Productivity

The Paradox Of Working Smarter

By Sarah Masud

“His command is only when He intends a thing, He says to it “Be”, and it is.” 
(Surah Yaseen 36:82)

Nothing is impossible for Allah. If he wished he could have established Islam by saying ‘Be’. If he willed he could have had every person be born as an obedient Muslim. Yet it was Allah’s plan that things should take their natural course. From Prophet Adam (pbuh) to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), many generations passed. Many civilizations came up, and were destroyed.

So many prophets and messengers appeared through the course of establishment of Islam, not one without a story of struggle and patience. Pondering upon this fact made me wonder. If someone of utmost supremacy did not apply any shortcuts to establish His religion, then what makes us, the humans, think that we can take shortcuts to success. Haughtiness and stupidity, I guess.

The phrase ‘work smarter, not harder’ has become the anthem for today’s generation. Some of us are ready to gamble money in lottery to become rich overnight. Others are willing to take unapproved medicine to lose fat, without any exercise. We are fooling ourselves in the alchemy of success, without investing an iota of time on self improvement. We have become a short sighted generation, focused on instant gratification.

But these shortcuts to success are momentary. They in turn cut short our chances of success, depriving us of a lifetime of achievements and contentment. These shortcuts to success bring more harm than good. They are a digression from the path of righteous. And who does greater wrong to himself, than he who digresses and is led astray by the Satan.

Working Hard and SmartWorking Hard

Working smarter cannot be a substitute for hard work. These two aspects are not antithesis of each other. In fact, they are complimentary. One has to work hard to achieve success. It is only during those years of earnest hard work does one realize his strengths and weakness, leaving room for improvement. It takes years to learn the tricks of any trade, and become smart. In short, you first work hard to attain smartness, and then work hard to sustain that smartness.

Learning to be smart at work is like a return on investment on the hard work you put in. The more you work hard, the smarter your working becomes. So stop roaming the blind alleys of shortcuts. Be smart, and work hard.

“And that there is not for man except that [good] for which he strives, and that his effort is going to be seen. Then he will be recompensed for it with the fullest recompense.”
Surah An-Najm 53:39-41

About the author: Sarah Masud is a Data Science intern at Red Hat Inc. She loves to read and write in her spare time.

Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 0 comments

5 Steps for maintaining spiritual momentum post-Ramadan

The Ramadan Zeal

Ramadan is no doubt a special time of the year. With the devils locked up and the gates of Paradise wide open, people are motivated to go the extra mile in doing good deeds and being our best selves. This high spiritual momentum is temporary and for many people, it is gone the day Ramadan ends.

Now, to expect to maintain the same level of spirituality outside of Ramadan is not realistic. Ramadan is a special environment and outside of it, we can’t be the same. However, this does not mean we should not try.

The key to maintaining spiritual momentum post-Ramadan is to set realistic ideas of what you can do and to focus on those few things. Here are a few steps to help you figure out what to focus on.

5 Steps for maintaining spiritual momentum post-Ramadan

To keep this as simple and as practical as possible, I will focus only on five steps. These are the five simplest steps to keep our Imaan strong after Ramadan, and also the most important.

1. Continue reciting Quran

The first step to maintaining momentum is to continue growing in your relationship with the Quran. If you were readispiritual momentumng a Juz a day in Ramadan, continue reading at least 2 pages a day.

If you were listening to a one hour Tafseer a day during Ramadan, continue listening to 15 minute Tafseers after Ramadan.

Whatever you were doing, keep it going even if it is less. The key is to stay connected to the Quran. It doesn’t matter how little you are doing, what matters is that you are doing something on a daily basis, so you grow in your closeness to and understanding of the Quran with each day.

“The best of you are those who learn the Quran and teach it.” (Sahih Bukhari 4739)

2. Fast the six days of Shawwal

This is a tough one for many of us, but the rewards are great. Fasting is Ramadan is easier as everybody is doing it. Fasting so soon after Ramadan requires great will power and determination.

The reward of fasting the month of Ramadan plus the six days of Shawwal is equal to fasting an entire year. That alone is motivation. Add in the spiritual benefits of fasting and this will definitely help you stay on track after Ramadan.

“Whoever fasts the month of Ramadan and then follows it with six days of fasting in the month of Shawwal, it will be as if he had fasted the year through.” (Sahih Muslim 1163)

3. Be realistic is your self-expectations

Sometimes we expect too much from ourselves. We expect to be sinless and perfect from this Ramadan onward until the day we die. And when it doesn’t happen, we lose hope and fall back into our own lifestyles. The way to Paradise is not through being perfect. It is through sustained daily growth.

Be realistic and set high goals for yourself. But don’t be too hard on yourself when you don’t always attain those goals. You are human. You will err, you will make mistakes, and you will grow from each experience. Focus on being on your best, not on being perfect. At the end, if you sincerely try your best, Allah will forgive the rest.

Aisha reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Be deliberate in worship, draw near to Allah, and give glad tidings. Verily, none of you will enter Paradise because of his deeds alone.” They said, “Not even you, O Messenger of Allah?” The Prophet said, “Not even me, unless Allah grants me mercy from himself. Know that the most beloved deed to Allah is that which is done regularly even if it is small.” (Sahih Al-Bukhari 6099, Sahih Muslim 2818)

4. Repent Often

We all make mistakes. We all fall into sins. We all have our faults. The difference between a righteous person and an open-sinner is not the lack of sin. It is the concealment of sins and consistent repentance. After Ramadan, you may fall back into some sin or another that you had before Ramadan.

When this happens, do not lose hope. When this happens, do not give up. When this happens, do not let Shaytaan win. Get back up and try again. Repent, and never lose hope. Because you worship Al-Ghafoor (The Most Forgiving), Ar-Raheem (the Most Merciful).

“I swear by Him in whose hand is my soul, if you were a people who did not commit sin, Allah would take you away and replace you with a people who would sin and then seek Allah’s forgiveness so He could forgive them.” (Sahih Muslim 2687)

5. Prioritize the five daily Salah

I left this for last as it is the single most important piece of advice in this article. No matter what happens. No matter how spiritually low you feel. No matter how much you want to give up. Never, ever, abandon your five daily Salah!

These Salah are your connection to Allah. Your means of forgiveness. Your ticket to Paradise. Your daily conversation with your Creator. Your hope during tough days. Your peace during sad days. Your reminder during good days. And your evidence that you believe in Allah. If nothing else, at the very least remain firm in praying five time a day once Ramadan has passed.

“The first matter that the slave will be brought to account for on the Day of Judgment is the prayer. If it is sound, then the rest of his deeds will be sound. And if it is bad, then the rest of his deeds will be bad.”(Al-Tabarani)

These five tips will hopefully help you maintain your momentum throughout the year. May Allah forgive our faults and accept our deeds.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, 5 comments

How To Be The Best – 5 Hadiths

How to be the best

In personal development, there is a lot of focus on how to be the best at what you do. There are many tips which we could study regarding being the best at worldly things. However, in this series of articles we will explore how to be the best in the sight of Allah. In this article, and several future article, we will be looking an a variety of Hadiths which focus on the qualities of the best of Muslims.

As believers, we need to be constantly striving to be better, so let’s follow these Hadiths and strive to be the best in the sight of Allah. Because at the end of the day, being the best in Dunya isn’t worth it, if your life isn’t pleasing to Allah.

“The best of the Muslims is he from whose hand and tongue other Muslims are safe.” [Muslim]

In order to be the best believers, we need to be the most peaceful. People need to feel safe around us, not just from physical harm, but from our speech as well. Look inside yourself and honestly analyze your lifestyle, and ask yourself, “Do I often say bad things to others or about others? Do people fear my violent temper? Are people afraid to trust me?”

These questions are very important in helping us grow into people whom others feel safe around. The general rule is ‘Do no harm’ and this is one of the fundamental principles of Islam.

“The best among you are those with the best manners and character.” [Bukhari]How to be the best

Our religion is one which emphasizes excellent manners and character. How we treat people is the sign of how well we have understood our religion.

Sadly, some people become more harsh, rude and arrogant when they start practicing Islam, which is the opposite of what Islam teaches. To be the best of believers we need to display the best of manners always, and in our dealings will all types of people. Manners are essential for perfecting our faith.

“The best of people are those who are most beneficial to mankind.” [Daraqutni, Hasan]

Islam is not a selfish religion. It is not just about personal and private acts of worship. Rather, the best Muslims are those who dedicate their lives to serving the ummah for the sake of Allah.

Each of us have different skills and knowledge that can be used to benefit others. It is our duty as Muslims to use these skills to benefit the ummah and not to focus only upon ourselves. Make it an essential part of your life to serve the community, because this is what Muslims do.

“The best of you are those who learn the Qur’an and teach it.” [Darimi, Sahih]

The Qur’an is the foundation of our religion. It is our duty to study it, understand it, practice it, live by it, and convey its message to others. The most noblest thing that a Muslim can dedicate his/her life to is the studying and teaching of the Qur’an.

This includes teaching people how to recite Qur’an, teaching Tajweed, Tafsir, Arabic, Hifz, and even Islamic Studies, because all Islamic Studies subjects require studying the meaning of different verses of the Qur’an. Let us all find a way to be a part of this noble process, so that we too can be among the best of this ummah.

“The best of you are those who are best to their families, and I am the best of you to my family.” [Tirmidhi, Sahih]

How we treat our families in private is the true test of our faith and character. It is easy to pretend to be humble, pious and well mannered in public. But to be remain righteous, humble, loving, gentle, and well mannered at home is the true sign of faith.

To be the best, we need to follow the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) example and treat our families well. A true believer is a good Muslim, both in public and in private.

To summarize, from these five hadiths, we learn that the best of Muslims are those who:

  1. Do not harm others
  2. Have excellent manners and character
  3. are beneficial to humanity
  4. study and teach the Quran
  5. treat their families well

Let us strive to practice on these five Hadiths. In shaa Allah, I will publish another article next week focusing on five more qualities of the best of believers.

Check out my latest eBook which offers guidelines for Muslims confused about sectarianism.

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Positive Thinking, Productivity, 3 comments

Daily Discipline Tips

Daily Discipline Tips:

Discipline Tips

Tips extracted from this eBook.

Here are some tips that assist me in maintaining the discipline 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, 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) and 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, and you will feel better for having completed the most important tasks early.

Tips extracted from Getting The Barakah: 2nd Edition

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, Time Management, 0 comments

3 Productivity Tips you can implement right now

Productivity Tips

Sometimes all you need is one small adjustment to your daily life. Such a change could suddenly free up lots of time you didn’t know you had. These three productivity tips will help you make such immediate changes:

#1 Minimize Social Media Time

Social media can be the biggest time waster for many of us. I’m not telling you get off it. After all, you probably found this blog through social media. Just to cut it down a bit. Instead of being online all day, try switching off during high concentration tasks.

Whats a high concentration task?

Its any task that requires your full attention. Multi-tasking between completing such a task and using social media can double the amount of time it takes to complete it.

For example, if you are reading an article while checking social media, it might take 15 minutes to read the article.

If you close your social media for five minutes, you could complete reading the entire article in five minutes and understand it better.

Try it. Next time you need to concentrate, just switch off from social media for a few minutes. It works like magic.

#2 Cut out the chit chat

Whether it is a co-worker, an old friend, or your spouse calling from home. Learn to minimize conversations without being rude. Simply inform people of how much time you have to spare.

They will understand and keep the conversation within that time limit. If needed, remind them politely that you have work to do. Do this often and people will begin to understand.

By limiting conversations, you will discover hours of extra time during the day to get things done.

#3 Make a To-Do List

To-Do Lists do not require any formal training. Just write out a list of everything you need to do today, and do it all one by one. Its as simple as that.

To-Do Lists are the core of time management. Without one, it is very difficult to keep track of whether you are being productive or just busy doing nothing. Make a To-Do list right now and see for yourself.

You can learn a lot more about Time Management by reading my e-book
Getting The Barakah

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Posted by Ismail Kamdar in Productivity, Time Management, 0 comments