Salaams, I wonder how you’re feeling as you read this. Are there a ton of to-do lists hijacking your mind? Do you always feel worried or stressed about something? Most of us have a lot on our plates these days and we’re preoccupied with worrying about how to fit it all in. Perhaps you too find yourself thinking about all that you need to get done in the hours ahead. Sometimes just keeping all the things we have to get done straight in our minds is a huge challenge.
Having organised and seamless days can be anything but easy. You might be getting things done, but the price you’re paying is your health if you are constantly running around without a time-out. Are you always rushed, multi-tasking, or running to start one thing after barely finishing the last? If so, then the following exercise is for you. I’ve included some important distinctions on how to group your activities in order to raise awareness on how you spend your time. Do the exercise, and then use your new plan to help you organise a better flowing day.
Exercise: Releasing the Overwhelm
Step 1: Get a paper diary! Digital diaries are portable, and they provide reminders, but they also have one significant drawback. Being small, they do not allow you to visual scope to see how your days are laid out. Buy a diary that has a week view laid out over two pages. You will be able to clearly see what you have planned, and you will notice gaps and chunks of time you have available, not just over the day, but also throughout the week. This is critical in helping reduce overwhelm. Yes the diary will be bigger, but it will be worth it!
Step 2: Read the definitions below, and then do the exercise:
Calculate how much time you spend checking emails, surfing the web, answering phone calls, or dealing with day-to-day home repairs. These are just some of the “urgents” that you might be dealing with in any given day. An “urgent” action, in the context of organisation, is something that doesn’t necessarily contribute to your long-term goals or values, but still screams for attention; it is something that has a pressing nature to it and it demands that it is addressed in the moment.
I imagine that you’re thinking everything that you do is urgent. Just take a moment, breathe, and bring your focus towards the important tasks. An important task is one that contributes to your goals, values and vision for your life, For example updating your professional skills, or engaging in a hobby. It is something that is usually done over an ongoing period, though there are some important tasks that overlap in the urgent category as well. For example, taking the kids to school is both important and urgent. It’s urgent because of the timing, and important because it is associated with the long-term welfare of your family.
|Important and urgent||Not important but urgent:||Important and not urgent:||Not important and not urgent:|
|(School run, working, groceries, paying bills)||(Ringing phones, computer issues, emails)||(Career planning, dhikr, hobbies)||(Browsing the net, watching TV)|
Step 3: Next, write in your current tasks, activities, and commitments into your diary. Use colour markers to block out chunks of time that you are already committed. Use one colour for each of the four categories, or as you see fit. The colours will make it easy to see where you’re spending your time.
Step 4: As you look at your diary, answer the following questions to raise awareness:
Step 5: Now that you can literally see where your time is being spent, plan your week according to the changes that you would now like see and experience in your day. Ensure that you carve out time for the “important” things, and reduce some of the “urgents” that are draining your energy. We all have some important and urgent things to do, but if that’s all we are doing, then we will continue feeling stressed and dissatisfied. Reduce the amount of “urgent” things- do the ones you absolutely have to, and delegate the ones you can.
Step 6: re-assess. Give yourself 1 month with your new planning strategy, then re-assess. Notice how your new organisation is working out and make any adjustments you need to. Remember to make small adjustments each time, so you can really notice what’s working and only tweak what’s needed.
Insha’Allah you will find this exercise both eye opening and useful. With practice, you will gain a balance between focusing on what’s important and dealing with the urgent tasks at hand, Insha’Allah.