Imam Ghazali on Time Management

Like many entrepreneurs, creatives and doers, I struggle with time management. There is always so much to do and my biggest hurdle has been creating a system around what I do and delegating it to the proper resources, so that I can fully maximize my time.

I recently installed Rescue Time and starting tracking my time on an hour-by-hour basis. This shocked me back into reality. The software shows you exactly how you spend each hour you are online. And for us digital nomads, it’s quite daunting to come to terms with the way you use your time in such an ‘in-your-face’ way.

On a deeper level, many of us spent almost 15 years in the education system where motivation is essentially coming from an external source such as teachers, friends or deadlines. You aren’t taught how to shape your life and control your time, someone else does it for you. So when you graduate and venture on your own for a bit after having gone through the system, you end up lost.

I definately did.

I haven’t full recovered from my ‘conditioning, so to speak, which is why I need these tools to keep me in check.

All of a sudden, after graduating, I had “all this time” and no idea how to use it, mold it or shape it to have work it for me. And if you are reading this, you’ve probably been in the same boat.

People email me and call me asking questions like: “How do I get more motivated?”

They are asking this because they’re not use to having trained that internal motivator within them, it’s easy to lose momentum and need constant reinforcement.

What I’ve learned is that the moment you start taking life and time more seriously is when you figure out exactly what your life’s work is.

When you discover your purpose, time starts working for you instead of against you.

It’s easier to do things, make progress and not slack off.

People procrastinate mostly because they hate what they are doing and would rather do something else.

When what you do engages you, the question of time management stops being a question of management and rather a question of balance.

But on a more philsophical level, the question of time is an interesting one.

What is time? Why does it exist?

The question of how we measure time can be answered by asking the question: how do you measure your life?

In the world we live in, we normally organize our time according to the question of capital.

Your world will start to change when you measure your time against something other than money such as your legacy, your own self-mastery, helping others etc

I came to this paradigm shift within my own spiritual practice. Islam provides an alternative answer regarding the question of life. It looks at putting knowledge acquisition and continual personal development at the core.

One of the scholars I looked to was Imam Ghazali. He is one of Islams most foremost scholars and philsophers. His writings on the topic of time management are worth looking at. His core message is accountability.

One should be sure that every moment should be accounted for.

His suggestion? Create a routine. That’s how you get baraka “blessing” or productivity.

For contemporary productivity or personal development research, these finding are in line with the main thoughts of the day. Many peak performance gurus will talk about creating a morning routine, the importance of meditation, starting your day early, and accounting for your time at the end of each day as key components of having a successful life. These ideas were espoused in Islamic thought centuries ago but it has taken Muslims quite some time to start realizing this and contributing to the field of personal development.

Here are some time management tips from Imam Ghazali:

  1. Time should not be without structure.
  2. Order your day and night.
  3. Organize routine of worship(5 daily prayers) and assign activity to each period.
  4. Start your day at dawn and as soon as you wake and remember God(or meditate)
  5. Until sunrise, you should occupy your time with 4 types of rememberence a.Supplication b. Recitation c. Glorification d Reflection — Plan you day with the long-term
  6. By day, use your time to do the following: a. Seeking useful knowledge. Best use of time and highest form of worship. useful knowledge helps increase God-consciousness. b. If you are unable to, rememberance and worship. Do good acts. Bring happines to other people and make it easier for righteous to do good work like visiting sick, helping others etc c. Spending your time and earning a living. Beware of world greed because it ruins faith and inner spiritual contentment.
  7. Before you go to bed, take an account for what you did during the day. Actions are according to the last of them. Don’t spend your time in entertainment but reviewing what you’ve learned during the day.

Note on the last point: Before you go to bed, don’t use your phone. The blue screen of your phone or computer reduces the level of melatonin in your body, which is a chemical that helps you sleep. A modern tip for us night owls.

Lessons in Time Management as an entrepreneurs: I’ve learned a few things:

1) It’s easy to accomplish a lot but still be too hard on yourself. Celebrate after every accomplishment.

2) Sometimes you don’t need to work hard to accomplish a lot.

3) Identify things that will make you slack off and then eliminate it immediately.

4) Energy comes from people, so don’t spend too much time alone.

5) It’s an ongoing process to tract my time day-by-day but the more you are aware of how you spend your time, the less lightly you are to be reckless with it.

6) Create an incantation list of what you want to accomplish. Repeat it every morning for 10 minutes. It will help rejuvenitate you. Instant energy hack.

7) Create a vision board. Open up a pinterest and start mapping out how you want your life to look like. It’ll give you energy and make you less likely to slack off. 85% of my vision board came true for last year.

8) Don’t open your email or social media first thing in the morning. Your productivity will drain if you do that.

9) Even if you can’t measure your time, try to fill in crack of time(like cooking, commuting etc) with education audio books and lectures. This makes my day feel way better and more productive.

10) Balance how much you work and your learn. It’s a constant re-shuffling of priorities and hard to maintain.

Realize that no one knows anything anymore than you do for your own situation. I’ve had to stop looking to others to guide my journey as a digital nomad and figure how what was best for me.

All these are simply suggestions I hope you will use to better your life.

with love,

Hodan

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Originally published at hodansibrahim.com on March 1, 2015.

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