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Productivity and Time Management

Productivity and time management are two concepts we hear a lot about these days in a fast paced world and the pressures we all face. I have...

Productivity and time management are two concepts we hear a lot about these days in a fast paced world and the pressures we all face. I have been training people on this subject for the last eleven years and have literally met thousands of people facing productivity and time management challenges.
 
In order to learn how to manage our time and increase productivity, we first need to understand what time management really is. Time management is not about managing your time in the literal sense of the word; it is simply an education in making the best use of the time you do have. So, how exactly do you do that?
 
There are 3 steps that I suggest you start with.
 

1.Analyze Your Daily Schedule
Start by maintaining a log of your time and its use for at least one week. Write down the activity / task (both personal and professional) and time consumed in that. You must write each and every thing that you do during the course of a day. From waking up, taking a shower, brushing your teeth and having breakfast to commuting to work, having lunch, offering prayers and talking to colleagues. Make sure to also include any calls you take at work and the time you spend talking to family after work or to a neighbor or in buying grocery etc.
 
In front of each task, clearly indicate any long-term or short-term vision of your life that this activity took you towards. If you feel that the activity did not take you closer to any worthwhile vision, name it 'not important' otherwise label it 'important'. If you undertake this activity honestly you will be seriously amazed at how much time you've wasted in the entire week. But this cannot be the first step towards improvement unless you perform the task scrupulously.
 
Tip: The best way to do this is to keep a scheduler or a diary with you constantly so you can record every task and the time spent in it. 
 
2.Cut Down Unimportant Activities
After a week of time recording you are likely to be hit by the realization that some big chunks of your time are actually going into unimportant activities that you could easily cut down. For instance, do you really need to spend that hour in bed in the morning after Fajr? Wouldn't it be better to spend that time in a thirty minutes of brisk walk and thirty minutes in the Dhikr of Allah (swt)? Do you really need to spend 2 hours every day mindlessly surfing through TV channels or the Internet? Wouldn't this time be better invested in more productive activities? How much time do you spend in a day on social websites or their Apps like Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp? How much of that time spent is actually productive? Apart from the important messaging, the rest of the time is simply a waste. 
 
I have met numerous people in my workshops who explicitly told me that it had been months since they last recited Quran, often not since last Ramadan. It is indeed a sad state of affairs! Are we really that busy that we don't even have time for the remembrance of Allah (swt)? So, please don't cut down any time from the time allotted for Allah (swt). In fact, increase it to get more barakah in the rest of your day. I am saying this because I have found it a common practice in the corporate world that people compromise on Allah's time to prioritize activities like meetings or working on important reports and projects. Nothing is more important than fard salah and we should not compromise on that either in the name of increasing productivity.
 
3.Restrict Time for Major Chunk Activities
How do you feel when you are working on something important with complete focus and attention and you are suddenly interrupted by a phone call or an email alert or one or more beeps from your Smartphone? I find it extremely annoying. 
 
I remember when I started my professional career eighteen years ago people hardly had mobile phones in their hands. Today phones are a rage and most of us constantly carry a Smartphone in our hands containing hundreds of Apps. But the question is, what is the impact of this on our productivity and effectiveness?
 
According to my observation of the last few years as the use of Smartphone has increased, the general productivity decreases. This is mainly because of the distraction it creates every now and then. The original concept of Smartphone was to make people 'smarter' in terms of productivity and effectiveness. However, with the later flood of Apps and increased use of social media sites, the actual purpose of these devices has dwindled. Is this really an age of Smartphones and Stupid
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people? Not unless we 'tame' the Smartphone. Technology is not entirely at fault here; it is because people no longer have a structured approach to manage themselves.
 
If you're keen on focusing on the more important things in life and getting the most out of your day while also possessing Smart devices, I have some suggestions for you:
 
a. Don't follow the race of Apps. Keep only important Apps in your device and delete the unnecessary ones specially all games.
 
b. Mute all notifications when you're at the workplace so that you can focus on work. 
 
c. Schedule yourself to see your messages at a specific time in a day. Respond to only urgent ones while at work. Save the rest for later.
 
d. Schedule to check emails twice or maximum thrice a day. Otherwise keep your email program off.
 
e. Restrict time for doing important tasks and make blocks for them in your scheduler. Give these blocks the same importance as you give to catching a flight. Have your mobile phone on flight mod
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e too. This is the only guaranteed way of completing your pending tasks or tasks which require your focus and attention.
 
To gain an added insight into time management, please refer to our Strategic Time Management workshop.