As mentioned throughout my book Getting The Barakah, time management requires firm self discipline. Here are some tips that can will assist you in maintaining the self discipline needed to stick to a schedule:
1. Keep reminders for every important thing.
Whether you have a notebook, Tablet, Smartphone, Diary or Desktop Planner. Utilize it to store reminders for everything that is important. Make it a habit to write down anything that is important in a place where you can remember it.
Whether it is a reminder to call your mechanic and make an appointment to tune up your car. Or a reminder that you have a class to teach at a certain time. Or a reminder to pay the bills on a certain date. Whatever it is, set a written reminder and you will be less likely to forget or overlook it.
2. Don’t mix creative and admin work.
A lot of modern day work involves thinking, creativity and planning. Many people make the mistake of trying to do this while doing admin work at the same time. This goes back to our point on multitasking (mentioned in the book), it is not productive to try and do both at the same time.
Creativity requires the brain to function in one manner. While admin work requires it to function quite differently. Trying to do both at the same time is not productive and can even cause a headache.
Schedule your creative tasks for separate times from your admin work. This way your mind can function in one manner and focus on the task at hand. If you are more creative in the mornings, then make that your creative time and leave your admin work for the afternoon. Likewise, if you are more creative in the afternoon or evening, schedule your time accordingly.
The point is to allow your mind to focus on the task at hand and in that manner, you will get more done faster.
3. Subconscious Level Thinking
The human mind operates on two levels. There is the conscious thinking which is what you are focusing on at the moment. However, while you are focusing on something, there are many things going on in the back of your mind that you are not aware of, this is known as the subconscious or unconscious part of the brain.
Recent studies have shown that many of our best ideas are stimulated in the subconscious level of the mind, as it never rests, even when we are sleeping. This is where the idea of “sleeping on it” comes from.
Very often when someone has a really complex problem to solve, they choose to sleep on it or do something fun. While doing so, the subconscious level of the mind continues working on the problem in a more relaxed manner and the solution is soon formed.
The next time you have a complex problem to solve or are searching for a great creative idea, instead of wasting time stressing over it, sleep on it and you might find the solution you were looking for.
Perhaps this is why some of our best ideas come to us while we are praying Salah, as we are relaxed and focused on Allah so our minds are also relaxed and our subconscious can dig deeper and discover new ideas. (That’s how the idea for this book came to me)
4. Rewarding yourself
In this world, not many people are going to stand in your corner, support your every idea and compliment your efforts. You often need to be your own cheerleader as you need motivation and encouragement to push on through difficult times.
One way to keep yourself motivated is to reward yourself for each small and large victory. This will give you a boost to continue working harder and succeeding. Small victories can be rewarded with small things, for examples you can reward yourself with a ten minute break and a cup of coffee for getting that report done in record time.
Bigger victories can be rewarded with a bigger reward. For example, a successful huge sale or completion of an important course can be rewarded with a night out for the family to your favourite Halal restaurant.
The point is to take care of yourself, and this will keep you motivated to keep rising to higher levels with each little victory.
5. Set a time limit for each task
Most of us can’t keep working at one task all day. We need breaks and limits. Furthermore, setting a time limit forces you to work faster and get things done in record time. If a task usually takes you two hours to do, set a time limit to do it in one hour, you will surprised by the fact that it will probably take you 45 minutes to do it with such a time limit. The general rule is to set a time limit to do a task in half the time it usually takes you to do it.
This is because when we have tight deadlines, our mind goes into overdrive in finding ways to get things done faster. Setting time limits and deadlines for all your tasks is a great way to discipline yourself to work faster and better.
6. Set a dollar value for your time
Time is money. This is a fact. Every moment wasted with mundane activities is a moment wasted that you can never get back. Many people overcome this by working out how much each minute of their day is worth in terms of dollars.
If you earn $2000 a month, each work day is worth $80 so each hour is worth $8. If you waste an hour, you have wasted $8. Of course, if you maximize that time, you can actually increase the value of your time, because productive people tend to earn more than unproductive people. And the more your time is worth, the less likely you are to waste it because you know what it is worth.
7. Avoid Perfectionism
I always wanted to be an author. I knew that it was what I was best at, but for many years I held back because I was not happy that my writings are not perfect. It was only when I let go of my desire for perfection that I was finally able to let my ideas flow and the writing happened.
Too often, we focus on perfection and end up wasting time trying to improve already high quality work to unrealistic standards. This does not mean we should do shoddy work. No, our focus should be on high quality results, not perfect results. Nothing in this world is perfect so striving for perfection is a self-defeating goal and will always leave you frustrated and miserable.
Focus on doing your best. You can always improve and learn from mistakes. But getting things done is far more important than worrying about the impossible.
8. Identify your peak times
Every person has a time of the day when he or she is at their best. Identify your peak time. For most people, it is early morning or late at night. Schedule your most important projects for that time. This will help you give maximum attention to that task and produce the highest quality product.
9. Focus on your most important task
Ask yourself each day what is the most important thing I need to get done today. Then get that done early and give it most of your attention. Do this and you will find time for everything else as well. Plus, you will feel better for having completed the most important tasks early.
Learn more self discipline and time management tips with Getting The Barakah
This article was extracted from Getting The Barakah: An Islamic Guide to Time Management. Available exclusively at Islamic Self Help.