How many times have you ended the day with your ‘to-do’ list looking very much the same as it did at the start of the day? Despite trying countless tips and tricks from videos, self-help books and other articles like this, we still struggle to get things done.
Sometimes, even if we do manage to accomplish our goals for the day, we still feel empty and unfulfilled. The reason for this is that time management is often mistaken for a bunch of tick boxes and calendars, but it’s so much more than that.
It’s about ensuring that mind, body and soul are each given the attention they deserve. It’s about achieving all our tasks without compromising our health, time with loved ones and connection with Allah (SWT).
We are reminded of this in Surah Al-Asr: ‘By time, indeed mankind is at a loss’.
Think about it like this: we can tick off every action on our to-do list, achieve everything we wished to achieve, and yet still be unsuccessful.
How? On the Day of Judgment, we may find our scales empty because we didn’t have the right intention and every task we ticked off was done for the wrong purpose.
For this reason, when thinking about time management, it is important to consider all three components. How will I achieve everything I want to do, but still take care of my health and my akhira?
These are questions that you may have asked yourself, and perhaps even thought it impossible to achieve greatness without some sort of compromise. After all, many of those whom today we deem as ‘successful’, all seem to have got there at a significant cost, which is sometimes physically visible despite all the ‘health programmes they indulge themselves in’.
As you read on, it’ll become clear why even they have not achieved true-time mastery.
Fortunately a year or so back, I came across a great framework that is grounded in Islamic principles and takes inspiration from the most productive and purpose-driven individual to have ever lived, our beloved prophet Muhammad (saw), who did not compromise on anything that was of worth and meaning.
The framework was developed by Tushar Imdad, a Certified High-Performance Coach specializing in Productivity and Islamic Time Management and I took the opportunity to interview him on the powerful VISTA Time Management System so that we can get you (more importantly me!) some practical tips on how to live life better and reach the right destination without any compromise.
The system has helped everyone, from CEOs who have plenty of money but are in debt to Allah, to parents who struggle to strike a balance between their work and family and their Deen and Dunya. Without further ado, let’s jump in.
1. VISION – Clarity on Your Life Direction
Death is where it all starts.
I know it sounds like a gloomy way to kick things off, but naturally as Muslims, it is critical to begin with the right end in mind, and that is our life after death.
As Stephen Covey puts it: “If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster.” Or, in the Islamic tradition, the wrong place is earning Allah’s anger. Tushar Imdad explains this brilliantly:
‘’It only takes a few degrees to completely change the course of a plane’s direction. If you’re just a little bit off, e.g. you’re overwhelmed with work and losing connection with your Lord, you’ll slowly find yourself a few degrees off course, away from your intended destination, which for this example, let’s call it Makkah. If you let the plane continue on long enough on the wrong course, you’ll soon find a few degrees has led you many thousands of miles away from your destination – overseeing Las Vegas – which is not where you want to be! The thing is that the older you are and the longer you leave it to your 30s 40s 50s, the heavier your plane is, the more cargo you have and the harder it is to change direction’’.
What is the right destination we should be pointing our ladder towards, how do we know if we’ve veered off course and how do we get back on track?
Ultimately, it starts with defining the destination and facing the right qibla of our life – earning Allah’s pleasure. We should have a clear picture of that day when Allah (SWT) utters the sentence all our hearts long for – ‘I am pleased with you’. Once this is set in our minds, we can move on to the next step which is to construct a comprehensive mission statement.
It’s not enough to just have a mission statement in your head, it needs to be written down. Unfortunately, in the Dunya, we can’t just manifest things into existence. If you have an idea for a beautiful mosque, in order to make it a reality you will need to have a written plan, a complex blueprint that sets the roadmap for the construction and a timeline you can measure your progress against.
We do this for physical structures, but isn’t the building that is our life infinitely more important?
Tushar’s top two tips:
The mission statement step is about plotting a route to achieving your goals and helping you build your life with beauty and legacy. If you’re unsure how to do this, Tushar teaches how to do it effectively in his VISTA Time Management System Programme but here are two key points to consider to get you started.
#1 – If you haven’t read Covey’s ‘7 Habits of Highly Effective People’ then do so and you can follow the excellent steps there to construct a mission statement
#2 – Any Muslim’s mission is to worship Allah, but you need to break that down to be meaningful to you. HOW do you seek to worship Allah with your unique talents and circumstances?
2. IHSAN – Level Up Your Deen
Nothing can be a greater waste of time than actions done without keeping in mind our greater purpose, that is to please Allah and live life according to his commandments. As stated at the beginning, imagine a day where after living 60, 70 or even 100 years if we’re lucky – we find our scales empty. Confused and distraught, we look back on all the time spent on the earth in regret.
We need to realize a key element of time management is understanding your faith and what Allah expects of you. Else, you will have huge gaps in knowing what will help you achieve true success. Therefore, to transform your grasp of your time, it is crucial to learn how Allah wants you to use it. Only then can you align your path, actions and your goal with his commands and enjoy the barakah and blessings he promises to His servants who live their life in submission to him.
Sadly, many of us lack a basic understanding of our faith. Tushar conducted a small study in 2020 where a group of young Muslims – representative of the average Muslim in San Diego – were audited to assess their understanding and level of practice of Islam. The average score was 10%.
Tushar notes:”‘In 18 months of auditing a variety of Muslims from different professional backgrounds, I’ve found that those who failed to spend around 5 years of systematic study of the Islamic sciences in their 20s – Tajweed, Fiqh, etc. – ended up with scores less than 50% in their mid 30s. In other words, any Muslim who has not systematically studied the fiqh of marriage, transactions, halal and haram, etc., are likely to have major gaps in fulfilling the obligatory aspects of our religion.”
Tushar’s top two tips:
Here are two key points that will help ensure you are meeting your obligations to Allah (SWT).
#1 – One practical tip to leveling up your deen is the ‘Fard First’ approach.
One of the main reasons we fall short in our Deen is lack of knowledge. Many Muslims are living in sin without even realizing it. Tushar recommends making a list of all the areas of life where there are obligations to Allah; this includes the famous five pillars of Islam, but also includes marriage, divorce, food, etc. For his clients, Tushar Imdad has an Islamic Knowledge Audit which shortcuts the process. But you can still make a lot of progress by auditing yourself and then seeking out courses or scholars to help you fill in the gaps.
#2 – Another method is to structure your day around the 5 fardh prayers and strive to perform every action in between with the prophetic principle of doing everything with excellence, “Verily, Allah has prescribed excellence in everything”. [Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 1955]
3. STRENGTH & STAMINA – Without Energy, Nothing Works
Superheroes are often depicted as the epitome of strength and stamina, enabling them to overcome anything in their path. What takes a dozen ‘ordinary’ men and hours of hard labour is accomplished in seconds by these superheroes who we’ve come to wrongly assume exist only on TV.
Have we forgotten that it is possible to accomplish in days what may take others months? Think of Ibn Taymiyyah who wrote 40 volumes by the age of forty.
Have we forgotten that it is possible with Allah’s help to overcome any obstacle? Think of Umar Ibn Khattab and Khalid Ibn Walid who brought down the two superpowers of their day, the equivalent of an unknown African tribe bringing down both the USA and Russia in the span of a few decades.
It seems, in our slumber, Muslims have forgotten and become disconnected from the source and secret to the superhuman ability of the early sahabah, who were paragons of strength and lived lives full of action and results.
And yes a large part of the effective time management was their Islam which is what the ‘Ihsan’ section aimed to highlight, but there is another source, one that sadly as our parents over the last century migrated to the West, we’ve lost touch with, and that is the ‘aadat’ – personal unlegislated habits of the prophet Muhammad (saw).
One of these habits is described by Shane O’Mara, as “the superpower you never knew you had”. This superpower is a blessing that has been given to almost every human, and one that has been performed for thousands of years. It was an intrinsic part of the lives of all the prophets (peace be upon them) and it is only with the advent of modern transport and sedentary lifestyle did we neglect this habit that gave vigour and strength to one’s day.
If you haven’t guessed already, the superpower I’m talking about is – walking.
Tushar reminded me during our conversation ‘’Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (saw) was a tireless walker: as a shepherd when young, travelling house to house and surrounding hamlets/villages for dawah and the constant expeditions or battles’’.
Contrast this with our daily life, which may look something like this a:; ‘’wake up from comfortable soft beds, drive seated in metal boxes to work; sit at a desk all day; drive seated some more back home; sit at chairs and tables for meals; slump into our sofas to while away the evening; back to bed. And the cycle continues. No wonder the chair is said to be one of the most dangerous objects in your home!
This comes at a cost. Chronic illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimers have never been higher (they virtually didn’t exist before).’’
Here in the west, we’ve adopted really bad habits and we’ve replaced the healthy organic food and diets that our grandparents’ generations enjoyed with processed food. Contrary to what our tradition promotes of consuming both halal and tayyibah (beneficial) we’ve instead filled our corner shops and bellies with fried chicken.
The consequences of this manifest themselves on our daily output as well over a lifetime and have consequences for you individually and for the ummah as a whole.
Typically, a scholar or an expert in any field, matures in their 60s. And historically, some of our best scholarship has come from those in their 60s. This is when knowledge ripens, and they can really benefit the Ummah with their wisdom. But now, we have so many scholars and not just scholars, Muslims in every field who are dying in their 60s and 70s because of poor health.
This is a hidden consequence and is another reason why our health problem is a growing concern. It doesn’t just affect the time productivity of an individual in their daily life but as an aggregate over a lifetime and you are losing decades of potential impact that could help drive the Ummah forward.
Tushar’s top two tips:
Hopefully, the importance of health for time management has become clear to you, so here are a few tips from Tushar to start re-energizing your day!
#1 – Walk: Embrace morning light, go for a walk and use the time for dhikr, your morning adhkar and the remembrance of Allah! When you have a problem to solve, or your brain is feeling sluggish, go for a brisk walk.
#2 – Regularly get up: Sitting is the new smoking. Avoid the countless harms of excessive sitting by setting an alarm to go off at least once every hour to remind you to spend 5-10 mins away from your desk, moving, stretching and resetting.
4. TIME MASTERY – When this happens, everything falls into place
People often rely on willpower and motivation alone.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t last. What does last are good habits and discipline. Many of us, with the flexible working conditions brought to us by the pandemic, struggle even more with maintaining discipline.
The solution to overcoming this is to build a strong structure around your day, and the way to create a strong structure that is held up by consistent habits and prioritizes the most important and urgent tasks first. There is a science and art to this.
You have to have a system of prioritization. Tushar advocates this as the essence of time management – ‘’It’s not about being busy and you’ll never actually get everything done, but you’ll always have time to get the most important things done or to do the most important things’’.
And so time management is really about prioritisation. You really have to have some type of prioritisation system or some type of planning system where you’re deciding what goals or what tasks you’re going to do per day.
In VISTA, you learn sophisticated systems and you learn how to implement them. But whether it’s a to-do list or an app, invest in learning a good way of organizing your time.
When it comes to time planning, you need to audit your time, which means measuring one’s time and being aware of how it’s actually spent. There is a quote from Peter Drucker. ‘’Whatever gets measured, gets managed’’’.
And Tushar tells me that the first place to start is to find out where your biggest distraction comes from, and that for most of us, is our phones.
Anybody who thinks they know how many hours they spend on their phone and they haven’t actually tracked it through something like an app called ‘Stay Free’, are usually horrified when they find out actually how much time they spend.
It’s only when it’s tracked, do you actually realize how much time you’re wasting.
Once you know how much time you’ve wasted, you can then start taking action on how to improve that. You can make a decision that you’re not going to spend that much time on your phone. In the Vista Time Mastery Programme, you undergo something called a Time Tahara (Time Cleanse). That is where you audit not just a phone, but audit your whole time, 24/7 for two weeks!
Tushar’s top two tips:
#1 – Identify your ONE Thing for the day: Allah is Ahad, One. Tawheed and Oneness is a sacred concept for Muslims. Interestingly, the concept of the One (in a different sense) has swept the productivity world in recent years.
The concept is both profound and simple, but can be delved into incredible depth to impact your productivity or that of entire businesses no matter how big or small.
For now, before you start work, ask yourself the following priceless question:
What’s the ONE thing I should do today that will make the biggest impact for my department/team/company/business?
Decide, either the night before or first thing at work, what your One Thing is.
#2 – Schedule one-hour time-blocks to do your One Thing
This is critical. It’s all and well to decide what’s important. But if you don’t plan when you’ll do it, it won’t get done.
David Allen recommends you keep your calendar ‘sacred’. Anything you put on it becomes an appointment as important as that client meeting.
So when you block off that one hour for your One Thing, nothing should get in the way of it, short of an emergency.
It’s recommended to block this time slot as early in your day as possible – ideally first thing – as you’ll have more energy to tackle it.
5. ATTITUDE – Mood is Everything
Attitude is a synonym of mindset.
Without the right attitude and proactivity, you can take one step forward and find yourself two steps back. The companions of the prophet approached life with a positive outlook, and there are several key principles to nurturing the same attitude that allowed them to master their time.
My father used to always remind me, “Time is an Amanah (trust)’’, and this attitude towards time along with Sabr (patience), shukr (gratitude) and tawakkul (faith) are all ingredients to a recipe that will produce results that you’d never have imagined.
We often find many mainstream methods on how to achieve a mindset that will put us in the best state of mind to get through the day in our own Islamic tradition. It’s almost as if they have copied and pasted from our books without realizing (or maybe they did!).
One such method is the encouragement to engage in activities that promote gratitude and meditation. Muslims forget that Salah is both a form of meditation and an opportunity to express our gratitude. When we pray five times a day we are in the company of the source of all comfort and peace. It’s an opportunity to de-stress and spend some alone time with the greatest source of all peace: As-Salaam.
Not only that, Salah actually contains a unique combination of yoga-like movements and contemplation methods which is advocated by life coach gurus around the world. And if the scientific studies weren’t enough, Allah H
imself promises us”‘If you are grateful, I will certainly give you more’’ [Surah Ibrahim].
Tushar’s top two tips:
#1 – Consider keeping a Shukr Journal to note down 3 things you are grateful to Allah every day
#2 – When reading the Qur’an, ponder on the mindset of the prophets (p.b.u.t.). You will see many stirring examples of patience (sabr), reliance on Allah (tawakkul) and courage.
6. BONUS: FREE Islamic Time Management resources
Just as a description of an undergraduate degree can never replace actually spending 3 years studying it, the 5 methods outlined above are taught by Tushar Imdad through his actual VISTA Coaching Programme. Luckily, it only takes 8 weeks – not 3 years – to literally change the course of your life.
High performers in every industry – whether it be sports, finance, business or health – turn to expert coaches to help them reach higher levels of excellence in their field. Coaches that work with high level CEOs or corporate employees are called Executive Coaches; those skilled in helping one improve one’s work/life balance and avoid burnout are also known as Life Coaches; some coaches are certified in High Performance Coaching where they seek to help their clients excel in multiple areas of their life. And in the Islamic world, we’ve always had shuyukh, ustadhs or mentors to guide us to implementing the Deen.
Tushar Imdad is extremely unique in that he combines certified high performance coaching, life coaching, productivity training and Islamic Studies in his programme.
The VISTA Time Mastery System is one of the only coaching programmes in the world which achieves this combination. This combination of ‘Islamic Time Management’ which fuses world-class productivity knowledge with Islamic tradition is what you have tasted today in this article.
You can learn more about Islamic Time Management through Tushar’s short 60 min course ‘Principles of Islamic Time Management (link is below). Normally £50, he is kindly offering Mvslim readers a 100% discount so that you can create incredible baraka in our time using proven methods from Qur’an and Sunnah.
Enroll on the self-study course here and apply the discount code ‘mvslim’ on checkout to get free access!
At the beginning of the article, we gave the analogy of a plane veering off course. It is important to note, whatever stage in the journey you’re at, whether you’re close to Las Vegas or en route to Makkah, the eight-week program has the power to shift your plane back on course and help you land safely at your desired destination – Allah’s pleasure insha’Allah!
So if you’re really serious about learning more about the VISTA Time Mastery System, you can book one of the limited slots available for a FREE 15-minute discovery call with Tushar!