We live in an age of technology, and – for many of us – abundance, too. We have hundreds of TV channels to choose from, so many online platforms to meet our entertainment needs, millions of websites available at the tap of a screen, and – most captivating – a never-ending stream of custom-made content coming at us via social media and other services on our phones.
With so much stuff competing for our attention – flooding our senses at every turn – it can be tough to focus on what’s important.
Compared to the people of the past, we have so much more to help us work, but many of us just can’t settle down to be as productive as we should.
What’s Wrong with That?
As Muslims – whether we’re ‘practicing’ or not – we know that there’s more to existence than just our time on earth. We know that, in the bigger picture, our lives here are pretty short, and one day we’ll meet our Creator for judgement. And the outcome of that meeting will decide where we go for eternity.
But what we do here – in this world – will ultimately determine that long-term future in the Hereafter. So, if we want the best future – if we want to end up in Paradise – it’s important to use our time wisely.
That doesn’t mean we have to be working all the time. It just means we have to try to be productive as much as possible.
What is ‘Productivity’?
Productivity is not simply ‘getting things done’. It means managing your focus, energy, and time to do things that are beneficial. Things that benefit yourself and others.
So, while there are a million ways to chill out – just relax and be entertained – there are also a million ways to be productive and do things that will help us in the bigger picture.
Practical Ways to Boost Productivity
Life is about choice, so we need to be selective – and conscious of our purpose – when choosing what we do. On the road to a more productive way of life, it’s important to remember that we should always be balanced in our approach. As the great Persian poet Rumi once said:
“The middle path is the way to wisdom.”
So, try not to be extreme in implementing any particular practice. As the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) reportedly told us:
The deeds most beloved to Allah are those that are consistent – even if they be few. (Narrated in Bukhari and Muslim)
It’s better to start slowly – take your time and really let something settle into your routine and way of life – than push yourself in an intense burst which will soon fade as you wear yourself out far too soon.
Here are some tips for becoming more productive:
1- Schedule Your Time:
Whether you want to draw up detailed plans of how you’ll spend every hour, or just set up a loose schedule, make sure that you plot out how you will spend your time.
Mapping out your day (and night) will help you to have direction, which will boost your focus on achieving what you need to each day.
That said, remember that life is full of surprises. So, build in buffer times to absorb any unexpected events, and try your best to be flexible.
Things won’t always go according to plan, but as long as you have a plan and try to stick to it, Insha’Allah you’ll achieve a lot more than just living without any schedule at all.
2- Make Your Travel Productive:
In your daily commute to school or work, don’t just overindulge in mindless entertainment. Instead, be productive: read, listen, write, or do anything else useful. You’ll be surprised at how much more you can achieve just by using these periods more wisely.
Remember, though, that whatever you do, it doesn’t need to be a constant. You don’t always have to be listening to something, or doing something.
Often, it’s helpful to just space out and do absolutely nothing. Our minds are usually so busy with something or the other that just zoning out gives us a mental rest – which is pretty important in trying to stay balanced.
3- Swap out the Useless for the Useful:
Do you live in a society that’s drowning in entertainment culture? From music to movies, video games and more, there are always tons of exciting pastimes ready to capture our attention and precious time.
Some of this entertainment can be of benefit, but the vast majority is often just futile – wasting our time, and often subliminally feeding us values that are spiritually harmful.
It’s not easy to quit something instantly, because we’re creatures of habit: take away one thing, and we leave a void that needs to be filled. If we leave that space in our lives empty, chances are we’ll end up going back to our old ways after a while.
The key to lasting change here is to find good substitutes. For example, if you’re heavily into music, slowly work your way into nasheeds and phase out the music over time. If you’re a series junkie, replace those dramas and sitcoms with serials that convey Islamic history and values in an entertaining way – such as the Umar series, or the Turkish Ertugrul series.
4- Mind Your Own Business:
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) reportedly told us:
Part of the perfection of one’s Islam is his leaving that which does not concern him. (40 Hadith, Nawawi)
One pretty obvious way to apply this is to avoid gossiping about others – whether you know them or not (yes, that includes celebrity gossip too). But another important consideration is to steer clear of (online and offline) debates which don’t impact your life too much.
The same goes for news – which floods us from all angles. Try to take in news that impacts you personally, or stuff that expands your horizons – but in healthy moderation.
Try not to get sucked into all the other news out there. Manage your news intake carefully, and you’ll find you have more time to do things that are productive – rather than worrying about issues that don’t impact you directly.
For most people, ‘charity’ means financial donations. While this is productive, you might not always be able to hand over money. What you do have, though, is time, energy, and your abilities. Donate them to a worthy cause, and you’ll find more fulfillment – along with more productivity.
6- Sleep Right:
Research Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)’s sleeping routines and try to adapt these to your life. He was the most productive example for us, and if he could get enough sleep and fit so much into his time, we can surely learn a thing or two about managing our sleep.
7- Step up in Your Islamic Practice:
Whatever your state of religious practice, try to do a little better. You could improve your salah (which in turn boosts your time management), fasting (which helps build restraint), dhikr (which helps quiet the mind), or you may want to connect with the Quran via a teacher whose style appeals to you (whether it’s someone in person, online live, or recorded lessons).
When you take a step towards the pleasure of Allah, things will open up for you insha’Allah.
The Choice is Yours
We’re living in a super-connected world, with unbelievable convenience and choice. But one of the disadvantages of that is the many distractions always ready to capture our attention and drain away our time.
By being a bit more conscious, and following some of the practical tips suggested here, hopefully you can live a more productive, purposeful life which will stand you in good stead for not only this world, but more importantly, the Hereafter, too.