For many families and youth, it is the time of year to have a break from school and work. While this might seem like a great time to catch up on sleep, you don’t want to waste opportunities for personal growth by sleeping away the entire vacation.
Sure, take some time to relax and have fun, but there are plenty of productive things to do during your winter break.
To begin, take some time to reflect over this past quarter whether in school or work. Do you feel like you met personal, spiritual and professional goals? Be honest with yourself. Please take out some pen and paper or use your phone’s notepad, think about the areas you have the most room for improvement in, write down 3 examples.
For example, you might write down “procrastination on assignments, focus in prayer, organization of work area”. Whatever your areas are, don’t see them as weaknesses but see them as potentials. These are areas with so much potential for improvement and right now, you have extra time to focus on them. Alhamdulillah.
Getting organized is about more than just clearing away clutter, it makes everything more efficient and easy access which means greater productivity. In addition to that, an organized environment promotes calmness, aides in concentration and can help your creativity.
Here are a few ideas for organizing.
• Use aesthetically pleasing storage solutions. If you really love blue and geometric shapes, get blue storage boxes with geometric patterns. You will be more motivated to maintain organization if you like how it looks and makes you feel.
• Vertical shelfing for smaller areas
• Utilize filing cabinets or binders for paperwork that must be kept
• Invest in a whiteboard for your wall or large desk calendar. These can be used for writing down appointments, due dates, events coming up and any useful reminders. Visual cues in your environment help to keep you on track.
• If you have a busy schedule, take the time to explore phone apps related to google calendar, Evernote etc. You can set your phone to give you reminder alerts and keep you organized mentally.
This is perhaps the hardest part about organizing your home areas, you must pick up after yourself to keep it that way. If you spend a few minutes after your tasks to put things back where they belong and clean up any clutter, it saves you having to deeply organize later. The more you practice maintaining this type of environment, the more it becomes a habit.
Set measurable and specific goals. What I mean by measurable is instead of saying “I will read a book over winter break” you can say “I will read 10 chapters by this date and the remaining chapters by this date”. Give yourself actual dates and guidelines, it keeps you more accountable.
Think about what you want to accomplish and write it down. Get out that pen and paper again, write down at least 3 specific goals and make them detailed. Read over your reflections and use that as inspiration, your goals can be related to the areas you already identified as needing improvement.
When was the last time you read a book? I am not talking about reading paragraphs that were assigned to you or browsing a how-to guide, I mean really read and immersed yourself into a book. I will admit I am bias about reading and writing, naturally; I am a writer.
Reading on a regular basis can be linked to stress reduction, cognitive development, expanding your vocabulary, critical thinking and helping you to gain a deeper understanding in a subject matter. The seeking of knowledge is beneficial for everyone, once you find a topic or author that you enjoy you’ll find reading can be relaxing.
“…say, “My Lord, increase me in knowledge”[Quran 20:114]
This time of year has a wide range of holiday celebrations, while you may not be participating in those you can take an idea from them that is promoted throughout Islam, charity. Many people will tell you this is the time of year for giving and generosity. Of course, this idea is year-round, but why not use some of that extra time to do good for someone else.
While you are organizing your desk or bedroom, put any items or nice clothes you don’t wear in a box. You will see many sales going on locally, stock up on warm socks and scarfs or other needed items. Once you have a box of items prepared, take it to a homeless shelter or the local mosque. If your neighbors are elderly, offer to shovel the snow for them or rake their lawns.
“The example of those who spend their wealth in the way of Allah is like a seed [of grain] which grows seven spikes; in each spike is a hundred grains. And Allah multiplies [His reward] for whom He wills. And Allah is all-Encompassing and Knowing.” [Quran 2:261]
Connect to Faith
Set aside some alone time for you and your faith. This can be at the local mosque, outdoor area or your home, wherever you will be the most focused and relaxed. You want to let go of what is around you and focus. This looks different for some people, perhaps you will find that connection to Allah (Most Revered, Most Honored) in reading Quran quietly or for others they want to listen to a recitation while reciting along with it. Some will resonate more with reading a book about Islamic character while others spend time in voluntary prayer.
Your personality is unique so of course your worship style may differ from those around you. There is nothing wrong with one person resonating more with dhikr while another prefers to study tafseer, both are forms of worship and beneficial to our faith.
“So remember Me; I will remember you. And be grateful to Me and do not deny Me.”[Quran 2:152]
If you have the space at home, create an area you devote to praying and worship. Remove distractions, make it a simple space. Even a devoted corner of the room with a prayer mat and Quran.
Final Family Thoughts
Throughout all of this, while you are organizing, planning and doing charity; do it with your family. These are times to grow deeper together in your bonds and create lasting memories. It is not often throughout the year that people have time off at the same time, so make the most of it and be grateful.
If the entire family works together to organize a room, then it reduces the work and promotes healthy communication as you are working as a team inshallah. Going out to feed the homeless with your younger siblings is more beneficial than going alone and sets a great example. After spending some time connecting in worship, bring up a spiritual topic with family and have a discussion.
Your winter break is a time to relax, unwind and recoup, but it is also a great opportunity to focus on personal improvement, your connection to Allah (swt) and quality time with family.