With Ramadan here, we should be mentally prepared and ready to face the expected blessings and challenges of the holy month. There are a number of ways that we can approach Ramadan to ensure a productive and stress- free month that enhances our chances of benefiting from the blessings that come with Ramadan.
One way to do so is planning. Without any kind of plan we can be prone to stress when things become overly disorganized and disordered, which can result in the knock effect of experiencing negative emotions, feelings of helplessness, and angry outbursts. With some kind of plan, simple or more complex, we are more likely to achieve the end goal and benefit from a sense of accomplishment as we work towards this goal, and not waste time on activities that are related to less relevant and useful things.
I hear some of your moan at the word ‘planning’. Don’t worry; it’s not too late to start planning as we still have more than 2 weeks in Ramadan. So, if you haven’t planned yet, get some papers and start right now!
Make it simple
Everyone is different. Everyone has a different way of life and different commitments that they need to manage alongside the commitments of Ramadan, so everyone will have different ways to plan depending on their own individual circumstances. Some will like to write very detailed plans with every single thing they wish to accomplish on a day to day basis, whilst others might just have a general goal that they are working towards during Ramadan with a week by week plan, or task by task plan.
Have a realistic plan. Regardless of what type of plan you are following, remember to be kind to yourself, set a goal that is realistically achievable and plan according to this. You know yourself, you know what you are capable of. Be honest with yourself about what you can achieve and plan around this.
Of course Ramadan plans can involve many aspects like worship, health..etc. It’s very important to be realistic and specific even while planning acts of worship like prayer, Qur’an recitation and du’a.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) said:
“There are three prayers that are not rejected: the prayer of a father for his child, the prayer of the fasting person and the prayer of the traveler.” (Narrated by al-Bayhaqi; see Saheeh al-Jaami’, 2032; al-Saheehah, 1797)
People will also often have plans around being more healthy during Ramadan. It might be that you make a more general plan to eat more healthily whilst some prefer to write a daily meal plan. This can be a useful way to ensure a balanced diet during a time where our nutritional intake can be compromised.
Without a plan, we might be tempted to through something together with little thought of the nutritional value. You may also get stressed that you don’t have all the necessary ingredients or that you simply don’t have enough time to even prepare a meal. It’s all very well saying to plan meal times, and this is not necessarily about spending more time in the kitchen, but more about managing time more effectively, which is a lot easier with a plan. This way, you can have some free time before iftar. You can relax in this time, recite Qur’an or make du’a. This time is one of the best times to make du’a. Not only that, but it’s the most difficult time physically and mentally as the day of fasting comes to a close, so what better time to spend in the remembrance of Allah to make those times easier.
“Whatever is prayed for at the time of breaking the fast is granted and never refused.” (Tirmidhi)
Get everyone involved
Involve the family. If you have children, think about plans for them too. Let them get involved in creating their own individual plans. What do they want to achieve in Ramadan? Tick/reward charts stuck on the fridge can be particularly useful with children. It helps them to visualize their achievements and have a sense of ownership over their achievements, which can be great for maintaining motivation. This can even be a useful tool for us as adults too.
Often people start off with good intentions and set goals for Ramadan, starting off, for example, spending 30 minutes reading the Quran after Fajr, but within a week, they give up. This is where having a plan in place is useful. Especially if you put it somewhere visible, somewhere you see it every day to maintain this motivation.
Remind yourself why you are doing what you are doing – for the sake of Allah and this should keep you motivated. This will also make you feel more accountable, especially when the whole family can see what you are working on each day. They can visibly see if you are sticking to your plan and you can all motivate each other to remain on task and stick to the plan.
Make your plan a part of your routine
Making your plans a part of a routine can help you to stick to them. As Muslims, fortunately our lives are rooted around our prayer schedules which can make it very easy to form routines around this and the more you do something the more it becomes a habit. For example, maybe after Asr, you might all sit down together as a family and watch a 30 minute lecture. You might plan to study the Qur’an for 30 minutes after Fajr when you feel more connected to Allah and then take 30 minutes of light exercise when the sun is up. Such collective activities are very important for strengthening family ties either during Ramadan or not.
Plan for setbacks
Allow yourself more time than you anticipate needing for your plans. For example, if you have a 300 page book on the Seerah that you plan to complete during Ramadan, 10 pages a day. A more effective plan in this case might be to read an extra 2 pages a day, completing 12 pages each day and have the book completed in 25 days. This only requires a little extra effort each day but allows you an extra 5 days in case a setback occurs or even if you are just having a tough day and need some time to rest. If there are no setbacks, then Alhamdulilah you will have time for other things.
Learn from your planning experience
Even if you don’t achieve all that’s on your plan during Ramadan, despite being realistic and accounting for setbacks, be kind to yourself, accept it, these things happen. If it was poor motivation, then make du’a and work on this. If you set goals beyond your capabilities, then learn from it and be more realistic in your plans in future. It’s all part of getting to know your own limitations and this is a useful learning curve too and helps you get to know yourself and your capabilities.
Not everyone likes to engage actively in detailed planning, but knowing the benefits of planning can provide a motivation to give it a go, especially given how it can contribute to reduced stress and better time management during a time when this is crucial. Thus, some kind of plan can contribute to a less stressful and more productive Ramadan, Insha’Allah.