An excerpt from my planner reads something alike to, study for midterm, submit assignments, publish article, reply to emails, and so on. As I sit at my desk reflecting upon my dynamic lifestyle and the heavily annotated pages of my modest 2018 planner, I am overcome with despair. Through my musings, I realized that my meticulous planning has omitted an essential facet of life. We are fastidious in carrying out our duties of school and work, and apprehensive until we have done so. Yet it is an unfortunate truth that our spiritual welfare and aspirations are often undervalued. Rather than taking the forefront of our to-do lists, it is nothing more than a footnote, an afterthought. With Ramadan approaching, we must release ourselves from the mentality of, “if I have time,” and endeavor to implement a more refined and spiritually practical mindset.
“Time is a created thing. To say ‘I don’t have time’ is like saying, ‘I don’t want to.”
― Lao Tzu
Ramadan is a divine and unique occasion teeming with opportunities. Even with 11 months preceding it and the knowledge that our every deed is augmented by 70 times, regrettably, we don’t prepare accordingly. Yet we readily compose thoughtful plans for our temporal affairs. There is undoubtedly tremendous advantages to be derived from this seemingly mundane task. Otherwise, our efforts would’ve been directed elsewhere. Planning is simply an act aimed to extract the most value from an assignment or job. There is no other time more precious than Ramadan. So imagine the worth of the outcomes that would come about if you planned your Ramadan with the same attentiveness.
“You see, in life, lots of people know what to do, but few people actually do what they know. Knowing is not enough! You must take action.” – Tony Robbins
Despite the otherworldly emotions and surge of motivation that Ramadan brings, the chaos of life will prevail. The obligations of Ramadan, coupled with our regular responsibilities, make it necessary to form a blueprint. We all talk about our spiritual objectives, however, a wise man once said,
“The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.”
The doing begins with a pragmatic plan of action.
The Psychological Benefits of Planning
As a writer, I find myself applying the act of planning quite frequently, not only in my general life but as an integral part of the writing process. Creating comprehensive outlines for an article or essay is comparable to writing out to-do lists. A basic outline will list the key points and themes in each respective section, allowing for fluidity and structure within the final piece. It functions as a guiding light for the writer to efficiently communicate the intent of the piece. It hones in on the bigger picture, canceling out any white noise. Essentially this is what your Ramadan to-do list will do for your life.
Modern science can attest to the proficiency and psychological benefits of planning, as well as, the plethora of reasons one should adhere to this habit. Studies have revealed that note-taking boosts our memory by distilling and retaining information with a greater capacity, as opposed to simply hearing or reading. It is also deemed a mental exercise since it relieves the burden on your brain. The awareness of the myriad of concerns we have can be exhausting resulting in an anxious disposition. Psychologist and author, Dr. David Cohen describes precisely why to-do lists are so useful,
Planning is a systematic tool that takes your tangle of thoughts, apprehensions, and dreams and weaves them into a more coherent design. However, time management expert, David Allan stresses that you cannot be vague or idealistic with your to-do lists. Clarity and conciseness are paramount. An example of a futile task would be, memorize Surah Ya Sin. If this was a singular bullet point then in all likelihood, it would achieve nothing. Memorizing Surah Ya Sin is the end goal. Whilst memorizing 5 ayahs every day is a sensible plan that will lead you to completing your bigger picture.
Quality Over Quantity
“In a society that judges self-worth on productivity, it’s no wonder we fall prey to the misconception that the more we do, the more we’re worth”
-Ellen Sue Stern
Psychologists have established that planning is more than list making. In turn, they have proven that a Ramadan without a plan is simply absurd. However, in order to ensure your Ramadan Plan will be prosperous, we have to elucidate common misconceptions. It is often thought that being busy is congruent with being productive. This isn’t necessarily accurate. During Ramadan, it is especially crucial to recognize that filling your time for the sake of it is fruitless. You have to become an efficient and result oriented person. In the confinement of 30 days, you are meant to become more than acquaintances with your creator. You are to know Allah (SWT) and submit your heart to Him, as opposed to, robotic acts of memorization and movement of the limbs.
This depth of intimacy and taqwa demands a higher level of exertion and mindfulness. As Ramadan approaches, we tend to become overzealous, and on a spiritual high, setting goals such as reading Quran for 2 hours every day during Ramadan. It sounds noble enough and it is. Yet what does this achieve if you have limited to no comprehension of classical Arabic? It is far more effective to allocate double the amount of time spent reading Quran, to studying the Tafseer and connecting with Allah (SWT).
“It is the quality of our work which will please God and not the quantity.”
In the rapture of Ramadan, we fail to discern that our grand ambitions might acquire little results. But once you clear your mind with a pen in hand, and dissect your hopes, you will formulate a plan of action which will avail goodness and quality. You will have the ability to create plausible tasks that will ensure there is no void in your schedule and that it renders real spiritual results.
“Quality begins with the intent, which is fixed by management”.
-W. Edwards Deming
What Can You Really Achieve in 30 Days?
2 years ago, I began an online course which permitted me to watch recordings of classes, within two weeks if I could not attend a live class. Of course, this sounds remarkably flexible and I was under the impression that I had more time than needed. I quickly discovered, as the work began to pile up, that continuing with this attitude would be unwise. It was at this point I began to employ a planner to break down my responsibilities. A detailed schedule dissolved any anxieties I had, and I found myself producing more work of value.
Most of us can recount similar sentiments in regards to Ramadan. It is not uncommon to sit the day before Ramadan in a pensive state thinking to oneself, “This Ramadan flew by, and I hardly utilized my time appropriately.” We consider 30 days to be a sufficient amount of time. After all, it is 1 whole month replete with opportunities for forgiveness and barakah. The reality of the matter is that Ramadan is a singular and ephemeral moment. Under the illusion that you have time to do more, you will find yourself in the last week of Ramadan with empty hands. This is a wholly avoidable disappointment. The same way I was momentarily deceived by the assumption of extended time, we tend to do this with Ramadan. Ibn Al Jawzi gently reminds us that,
“Every breath is a treasure chest. Beware of letting a breath pass by with no benefit.”
During Ramadan, it’s especially critical to hold on to this. But this isn’t meant to deter you or instill fear. Rather, it should inspire and ignite a raging light within you. In the same manner, I rectified my situation, is the exact step which can enhance your Ramadan.
“Time is the scarcest resource and unless it is managed nothing else can be managed”
Ramadan is a transient tree emerging for only a season. If you don’t take heed the leaves of Ramadan will wither away, leaving you frigid and without the warmth and refugee of faith. Ibn al-Jawzi imparts to us,
“Safeguard Allah and He will safeguard you. Safeguard Allah and you will find him in front of you.”
Safeguarding Allah is synonymous with protecting your time. The career or degree that has so fervently consumed your attention is from Allah. It is only fitting that the one who provides our rizq demand our undivided attention. The question at hand is, this Ramadan, will you prioritize your soul above all else?
“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.”
– Stephen Covey