-management?
Especially when we agreed that time can not be ‘managed’.
Doesn’t make sense now, does it?
Which is why I say that all these cool time-management concepts such as ‘eat the frog’ or ‘the pomodoro technique’ can only help you so much. These concepts can not fully help us overcome our Nafs-related problems such as procrastination or laziness.
So if you are serious about using your time better, forget ‘time management’ and start by building self-discipline.
For example: Imagine you’re trying to lose weight. Say you eat junk all day… burgers, pizzas, pasta, desserts and whatnot. And you OVEREAT at every meal. But at the end of the day, you spend 15 minutes doing exercise. Will you lose weight?
A fitness expert, a dietician and a doctor, all will tell you the same thing – Ya WON’T! 😀 That’s because you’re not working on the action that brings 80 – 90% of the results. Your entire focus is on the action that brings less than 10% of the results.
Let’s apply the same concept to time-management, or should I say ‘self’ management. 😉
What are the things we focus on while trying to manage our time? Apps, strategies, tips and tactics. Let me break this to you- tactics only bring LESS than 20% of the results you want. The remaining 80%? It comes from building self-discipline.
Al-Ghazali said: If his intentions are true, his concerns are in order, and his diligence is improved, then he will not gravitate to his base desires and will not be preoccupied with idle thoughts related to the world. The reality of the Truth will shine in his heart.
PRO TIP: The quickest way to discipline yourself is spending time with disciplined people.
About the disciplined, pious Muslims, Allah S.W.T. says in the Quran: “Undoubtedly, those who fear Allah, when a thought of Satan touches them, become careful, at the same time their eyes are opened” [Surah- Al- A’raf, Ayah: 201]
Imagine the amount of free motivation you can collect from the company of such disciplined Muslims.
2) PRIORITIZATION IS NOT AS EASY AS YOU THINK IT IS
Tell me grasshopper, do you have magic wings that take you through life at the speed of light?
Let me break it to you – Ya’ dont. 😀
So why put so much load on your wings that they end up breaking?
No way am I suggesting that you stop dreaming. Never.
But don’t you think getting DONE with one goal is better than starting so many goals at once and not finishing anything? I think it is.
Problem is- most of us don’t know which goal to start with.
We don’t know how to prioritize. (BTW, if you want to learn more about my planning system that can help you plan in an super-efficient way, join me in my free bootcamp).
Now, let’s say you have 4 goals you currently want to spend time on. I’ll show you exactly how to prioritize and decide quickly which one of those goals to start with, as well as what to do NEXT. Ready?
Suppose your goals look something like this…
- Start reading the Tafseer of the Quran every day.
2. Start exercising.
3. Get in the habit of reading books. Read some books on self-development and world history.
4. Fixing your Fajr prayer (let’s say you keep missing Fajr).
I’m sure you know that your Fajr prayer is undoubtedly the MOST important of all the goals on your list. Salah is the #1 question (about Ibadah) Allah S.W.T. will ask Muslims.
The Prophet (S.A.W.) said: “The first of his deeds for which a man will be called to account on the Day of Resurrection will be the prayers. If it is found to be perfect, he will be safe and successful. If they are lacking, he will have failed and lost. If there is something defective in his obligatory prayers, then the Almighty Lord will say: See if my servant has any voluntary prayers that can complete what is insufficient in his obligatory prayers. The rest of his deeds will be judged the same way.” [Sunan al-Tirmidhī]
So let’s call this our top priority goal.
But I have a question – what does it really MEAN to prioritize your Fajr prayer over the other goals?
So let’s talk about what it actually means by making up a scenario:
Let’s say you’re sleeping late every night (around 1:00 am). And you just can’t wake up for Fajr after sleeping that late (despite keeping a gazillion alarms).
Now, the reason why you stay up till late at night is that when you come back from work (around 5:00 pm), you take a nap. After your nap, you get the energy to stay active till bedtime.
After dinner, you spend some time with family. You’ve also started doing exercise a couple of hours after dinner (around 10:00 pm).
Finally, when everyone has gone to bed, it’s YOUR time. 😉 This is when you get to read the Quran and other books as well as take online learning classes.
Now let’s go back to our top priority goal- waking up for Fajr. Keeping that in mind, let’s do a little analysis of this routine.
Prioritizing Fajr over all the other goals means going to bed early (maybe 11:00 pm) so that you can easily wake up for Fajr.
But in order for you to go to bed early, you have to be SLEEPY at 11:00 pm. But you don’t feel sleepy until 1:00 am. So what do you do?
You note the habits that are keeping you up till 1:00 am.
Think about it- why can’t you feel sleepy until 1:00 am? Maybe it’s the afternoon naps. Or maybe, it’s the late night workouts. Although these habits on their own are great, but because of these habits you can’t fall asleep until 1:00 am and as a result- you keep missing your Fajr prayer.
So prioritizing Fajr over other goals means you may have to stop taking afternoon naps (or reduce them). It also means you may have to shift your exercise timings.
Going to bed early at night also means you GIVE UP reading books till late at night (including the Quran). You’ll have to read them in the morning or afternoon.
Dream chaser, THAT’S the price you may have to pay to wake up for Fajr!
Sounds like we broke the entire routine just for Fajr.
Oh yes, we did.
Will it be worth it? Always.
No other goal is more important than our Fard Salah.
BTW, what happens when we fix our Fajr prayer? Allah S.W.T. fills up our entire day with Barakah.
So you tell me- will reading the Quran till late at night and missing Fajr bring more Barakah in your day or will sleeping on-time so you can wake up for Fajr will bring more Barakah?
I think you know the answer.
Allah S.W.T. tells us, “Surely, the prayers are made obligatory for the believers at their prescribed times.” [Qur’an Surah 4: Ayah103]
“Then, there has succeeded them a generation who have given up prayer and have followed their desires. So they will be thrown in Hell. Except those who repent and believe, and work righteousness.” [Qur’an Surah 19: Ayahs 59-60]
When we prioritize our time with Allah (Fard Salah) over everything else, Allah S.W.T. prioritizes everything in our life for us and gives us clarity.And that, my friend, is what it means to prioritize. 🙂
3) PERFECTIONISM EITHER KEEPS YOU STUCK OR PUSHES YOU TO BURNOUT
Let’s continue with the above scenario.
Recall the things that you may have to do in order to fix your Fajr prayer.
So now, let’s say you’re completely sold on rebuilding your routine so you can wake up for Fajr.
Now imagine that you are a perfectionist.
What would you do?
You’ll create the PERFECT routine for yourself, of course. One that covers all the important things we talked about earlier.
Then you start following this ‘ideal Muslim routine’ for a few days.
You kill your afternoon naps, stay drowsy all evening and try to sleep early.
After a few days, you even start waking up on-time for Fajr!
But you don’t stop there… you stay awake after Fajr and read the Quran. You’ve also started working out in the morning before going to work. Plus you’re now reading self-help books in the afternoon instead of taking a nap. *Woah- Shaking head in disbelief*
You started doing everything that you’d planned within a few days! AH-MAY-ZING.
But sadly, there’s a problem. Guess what happens after the first few days? You realize this new routine is too exhausting! You GIVE UP after the first week and go back to sleeping late. *Gasp*
What’s worse is that now, you not only messed up the NEW routine, you also messed up the OLD one! *mortified look*
You can’t seem to find the energy to exercise anymore. You broke the habit of reading the Quran at night so now you just waste time procrastinating. You take longer naps in the afternoon. Undoubtedly, you’re left in a worse state than before. All because of one deadly mistake- perfectionism.
Sounds depressing, right?
Grasshopper, stop wasting your time and energy trying to do things perfectly.
Remember that when it comes to routines, it takes TIME.
Instead of trying to follow a perfect routine right off the bat, try going step by step. So in the above scenario, what would have been better was if you changed your routine in small steps.
First step would be cutting the afternoon nap short and to stop doing exercise altogether for a few days (just until you’re sleeping early). Second step would be moving up your bedtime by half an hour every night until you were sleeping at the target bed-time. Third step- after you’ve been sleeping early and waking up early for a week or so, you could add a few minutes of reading time in the morning. Fourth step- start doing exercise in the morning/ afternoon.
We can’t expect our bodies to keep up with our crazy, ‘overwhelmingly perfect’ schedules and still function to maximum capacity.
Perfectionism either keeps us stuck or pushes us to burnout.
By now, you have seen how 3 seemingly harmless mistakes may have kept you stuck for a long time. Tell me in the comments section below which of these mistakes are you guilty of?
Personally, I’ve made ALL of these mistakes in the past. *chuckle*
But Alhamdulilah, I learned to break past them and I know you can too! 🙂 InshaAllah.
And Allah S.W.T. knows best!