Learning to Manage Time

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Mehreen Ganny

Mehreen Ganny is Marketing Manager, Nahl Works (an interactive app for children about the Quran's Tafseer).

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Many of us would agree that today time seems to be slipping through our fingers much faster than a year ago. Mehreen Ganny has summarized for you a unique approach to time management that has changed lives.

Do you leave your work to pile up till the very last night before the deadline? Stressed and exhausted, keeping awake by drowning in endless cups of coffee. . . I can surely put myself in this category. But my attitude towards organizing time, changed the day I began attending “Strategic Time Management” course by Suleman Ahmer. His approach to this topic is unique, for it combines worldly and Islamic knowledge.

Mr. Ahmer began the course by making us realize the difference between ‘important’ and ‘urgent’ tasks. In defining ‘urgent’, most of us tend to include ‘important’ with it.  When I was asked to define ‘urgent’, I said: “Something important, which has to be done instantly’. However, the correct definition of ‘urgent’ is: “Any action of ours that cannot wait and, if delayed, will lose its relevance”.

‘Important’ on the other hand is “Any action of ours that takes us towards our goal or objective” Similarly “Any action that takes us away from our goal or does not take us towards our goal is called ‘not important’”.

Time Quadrants

Once we understood the difference between ‘important’ and ‘urgent’, we broke down our activities into four quadrants:

Q1: Urgent and Important Q2: Urgent and Not Important
Q3: Not Urgent and Important Q4: Not Urgent and Not Important

All our activities can be categorized according to these four quadrants.

Q1 Activities

These activities are ‘important’ and ‘urgent’. Breathing, responding to a heart attack, or reaching an airport for a flight – all of these are Q1 activities.

Q1 activities are important, because they lead to an urgent goal. If these activities are not done at their due time, they lose their relevance. If we will not respond immediately to somebody having a heart attack, the person will die, and we will not complete our goal of saving his/her life.

We should avoid creating Q1 activities for ourselves, by leaving our tasks till the very last moment. Suppose, your report is due on the 10th of June and you have the whole month of May for completing it. Nevertheless, you start your work only on the 9th of June. Your report has now become urgent, which has increased the level of your stress unnecessarily. Remember, all activities of Q1 happen under high level of stress.

Q2 Activities

Q2 activities include tasks, which are ‘not important’ but ‘urgent’. This is a tricky category. Going to a concert, checking your horoscope, or celebrating a birthday all are Q2 activities. At first, I could not understand, why going to a concert fits in Q2, if it does not concern me at all – since I do not participate in concerts, they do not affect my life. The reason turned out to be that although concerts do not affect my life, they still take place. If a concert is scheduled for the 14th of August, it will happen on this date, no matter if I attend it or not. Therefore, it becomes urgent, but since it does not lead to any goal, it is not important.

Q3 Activities

This is the category, in which true Muslims should spend their whole life. Activities of this quadrant are ‘important’ but not ‘urgent’, and there is no stress involved in carrying out these tasks. If Q3 activities are not done in their due time, they end up becoming Q1 activities. Take, for example, Fajr Salah. The time of the Adhan is 5:15 am, the sun rises at 6:30 am, and the average time needed for the prayer is 10 minutes. If you wake up for prayer at 5:30 am, it is a Q3 activity; however, if you wake up only at 6:25 am, it becomes a Q1 activity.

Doing Q3 activities makes one relaxed. Since you have ample time you focus better, maximize your potential and produce best results. Looking at the Salah example, if I were to leave it for the last second I would rush to finish it and not have any value in my prayer. To avoid urgency, we must complete our activities on time. This can only happen if we do not give priority to wasteful activities that eat up on our valuable time.

Q4 Activities

This quadrant is my favourite one – ‘not important’ and ‘not urgent’. Daydreaming, slouching before the TV, reading comics, and gossiping! By leaving out these activities, we instantly gain lots of extra time for focusing on what is truly important. Remember – Q4 activities are those that have no significance at all. They may be pleasing to our desires and aroused by Satan, since he wants us to be losers, but in reality they only take us far away not only from Allah but also our goal in life.

Keeping a Notebook and a Scheduler

Start out by getting organized. In the morning, wake up 45 minutes early and plan your day. Have a proper scheduler with a detailed time frame. Write down all your appointments, plan the time for studies, and do not forget about the time you wish to spend with your kids. If you will check your scheduler every morning, you will not miss any of your activities.

Also, clear your mind from unnecessary information like recipes, phone numbers or new e-mail addresses. Record all of these in a mini-notebook as soon as you hear them. Later, transfer this information into its proper place, for example, your recipes book or telephone directory etc.

Saying NO!

Learning to say no is a big relief! However, when requested something, most of us face the problem of saying ‘no’. If a friend or a family member needs you when you already are in a Q1 situation with your own responsibilities, it is better to say ‘no’, followed by a brief explanation. If the request is urgent and cannot wait and you obviously are unable to help, guide the person requesting to a dependable source that can help him/her instead. This way you give the person another option and not hurt their feelings.

Similarly the phrase “Insha’Allah” is nowadays being used as an escape from saying ‘no’. Use this expression only with your sincere intentions. If someone invites you for a visit, do not commit, knowing that later you will cancel the plan. Always keep your promises and make honest commitments.

Cure for Tardiness

How can you avoid being late? The answer is simple: ‘Keep a buffer time’. Suppose, you need twenty minutes for reaching the place of your destination. Before setting off, consider all the hurdles that might come in your way – a flat tire, stopping at a gas station, rush time traffic, etc. Calculate the time you might need for these activities (your ‘buffer time’) and add it to your twenty minutes. Leave your house according to your new calculation and you will avoid being late!

What if your ‘hurdle activities’ do not occur and you reach your destination early? Take along a Q3 activity like carrying a book, in case if there is a little time left over here and there. This way, the time does not get wasted.

By attending Mr. Ahmer’s course, many people have made radical changes in their lives. Family relationships have improved and environments within companies have changed. Do YOU want a change in your life too? Start following the above tips and believe it or not you will be a more organized and happier person Insha’Allah!

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