By Aaqeelah Floris
You’re at work and are supposed to be finishing your tasks but instead, you’ve got twenty tabs open, none of which are work-related.
It’s nearly the end of the day and your deadlines are looming. Does this sound familiar?
Prophet Muhammad (SAW) said in one hadith,
“There are two blessings which many people waste: health and free time.” [Bukhari]
This hadith emphasises that we are aren’t aware of the importance of being in good health and of using our time wisely.
From YouTube video binge-watching to endless scrolling on websites, and texting for hours – distractions are everywhere. Due to this, tasks that would normally take you an hour takes you hours of time-wasting.
With so many constant demands for your attention, becoming and staying focused may seem impossible, but there are ways to master it.
Here are some tips to help you reach your goals and to use time efficiently.
Tip #1 – Get rid of distractions
Think of your focus as a bucket of water and every distraction makes a little hole in your bucket, emptying what you need to stay centred. In order to stay focused and complete your task, you’ll need to close up the holes. Remove anything distracting, such as your phone, loud noises, social media etc. This will help you keep your mind on the task at hand.
This can be very difficult at first, especially for those of us a little too addicted to social media and entertainment, but trust me; this small change will make a huge difference. Consider doing a course like The Focus Course to help you get started. It’s a mindfulness platform that offers free email lessons to help you learn mindfulness and to be more focused.
Tip #2 – Be prepared
As the saying by Benjamin Franklin goes, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Before starting any task and particularly one that you may find difficult, sit comfortably and then breathe deeply into your stomach to calm yourself down. Verse yourself well on what needs to be done and make notes if needed. Once you feel well-prepared and your mind is clear, say “Bismillah”, and get started.
Tip #3 – Unplug yourself
As a full-time writer working in media, I am always plugged in and I am glued to my laptop and cell phone, often till the second before I fall asleep at night. This usually leads to restless sleep, overthinking and running around to finish tasks. I’ve realised how badly this affects my health and productivity, so I’ve tried to sign out from living like that and here’s how.
The best way to minimise all those thoughts running through your mind is to feed your brain less information. Log out of your email and social media and only check them at specified times. For example, only check your emails once you’ve finished your biggest task for the day and only check your social media during your lunch break. You won’t believe how much you’ll get done once you stop refreshing your inbox and social timeline every few minutes.
Tip #4 – Take a break
Staying focused doesn’t mean work and no rest. In fact, resting will help you to keep working at your best. Research has shown that taking a short break for every 20 to 50-minute task helps you perform better. So take a short walk, fill your glass with water, get some fresh air and give your brain a breather. This will also help you to prevent giving in to distractions, as working excessively will have your brain begging you for a change of thought scenery.
Tip #5 – Prioritise your prayers
There’s a reason why ‘come to prayer, come to success’ is repeated in the call to prayer (adhan). Being on time for salaah shows discipline, internal strength and that you can be on time for important tasks. What’s more is in a hadith Prophet (SAW) said:
“Whoever keeps on performing Prayers (in its due time), it will be a light, a proof, and redemption for him on the Day of Judgment…” [Ahmad]
So, start today. When the time for prayer is drawing close, instead of telling yourself to keep working till it’s time for iqama (the beginning of prayer), shut down your computer or stop whatever else you’re doing and make your prayers on time. Strive to be that person who’s in the front row in the Masjid or the prayer room and with Allah (SWT) help, you’ll soon be the person who completes all of their tasks on time, too.
Tip #6 – Forget multitasking
Jumping from one task to another may make you feel like you’re accomplishing a lot, but you’re really just using unnecessary energy. Concentrate on one task at a time in order to finish projects faster and more efficiently. If you aren’t feeling particularly productive, choose tasks you enjoy first which will set a good tone for the tasks which will follow. It’s always best to work smarter, not just harder.
Also, keep in mind that being really busy doesn’t always mean you’re being productive! It’s better to do an amazing job at completing one task than to do an “okay” job while at attempting several at once. To help yourself with this, try reading How to Stop Procrastinating: A Simple Guide to Mastering Difficult Tasks and Breaking the Procrastination Habit by SJ Scott. This book offers tips on how to limit procrastination and how to be more productive with practical, actionable advice.
Tip #7 – Feed your brain
Many of us are guilty of skipping meals when working or studying, but this could be the reason your focus is waning. Your brain runs on glucose (sugar) which gives you the energy needed to complete your tasks. Keep healthy snacks like nuts, fruit, or whole grain crackers near, so you can have a snack when you’re in need of an energy boost. Remember to drink water, too. Dehydration also negatively affects how focused you are.
So there you have it, tips on how to use your time more effectively by being more focused. It may be difficult at first, as most things are, but perseverance, keeping your goals in mind and duas will allow you to succeed Insha Allah.
And remember these wise words by James A Michener, “Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.”