Filling empty containers…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

Today’s Jumuah sermon was a continuation of Dr Mohamad Abdalla’s lecture on the importance of time management. The entire lecture series has been absolutely inspiring and has captivated the Jumuah audience over the last 4 weeks. 

The issue of Time Management is something I am passionate about and I was blown away by the 1st lecture in the series a few weeks ago. Since then, the audience has grown in number with many attending Jumuah at Kuraby just to hear Dr Abdalla speak. 

In his talk today, Dr Abdalla mentioned a letter of advice from Imam Ibn Al-Jawzi to his son on the issue of Time. The story caught my attention so I noted a few details and looked it up this evening. This is what it read:

“Know, dear son,
that days are but hours,
and hours are but breaths,
and every soul is a container,
hence let not any breath pass without any benefit,
such as on the Day of Judgment you find an empty container and feel regret!
Be aware of every hour and how it passes,
and only spend it in the best possible way;
do not neglect yourself,
but render it accustomed to the noblest and best of actions,
and send to your grave that which will please you when you arrive to it.”

As a Muslim, I’ve heard this advice many times before but I found this particular line very intriguing… “let not any breath pass without any benefit, such as on the Day of Judgement you find an empty container and feel regret”. The idea of an ’empty’ container got me thinking. 

We place so much emphasis on either doing whats right or whats wrong that we forget about the time we’re not doing anything at all. How many containers do we leave empty each day? 

Perhaps by focussing solely on the good and the bad, we overlook the amount of time we waste each day. The fact that with each hour, we have the choice of filling these containers with good deeds, bad deeds or no deeds at all really puts things in to perspective.  Despite all the good we try to accomplish with every hour, I don’t like the idea of having too many empty containers. 

What are we doing with our spare time? 

Advertisements

Muslim Productivity…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

During the past 12 months, I’ve spent some time re-thinking my productivity and optimisation strategies. My role as an Accountant/Business Consultant/Payroll Manager/Business Owner/Entrepreneur/Importer/Supplement Enthusiast has developed over the last 12 months so I needed a more comprehensive approach to time management and productivity. My previous methods were very effective but simple and were based on a simple To Do list & Calendar.

When you’re working in an office from 8 – 5 everyday, your priorities revolve around a single place of work and so ‘work’ and ‘home’ to do list sufficed. Having a single workspace makes it relatively easy to stay on top of things since most of your work takes place in that space. When my role changed last year I transitioned into a virtual office which meant many different tasks due at different times to be completed in different places relying on different people so my humble to-do list sufficed but left me overwhelmed at times.

I’ve always been a sucker for productivity, in fact I’ve sacrificed many hours of productivity in the past researching and experimenting with different strategies using various platforms to achieve better productivity and time management. The idea felt natural to me but there have been times in the past where I questioned whether my search for better productivity had been counter productive and as a Muslim I questioned if there was any Muslim-benefit in my obsession.

In my attempt to be a better Muslim, husband, father, son, and a better professional, I found the answer and reaffirmed my obsession. I realised over the years that in many ways, my ability to be a better person in every regard relied on how productive I was and how efficient I was. I had to change my perspective to give real meaning to productivity and find the ‘Muslim’ productivity I was looking for.

My productivity has now made me a better Muslim, husband, father, son and professional. Muslim productivity is about waking up early in the morning to read Quran and pray Fajr, it’s about working smarter and harder earlier in the day so you can afford to break for some mid-day rejuvenation and pray Dhur. The most important aspect of Muslim productivity is knowing when to stop and achieving something meaningful with the time you gain by being more efficient and more productive. It’s not about working all the time and it’s not simply about crossing things off a list. It’s about finding contentment and fulfilment in the things you do by adding a spiritual element to your approach.

What I found even more inspiring was that many of the strategies and approaches could be traced back to Islam and the teachings of the Prophet (PBUH) which made my obsession even more fruitful. InshaAllah I will document these in detail in future posts under this new category of “Muslim Productivity’.

New Routine… Part 2

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

Almost 4 weeks into the second instalment of my wife’s practical experience program and 2 weeks left of my househusband duties. Despite my reluctance the first time around, it’s become second nature now with 10 weeks under my belt. To be honest, I am going to miss it when it’s over.

After successfully implementing a toddler friendly work routine I was able to work more productively and even found time to earn some brownie points by cooking dinner and taking care of the groceries. I can’t remember the last time I worked so efficiently and productively, I really hope I can maintain it going forward.

When you work smart and focus hard, you can achieve certain efficiencies but that’s not the end goal, the goal is to work smart enough to get what you need done and allow yourself time to unwind and do ‘other’ things. When the day’s work is done and the day is not over, that’s when you start having fun.

My office has been transformed into an awesome little playground, there are toy cars parked everywhere, a fuel station under my desk and car stickers on my filing cabinets… it’s awesome. We watched movies, played games, went shopping, cooked lunch and had some very interesting conversations. Became quite the pro at carting the kid everywhere I went, even managed my meetings and met all deadlines.

The best of my accomplishments though, was strengthening my spirituality and reviving old good habits. The last 4 weeks have allowed me to maximise my time and take advantage of so many things I’ve neglected and have been striving to achieve since my job description changed last year. Frequenting the mosque, setting aside time everyday to recite Quran, studying the meaning of the Quran and countless hours listening to inspirational speakers from across the globe has helped me find contentment in my productivity and a sense of peace.

My routine will change again soon Insha Allah but I’m hoping to continue on this path. If I was able to achieve so much with my current schedule, I must do even better with wife’s help during the day.

Insha Allah (God Willing)…

Mid-day reflections…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful. 

There’s something very fulfilling about praying Dhur at the Mosque, something I missed when I worked in an office and something I took for granted when I started working from home. Today was a wet, blue day and the congregation was small, I’ve found that rainy days and a the silence of the mosque are quite soothing and thought provoking. 

I thought about how satisfying it feels when you simply drop anything and everything you’re doing to answer the call to prayer… an indescribable feeling that unfortunately  the modern lifestyle often deprives us off.  It’s a sad reality but for most of us, it’s something we can overcome with a slight change in mindset. 

When prayer is a chore or something we have to do at a certain time and certain place, it’ll always feel like a chore, something we do without too much thought or reflection with a goal of simply doing it. I’ve had Salaah on my chore list at times, though I’m grateful for the awareness and consciousness of prayer embedded in my upbringing, the attitude towards it makes a huge difference and can be the difference between ritual and spiritual. 

Image

Let prayer be a break from work or routine, not because you have to do it, but because it makes for a good break. The mistake we make is that we work, briefly stop to pray so we get it done and then take the break… which often involves some sort of mainstream leisure activity like watching tv or going for coffee. 

A small change in mindset can make all the difference. Work hard, have fun, set priorities, develop efficiencies but let cleaning, banking, changing light bulbs and gardening be chores… Salaah is the break you need from a busy schedule and a hectic lifestyle. 

For me personally, it means the difference between a 5 minute break in my office to pray and a 20 minute break to pray at the mosque, in congregation with a change in environment, some fresh air and an opportunity for reflection. 

The reward is greater, the break is better and what you may lose in time, you make up for in contentment, piece of mind and a greater sense of purpose. 

Start with one, Dhur is a perfect mid-day break to try out… then move on. Take a break 5 times a day and you’ll work better, feel better and live better. 

Time management… the right way!

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

The last few weeks, perhaps months, have been extremely busy and I often found myself searching for ways to maximise my time and increase productivity while maintaining an Islamic lifestyle.

When you’ve got a long to-do list and an ever-changing routine, you tend to get carried away and at times engrossed in whatever you’re doing. You might not read enough Quran in the morning, perhaps prayers are delayed or even neglected… Sometimes even the people around you might be distanced in an attempt to work harder, faster, better.

In my own experience I’ve found that it’s easy to put off the little things when your focus is purely productivity. The reason I emphasise the little things is because I believe it’s the little things that facilitate the larger, more significant issues. Here’s a small example: Its mid morning and you’re at work, whatever or wherever that is, as noon approaches, you’re faced with a choice, break your productive streak, take a break and stop by the Mosque for Dhur… or maintain your focus, stay in for lunch and get the job done early… what to do?

I must admit, at times I chose to stay focussed, maintained high productivity and got the job done. I didn’t sacrifice my prayer though, I prayed at work and fulfilled that too but what I did sacrifice was the opportunity to actually get away from work, visit the Mosque, pray in congregation and rejuvenate before another session of work. In hindsight, a bad call!

This afternoon I took another approach, I was at the warehouse and had a few errands to run. As 12:30 approached, I decided to drop what I was doing and head to the Mosque for Dhur… this is what I gained:

  1. Prayer in congregation
  2. A break from routine
  3. Mid-day rejuvenation
  4. Spiritual fulfilment
  5. Witnessing a Brother embrace Islam at the mosque
  6. Re-assessed my priorities for the afternoon; and
  7. Very importantly, came across this Hadith –

Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) said, “Verily Allah says: O son of Adam, free yourself for my worship, I will (in turn) fill your chest with satisfaction and remove your poverty, and if you don’t, I will fill your hands with distraction and will not remove your poverty.” [Ahmad, Ibn Majah]

Mind Blown! I’ve been looking at it the wrong way, it’s not about productivity to get things done so you have time to worship Allah… It’s about taking the time to worship Allah and achieving efficiencies in doing so! Productivity is pointless without contentment…

Sometimes it’s easier said than done but I hope, Insha Allah, I am able to remember this and apply it going forward.

Our new routine ;)

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

I can’t believe 6 weeks went by so fast. I have changed nappies, brushed teeth, changed clothes, made breakfast & lunch, worked around a day time sleep routine and watched a few too many episodes of Play School. Six weeks ago I embraced my new routine and my new role as a part-time house husband. Today is the last day of my new routine and from tomorrow I’ll have a newer one Insha Allah.

Despite being an awesome dad and having some of the most amazing times with my son, I’m looking forward to our new routine and having mummy home from tomorrow. I have learnt to work efficiently while having to see to the kid so I plan to work even more efficiently with the wife’s help so we can spend more quality time together. When you don’t have a structured routine or timeline, productivity usually suffers and you end up working longer than necessary. After having to work around a toddler’s sleep routine, I’m confident I can work smarter and will do my best to avoid any after hour/bed-time/weekend work.

Since I did such a good job, I think I might continue and give the wife a hand with some of the chores too, especially looking after the little boy. We’ve shared some awesome experiences and I have learnt so much. Despite a few challenges along the way, I think it was a success and a new routine is always exciting.

A shout-out to my wife on a job well done too, she’s been an excellent student, teacher, mum and wife and took good care off us even with her busy schedule. Love you and I look forward to having you home from tomorrow Insha Allah.

 

Super Dad!

 

Melbourne Cup Reflections…

In the name of Allah, most Gracious, most Merciful.

Growing up I was oblivious to the Melbourne Cup festivities, right through uni too, I heard about the race that supposedly stopped the nation but I couldn’t be bothered to even take note of some of the things that go on. I remember my first Melbourne Cup day in the office, everyone was excited about dressing up, getting drunk and betting on horses with the most unusual names. I spent the day before the races turning down various sweeps and betting syndicates and had to explain to everyone why I didn’t have an interest in gambling or the idea of heading to the pub for the races.

I was the only Muslim in the office so this was new to many of my colleagues but everyone was understanding. I requested to be excused from the afternoon lunch at the pub and my manager was very accommodating so while the rest of the office got drunk and lost all the money they played on the races, I stayed back and had a quiet afternoon in the office. This took place towards the end of my first year in public practice and despite being excused from the actual drinks and gambling that afternoon, I recall feeling very uncomfortable in the office and began noticing how different I was from everyone else.

By this time, the euphoria was wearing off and I began noticing a few changes taking place that I wasn’t very happy with so I remember questioning whether this was the right work place for me. Fast forward a few months and my prayers were answered, I received a job offer from a smaller firm up the road that turned out to be alcohol free, gambling free and pork free. My new manager was mormon and my new colleague was a fellow Muslim brother I knew from an Islamic camp a few years before.

The new office was awesome, didn’t have to deal with the office drinks, drunken parties, gambling or dirty talk. All the food was halal, afternoon drinks were replaced with afternoon tea and office parties were replaced by jet skiing, mini golf and gelato overlooking the beach. Halal food, halal entertainment, a boardroom for our prayers and a 2 hour lunch break for Jumuah… Perfect. My first Melbourne Cup day in the new office was actually quite enjoyable, no one cared about the races, not a beer in sight and instead off drinks at the pub, the manager treated us to a little lunch and dessert which was a good change in routine.

I spent 2 Melbourne Cups at the new office which was quite enjoyable and comfortable… lots has changed since then and by the next Melbourne Cup I found myself working from home completely oblivious to the hustle and bustle of the corporate world. I am so grateful for the way things turned out. After working in public practise for 3 and half years, despite a very Muslim friendly work place in my last job, the freedom and luxury of working from home and working for yourself is absolutely amazing. The challenge now is maintaining an Islamic working environment while having complete flexibility and control of my own working conditions. It’s easy to complain about restrictions and limitations when you work for someone else, the real test is whether or not you can fulfil your duties, both religious and professional when you have control of your time and workload.

I hope and pray that my new boss allows my faith to flourish beyond the restrictions and limitations of the corporate lifestyle. Looking forward to many more Melbourne Cup Days in my virtual office away from the drinking and gambling. While I am grateful for my experience, I also pray that anyone out there subjected to less than the ideal working environment be granted the strength to maintain their faith and prosper in their line of work.