The question in your mind: How do I put the knowledge in my mind into a practical solution that would help turn my life around?
Build the Right Habits
The key to turning around your life and embedding all that you’ve learned into a practical day-to-day solution is to build that into a series of daily habits. Habits have 3 main parts:
1. Trigger: something that kicks off the habit. It could be a particular time (e.g. 4:00am) or a sound (e.g. athan) or a feeling (e.g. stress). Any trigger psychological, emotional, physical or external which alerts you that it’s time to start a habit.
2. Routine: this follows the trigger, so perhaps you have a 4:00am trigger that makes you jump out bed, brush your teeth, make wudhu, and get ready for Fajr. Routine is the set of steps you’ll consistently make – initially concisously, but eventually unconciously- every time the trigger goes off.
3. Reward: this is the prize that your brain craves at the end of each habit. Continuing the above example, this could be the feeling of calmness after Fajr prayer, or the feeling that your teeth are clean after brushing them.
For any habit to be ingrained (consciously or unconsciously), it needs those 3 elements, and if you observe your life today you’ll notice many habits that have been developed without even thinking about them. The beauty of building habits is that once a habit is firmly ingrained in your life, it becomes effortless. Notice how some of our parents or grandparents wake up so effortlessly for Fajr prayer, even without an alarm; that’s the power of habits!
So which habits do you need to develop so you can bring all the components of ProductiveMuslim lifestyle together?
1. Morning Routine Habits
Your morning is the start of your day and it’s an extremely important aspect to getting a head start at your new productive lifestyle. This begins by looking at your morning and understanding how to overhaul it. According to Laura Vanderkam, author of What the Most Successful People Do Before Breakfast: “When you make over your mornings, you can make over your life. That is what the most successful people know.”As a basic minimum, the following should be the cornerstones of your morning routine:
Fajr Prayer: Needless to say, your day should at a minimum start with Fajr athan. The benefits of this prayer, not just from a spiritual point of view, but physiological and emotional point of view, is immense and you don’t want to miss it. If you’re strugging to wake up for Fajr, check out our “How to Wake Up For Fajr?” Series.
Athkar + Quran: After Fajr prayer, it’ll be time for your “Spiritual Breakfast” with the Morning Remembrances and Recitations of Quran. This is one of the 7 Spiritually Productive Habits we recommend you keep up each day.
Exercise: You might think that you exercise to keep your body healthy and looking good, but reality, exercise benefits the brain far more than your body! It helps you to be more focused, reduces stress and anxiety, and improves your capacity to learn. Mornings are the best time for you to build your exercise habit, since you still have a reservoir of willpower to draw from, compared to when you reach the end of the day and you’re exhausted and just want to relax. Research has shown that people who exercise in the morning are more likely to continue exercising habitually (i.e. once a week) compared with those who don’t exercise in the morning.
Planning your day: Getting into the habit of planning your day instead of jumping straight into it with work/activities can immensely improve your productivity. You’ll identify your M.I.Ts (Most Important Tasks) for the day, arrange/rearrange your schedule to fit certain important commitments that have come up in the last few days and simply make yourself feel in control which is a key to leading a productive life. A tip here for planning your day: divide your day in “chunks of time.” These are blocks of time which you’ll commit to do something in them, e.g. after Fajr until 8:00am. Then 9:am – 12:pm…etc. It’ll help you allocate certain tasks to certain chunks of time and develop habits to do those same tasks around those specific chunks of time (e.g. I do most of my writing in my early hour “chunk” of 6:00am – 8:00am).
Breakfast: This should be the reward for your morning habits. If you successfully managed to wake up early, pray Fajr, did your athkar, recited Quran, exercised and planned your day, then treat yourself to a hearty healthy breakfast which will load you with energy to continue being productive for the rest of the morning.
2. Commuting Habits
Another very important habit to be concious of is what you do in your daily commutes to work/school. Most people spend on average about 30-45 minutes commuting to work/school, and in some cities this stretches to 2-3 hours. Instead of wasting these hours, build your daily commutes to include productive activities such as listening to beneficial audiobooks/podcasts, planning your day, journaling, thinking strategically for the year, etc.
3. 1st Hour at Work Habits
What you do in the first hour of work will determine how Productive you’ll be for the rest of the day. Thus, developing the right habits for the first hour of your work is crucial to building a Productive lifestyle at work. The most important habit to STOP yourself doing is checking e-mails first thing in the morning! Many productivity experts advise against such a habit because it truly makes you submit to other people’s “urgent” demands and requests and you’re not in control on what gets done first.
4. Focus Habits
We live in an age where attention is limited more so than time. Therefore, cultivating the habit of staying ruthlessly focused in whatever you do is an extremely crucial skill to develop in this age of distractions. However, being able to focus is a habit just like other habits and you need to develop it, this includes:
Removing distractions from around you:
Turn off non-urgent notifications on all your devices (laptops/phones/etc). Remove the “pings” that only serve to distract you.
Do NOT check your phones obsessively (put your phone in the drawer!)
Practice the Pomodoro technique for each task you perform (1 task, 25 minutes, nothing else).
Simplify your life: Try not to clutter your life with so many projects or things to do that you can’t focus. Your motto should be: Simplify.
Make your desk nice and clean and remove the clutter of paperwork on your desk (Try to put all the stuff on your desk on the floor and only the item you’re working on on your desk, your focus will improve immensely!)
Make your desktop computer/laptop clean and remove unnecessary files/shortcuts from your computer screen (resist the temptation of having 10 programs open at once! It’ll only slow your computer down and not help you focus).
Avoid multi-tasking and adopt the art of uni-tasking; one task at a time. Neuroscientists have found that our brains are ineffecient at thinking of 2 things at the same time.
5. After Work Habits
We normally think that we only need to be productive at work and once we come home we can be lazy, unproductive couch potatoes! One thing we advocate at ProductiveMuslim is to lead holistic lifestyles that balances one’s performance at each area of his/her life. This is inspired by the hadeeth of Prophet Muhammad(pbuh) who said: “Your body has a right over you, your eyes have a right over you and your wife has a right over you” [Bukhari].
6. Weekly Review Habits
Every week, make it a habit to take 1-2 hours of your daily life to pause and think about every aspect of your life:
Your family life
Your work/study/career life
Your community life
Your personal development/manners
Do a review about each of these aspects and ask yourself questions such as:
How am I doing in each category?
What can I do to improve?
What actionable thing can I do next week to grow in this area?
These weekly reviews are habits of highly successful people who reflect and adjust their daily lives so that overall they achieve success in dunya and akhira. However, if you do not do a weekly review, you might tread a path that years later you’ll realise may not have been the best option.
7. Sleep Habits
Sleeping is a ritual that one must take care of, because how you sleep and when you sleep will have an immense effect on how you’ll be productive each day.
This is it… the 7 habits of highly productive Muslims that brings together all that we’ve shared over the past years on this website!