If you are that kind of active person, your morning likely begins with Fajr prayer. After the Fajr, it is time to start your day in preparation for classes at school/university.
The classes are held till mid-day (Zuhr time), or even till late evening (Maghrib time). Add to that the traffic congestion (in some countries), and what you have is an exhausted student who can only think of endless hours of sleep.
How can an individual balance his/her time to engage in community service, develop extra-curricular activities, complete school assignments on time, prepare for exams, increase in worship, focus during prayers, spend quality time with friends and family, and work on a part-time basis?
1- Understand Your Intentions
Every step that you take towards the mosque is rewarded. Every morsel that you feed your spouse is rewarded. So, what about all the halal activities that you toil with throughout the day?
Your first step is to avoid despair, because falling into the trap of despair, and feeling overwhelmed actually reduces your stamina. Keep your intentions clean, and increase your focus by remembering the reasons behind your studying. Say Bismillah and proceed.
2- Set Your Priorities
This is worn-out advice, but that is only because it is, by far, the most important aspect of time management.
An average Muslim youth has the following activities to balance:
- Obligatory prayers and fasts (during Ramadan)
- Obligatory charity and community service
- Studies (both secular and Islamic)
- Extra-curricular activities (ECAs)
- Part-time job
A student usually divides the day into time slots (specific number of hours), and apportions a couple of hours to each activity. However, what if you do not have enough hours for one activity, and/or a conflict of interest arises? This is when you should prioritize.
If you have two activities at hand – obligatory prayers and studies – then, needless to say, you must offer your prayers first. Similarly, you need to put studies above ECAs and jobs, because better opportunities for ECAs and jobs usually come and go, but you will not get a second chance to sit for your exams.
Also, studies are important if you want to get a good job to earn a living, to give in charity, to influence others positively, to initiate social development projects, or even to visit the House of Allah.
Reduce activities which are not priorities, such as chatting endlessly on Skype/Facebook. Surprisingly, these not-so-important activities take up most of our time. Why? Because we lose focus, and do not prioritize.
Before taking up any project/activity, ask yourself:
a. Is it important/obligatory?
b. Can this be done later?
Prepare your list of priorities based on the answers of the above two questions.
3- Do Not Procrastinate
Do not wait for the last minute. A time clash usually occurs when you let your work pile up.
If you have exams next week, start preparing now, so that if you have an exciting competition/project taking place at the same time as your exams, you can easily participate without fretting over your exam preparation.
Similarly, if you plan to develop a particular hobby, do it during your vacation – way before the exam pressure kicks in. If you are eager to participate in a competition – an essay writing competition for instance – then write as many essays as possible, or at least create some basic plots for your essay, during your vacation.
That way, if there is a competition taking place when you are already reeling with exam preparation, you can easily participate by turning in an essay which you have already written (if it suits the criteria of the competition).
4- Control the Number of Projects you’re Involved With
Taking fewer projects often means controlling the quality of commitment you can offer. If you are running numerous projects, and a few of them are taking a toll on your health, and other prioritized duties, then keep those projects inactive for the time-being (according to the order of priorities).
Alternatively, you can appoint a trusted friend to run the projects temporarily on your behalf.
Join time management training programs (both secular and Islamic ones). Productive Muslim and Productive Ramadan have some great resources on time management. “Learn More, Study Less”, conducted by Scott H. Young, provides great resources, too.
5- Understand Yourself
Understand your capacity! Do not think you can take up 24 projects because you have 24 hours. Many projects require, for example, 8 hours of work. Therefore, decide wisely, and remember to leave sufficient time for all other activities.
Remember, stretching yourself very thin may impact the quality of the services/volunteer work you offer. Choose your participation wisely and commit yourself completely when you do offer your time and energy.
6- Keep a Day Planner/Log
This is something many of us (including myself) trivialize, but once we start using it, we really understand its importance. A day planner/log/list (of priorities, appointments, and other commitments) helps you to:
- Avoid missing deadlines and appointments
- Take up only as many projects as possible according to your capacity and time
- Avoid a time clash (too many assignments / more than one appointment at the same time)
- Prepare early for an excellent outcome
7- Make Du’aa
Did you prepare a list of du’aa to make during Ramadan? Well, incorporate this list during the rest of the months of the year! Include prayers for time management, too. Ask Allah to grant you the skills of time management, and to bless your time and effort.