The Day they see it, (It will be) as if they had tarried but a single evening, or (at most till) the following morn! [Qur’an, Those Who Drag Forth, 79:46]
The reality of this verse reminds us that our short time on earth has eternal implications with our destiny. Our life will be remembered as a blink of an eye. This brings an overwhelming awareness that the most valuable commodity on earth is time. This is why the excuse we hear over and over again is, “I don’t have time.”
He will say: “Ah! Would that I had sent forth (good deeds) for (this) my (Future) Life![Qur’an, The Dawn, 89:24]
What are we busy with? The Qur’an reminds us there are two kinds of busy:
And this worldly life is not but diversion and amusement. And indeed, the home of the Hereafter – that is the [eternal] life, if only they knew. [Qur’an, The Spider, 29:64]
Below are some are some tips on how to stay on track and not let time waste away.
Start Everything with “Bismillah”
Every step you take should be an act of worship to Allah. There is no better way to spend your time. Whether you are taking out the garbage, studying for a test, playing with your kids, reading an article, tying your shoe, going into a business meeting, EVERYTHING should be in the name of Allah. This will turn every task you do into a prayer. It helps to always keep wudu to remain conscious of this. Staying in constant worship to Allah is the purpose of life and should be squeezed out of every minute to benefit your destiny. If you feel your task is not for the sake of Allah, either adjust your intentions so it is, or the task is not worth doing at all and move on.
And I did not create the jinn and mankind except to worship Me. [Qur’an, The Winnowing Winds, 51:56]
Paint a Vision and Aim High
You must have a goal to know if you are going in the right direction. Visualize your goal! It builds your internal motivation to take the necessary actions to achieve it. Remember, this goal must be tied to your final destination, so aim high!.. such as becoming a scholar, reestablishing the Khilafah, moving to Madinah, performing hajj, opening an orphanage, etc. When a task comes up, refer it back to your goal and ask yourself is this contributing to it or am I being distracted?
Fair in the eyes of men is the love of things they covet: Women and sons; Heaped-up hoards of gold and silver; horses branded (for blood and excellence); and (wealth of) cattle and well-tilled land. Such are the possessions of this world’s life; but in nearness to Allah is the best of the goals (To return to). [Qur’an, Family of Imran, 3:14]
Schedule Around Your Prayers
Allah has created a framework for your daily schedule. Plan around your 5 daily prayers and things will start to fall in place. Whether you are booking a flight or creating a seminar, there is embedded wisdom in pivoting your tasks around your prayers.
Pray Fajr at the Masjid
Starting the day during fajr gives you a head start before anyone else in the dunya. Getting out to the masjid makes this more concrete. By the time noon comes around, you will find that you have productively accomplished most of the day’s tasks already.
O Allah, bless my nation in their early mornings. [Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), Sunan Ibn Majah]
Oxygen in your blood is the best energy. It is more effective than coffee, which temporarily shocks your body with sugar and poisons. Go for walks, even better if you can walk to the masjid for fajr.
Take a short power nap or lay down between Dhur and Asr, no more than 30 minutes. This is also known as qailulah and is sunnah. It revitalizes the heart and gives energy for the second half of the day. It is also very conducive to sleep at night and helps one to pray qiyaam al-layl. Call it a day shortly after Isha prayer. If you stay up late, you are sabotaging the next day.
Braindump and Get Things Off the Mind
Your brain is valuable real estate. Plant useful knowledge on there, instead of bombarding it with useless information like junk news, social networks, even phone numbers and appointments. Keep a notepad handy and immediately write down any ideas or things you need to remember. Keeping them floating in your brain is wasting mental resources. Jot them down to a reliable place and forget about them! When I say “reliable”, be sure it will be a place that you will refer to it without thinking, such as the refrigerator, your home screen on your phone, stickies on your desk, etc. This way, you can truly release them from your mind, but they will reliably pop up later.
Make deals with yourself as to when you will take your next break, then write it down next to you. Now when have the urge to get distracted or side-track, remember you have a break coming up and you can do anything you want at that time, so stay focused at the task at hand.
Delete Distractions from Your Life
Not stay away from it, but get rid of it! This is the best way to get distractions out of your life. This could mean kicking the television out of your house, or deleting an app or game off your phone. You will notice right away that you will have more time to do things.
Start with the Most Important Tasks First
Starting off on the right foot really sets the stage for the rest of the day. If you start your day by checking your emails, the priorities start to shift and what’s important to you falls down the chain. Before you know it, you end up working on the tasks you originally wanted to in the middle of the day. Start off with the tasks that matter most to you and your goals, then get to the daily grind. This will allow you to set your priorities instead of the dunya setting them for you.
Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) was a Prophet, a Messenger, a teacher, a governor, a father, a husband, a friend, and human. He (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) had multiple roles in his life, and excelled at each one of them without exception. Did Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) uni-task or multi-task? Going through the Seerah and researching examples, we cannot find a single evidence of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him) multi-tasking. He always seemed to fully concentrate on the ‘project’ or person at hand and gave them his full attention. When he prayed he fully concentrated in his Salah, when he was with his family he was always present with them (both physically and mentally), when he was in the battle-field he was fully engaged. We never seen him distracted, or out of focus (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him). Most of the time, multi-tasking is a source of stress and allows you to start on many projects without completing any. It’s like skipping a rock across a pond; you will hit on many things but never go deep with any. Instead, single-tasking is doing your work, one task at a time, each task done with full focus and dedication. If you do this, your tasks get the attention they deserve and get completed to its full potential.
Life is short; this means we must utilize it to prepare for our eternal destination. It’s true that food for the body usually conflicts with food for the soul, so try to align them to meet your goals. Master the resources around you before they master you. The provisions given to you by Allah is a means for you to reach your destination. Next time you think you “don’t have time,” remember to ask yourself why.
The son of Adam will not be dismissed from before his Lord on the Day of Resurrection until he has been questioned about five things: his life and how he spent it, his youth and how he used it, his wealth and how he earned it and how he disposed of it, and how he acted upon what he acquired of knowledge. [Hadith of Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allāh be upon him), al-Tirmidhi, 2422; classed as hasan by al-Albaani in Saheeh al-Tirmidhi, 1969]