By Marwa Hayat
What is planning
Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) said “There is no wisdom equal to good planning.” [Mishkat] (ref. 1)
The process of setting goals, developingstrategies, and outlining tasks and schedules to accomplish the goals is planning (ref. 2). But how many of us do often plan? Most of us plan towards the end of a deadline to save ourselves from getting executed. Anyway, the spirit of planning shuns that idea. There is much more to it than we credit it. Look around you, how beautifully the Creator of this world has put things in a system: “For you (God) subjected the night and the day, the sun and the moon; the stars are in subjection to His Command. Verily in this are signs for people who are wise.” (Surah An Nahl 16:12) Planning should come naturally to us, as our body has its own system. If the day is for work and toil, the night is for relaxation and rejuvenation; mixing them has only caused harm. However, we can be flexible to an extent as our lives get ever so spontaneous.
Planning is that prerequisite to a successful completion which we often ignore in fear of wasting time or increasing workload, but which if done can actually save time and effort and leave no scope for confusion. Planning helps you to focus on one thing at a time. Yes I’m aware we live in a world of multitasking, but little do we know that it is the very culprit to our failure most of the time. The best example is from salah: unless you understand, comprehend and imagine what you are reciting, you are really not concentrating and are left in wanderment of the things happening in your life. This habit destroys the very purpose of salah, because you got busy multitasking, handling your cooking and praying together.
Importance of planning
How many times is it that we have wished to learn something new, say a new skill, but it has fallen flat on our face? Ahh, maybe because we rushed it as our excitement reduced or we got exhausted in the middle of it, and lost our motivation, but by now it should click to us that something went really wrong, but what is it? It is because we didn’t give that particular task the time and work it demanded? Here planning comes to the rescue. It answers your questions about what is to be done and when by clarifying your objectives and ways of attaining them, indirectly helping you to eliminate procrastination which is the main criminal behind your steals.
The effect of planning is incredible on our souls. Yes, I am talking about that gratification you experience when you are able to tick off your tasks, concurrently uplifting your motivation and thirst to accomplish even more. Now you are able to see the path which once was dazed as your priorities become crystal clear. It might come as a surprise to you that you will be left with few more hours to go, which could be utilised to take a day out with your family or to do something new in your life. Even now if you are not convinced of how significant planning is, then I absolutely suggest you read that one event of Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم life, his emigration from Makkah, a land of horror at that time, to Madinah, where he along with his best friend Abu bakr رضي الله عنه had escaped from the jaws of death mainly because of prior preparation for their journey.
In fact you can find your inspiration from the Quran and the seerah of the Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم , where we see that in every step that he took, he took it with prior preparation, even if it was in the form of dua. He was a man of vision and foresight. What do you think, how else did they win the battle of the confederates, their numbers were a mere 3000 to an enemy of 10,000? It was because of knowing their limitation and strength and planning thoroughly.
How to plan
Now that we have discussed enough of what planning could do for you, let’s move ahead and see how to do it. Start the day with Basmalah and then take few moments aside to jot down your appointments, study, homework, and anything else you may have for the day. Estimate a time for it, making sure to take breaks according to the stress level of the work. Every work has its own stress levels, we know vacuuming the house takes a toll on our bodies, so here we need to lie down to give the body a time to recover from the tensions. On the other hand, mental work like learning which requires focus and attention which we often do while sitting, uses energy rather than creating tensions and so we need to get up and stretch ourselves. As much as completing work is necessary, knowing the right time and type of relaxing is also important. We must have noticed that our body is never healthy in an absolute sense; in a day we must have a mix of every type of work. That is, we must have physical tasks, as well as intellectual ones and in between some relaxation and some sort of sport.
But in all this we must not forget that our work should surround our prayers and not the other way, as success comes from salah. Living in the modern world, most of us own a smartphone, and there are plenty of organizing applications from which you could choose. Just to name a few, we have: Remember The Milk, Google Keep, and Evernote. Fret not if you don’t own a smartphone; these apps will work on your tablet or laptop as well. Or you could very well put up a board in front of your study desk and pin your tasks, or simply put up sticky notes where you know you will be around the most to remind you. So whether you use apps or sticky notes, do whatever way you like but achieve your motives. What I like to do especially during exam time is to put up a list of modules I have in total and strike off the ones I completed, and continue to strike of whence I’m done with each one. This way I keep reminding myself of my pending studies.
To get the best out of your schedule, it is immensely crucial to take a few minutes at the end of your day to reflect upon how much you were able to produce. This way you will also come to know of your weaknesses and strengths and work on them and make a better schedule. The reason I say this is because we differ; what works for one doesn’t necessarily have to work for another. By practicing you will perfect your plans. This was for the day, likewise once you get adapted, you could very well assume the same for your long term goals and work on them.
Tips for Success
The very first thing that should come to your mind is that your goals should be realistic and achievable given a certain time period. You can’t possibly say that in a day I will get all the spring cleaning done, three dishes prepared, and get some studies… slow down this is not the end of your life. I’m not encouraging you to dump everything for tomorrow, that’s procrastination, but you don’t have to take so much that you are breakneck and tomorrow goes to waste with the pain of yesterday.
That been said, this is why I am almost getting redundant to embed that one must not release all their breath in one go; sadly that doesn’t work here. “Slow and steady wins the race” should be your mantra. Moreover, you will not get it right at the first try, so be patient and keep taking the efforts and be consistent until it becomes a habit. Rigidity should be avoided because, come on, things don’t always work our way all the time. For example, I tried keeping a 40 minute time limit for washing the dishes, but I exceeded that by 15 minutes; there is nothing to be disheartened about. I achieved what I had to as there was more junk to clean this time. So if you are able to get 8 ticks out of 10, then you have the right to celebrate.
Also one thing that can get into your way is the disorder within your family. Try getting them to orderliness and following a timetable as much as possible, so that you can integrate well and follow your plans best, without wasting your time or others.
Lastly, try getting into the crux of planning by attending workshops, webinars, seminars or what have you, and believe me it is worth the effort. I have myself attended Ismail Kamdar’s webinar “Time management: The sunnah way” (ref. 3)and it had so much to offer. If you’re interested, you can still watch the recorded session. One last piece of advice: shaytaan will devise many distractions, but you don’t stop at it and never give up, as on hope we survive.
Planning is not only for when you need, it is required at all times, even during holidays because that’s when things get messy, although it could get a little more flexible. “…Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves…” (Surah Ar Ra’d 13:13). Going by the ayah, if you really want to get your life in order, first change your attitude, get a plan, work on it, and then leave the rest on your Lord. Delete procrastination and add planning in your life. Remember, planning doesn’t reduce anything from your life but only adds value to your already valuable goals. You can only assume one’s life without a proper schedule in chaos and mishmash. Even with planning one might not achieve it all, but even 75%-80% is a huge success. Finaly, by the end of all our efforts and duas,we should know that everything happens by Allah’s will: “…They plan, and Allah plans, and Allah is the best of planners.” (Surah Al-Anfal 8:30)