Friday, March 2, 2012

Timeless Advice on Time Management

“By Time! Surely man is in a state of loss, except those who believe, perform righteous deeds, exhort one another to the truth, and exhort one another to patience.” [103:1-3]

"There are two blessings which many people lose: (They are) health and free time for doing good." (Bukhari)


With the increasing complexities of life and the finite hours in a day, the ability to manage time as a means to being productive has become critically important. Hence the buzz term, ‘time management’.

A prerequisite to time management is being cognizant of the importance of time, for people tend to manage those things that they value. To appreciate the value of time, one has to accept that time is a non-renewable resource, it has been given for a specific purpose, and it inevitably has an end. Thus, Imam ‘Ali (may Allah ennoble his face) said, “Live for this world as if you were to live forever, and live for the next world as if you were to die tomorrow”.

To be accurate, however, ‘time’ is not manageable. Time is marching forward to its destination regardless of what we do. What can be managed is what we do during the time that has been given to us. In his Seven Habits, Stephen Covey says, “‘Time management’ is really a misnomer - the challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves.”

I would like to conclude with the counsel of Imam al-Ghazali (may Allah shower His mercy on him), which beautifully encapsulates the value of time:

“Your time should not be without any structure, such that you occupy yourself arbitrarily with whatever comes along. Rather, you must take account of yourself and order your worship during the day and the night, assigning to each period of time an activity that must not be neglected nor replaced by another activity. By this ordering of time, the blessing in time will show itself. A person who leaves himself without a plan as animals do, not knowing what he is to do at any given moment, will spend most of his time fruitlessly. Your time is your life, and your life is your capital: by it you make your trade, and by it you will reach the eternal bounties in the proximity of Allah. Every single breath of yours is a priceless jewel, because it is irreplaceable; once it is gone, there is no return for it. So do not be like fools who rejoice each day as their wealth increases while their lives decrease. What good is there in wealth that increases while one’s lifespan decreases?” [Imam Ghazali, “The Beginning of Guidance”, published by White Thread Press, with explicit permission from the publisher to reproduce this excerpt]

BTW I strongly recommend acquiring this book. It filled with invaluable gems of insight, and the translation from White Thread Press is beautifully compiled.

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