Ramadan is quite a busy time for most of us Muslimahs, as in addition to our usual work, school, and family obligations, we also want to take advantage of the high-ajr (benefit) season with a number of religious goals not observed on a daily basis. However, we can end up feeling overwhelmed, and overlook a few areas of our lives. As with everything else, the key to having a successful Ramadan is to plan it in advance, and to make sure your plans are well-balanced. Some tips that will help you maintain work, life, and ibadah (worship) balance in Ramadan are:
1. Track Your Time:
Before Ramadan starts, track your time for at least a regular week, on a half-hour or fifteen-minutes basis. In 168 Hours, time management expert Laura Vanderkam says that most people have more time than they think. For example, people who claimed to work for 60 hours or more, found out that the actual time spent on “work” was significantly less than what they had estimated, after tracking their time for a few weeks.
This is because we tend to overestimate and include busywork and breaks while working. So if you think you are working about 40 hours, you may actually be working less than that, while spending quite a few hours reading articles, browsing social media, and other similar tasks that actually count as busywork.
2. Eliminate Non-Essential Tasks:
Now that you know what you’re spending your time on most days, it’s time to figure out what things you can eliminate or cut down on during Ramadan. Can you stop watching TV for 30 days? Can you limit your Quora-surfing to less than an hour per week for Ramadan?
Try to cut down on activities that take up anything from 5 – 10 hours per week, depending on what ibadah goals you have in mind for this Ramadan.
3. Write Down Some Goals:
Once you have figured out how much time you’re going to free up for all the extra ibadah you plan on doing in Ramadan, it’s time to set some goals. Goals can include anything from reciting the Quran cover to cover or even just saying Astaghfirullah (Arabic phrase meaning ‘I seek forgiveness from Allah’) a couple of hundred times daily. Making sure you pray on time is also another good goal for Ramadan.
Science says that it takes a minimum of 21 days to build a habit. Is there anything ibadah-related that you would like to make a lifetime habit? Using a siwaak daily, praying Duha (a voluntary prayer made anytime from after sunrise to around 11 AM) daily, or even making sure to eat with the right hand at every meal (left hand is reserved for tasks such as cleaning oneself, etc) everyday. Whether you’re a born Muslim with loads of Ramadan experience, or a newly converted Muslim with little to no Ramadan experience, you can definitely put some goals to further your knowledge, and increase the number of Islamic habits in your life, whether they are based on obligatory (Wajib) tasks or the voluntary (Sunnah) tasks.
Use common sense when setting your goals, and don’t try to set goals that will stress you out. Overachieving on small goals is always better than underachieving on huge goals.
4. Get an Accountability Buddy:
Ramadan can be tough without the support you need to achieve your goals. Talk to friends and/or family members who, like you, are looking to get the most out of their Ramadan, and see if they would be interested in teaming up to hold each other accountable. Many of us would think that this might go into riyaa’ (boasting about religious deeds to be looked at as pious by others), but if you keep your intentions clear and make sure you’re only telling your accountability buddies about your plans so you can support each other in this journey, in-sha Allah (God willing) you won’t be doing any riyaa’.
Agree on a time to check in with each other everyday, and make sure the other person is doing/has done the day’s goals. Let each other know if you won’t be able to complete a goal due to some emergency or other arising. Don’t be lazy and make excuses, but don’t be hard on yourselves/each other either!
5. Plan Meals Ahead:
Chances are, you have some duties in the kitchen, whether everyday or less than that. Help yourself eliminate the time spent cooking Ramadan meals for your family by preparing things in advance. For the next few weekends, skip out on going to the park or visiting with friends, and spend the time making anything that can be frozen halfway through: samosas, spring rolls (or boureks, if you’re from the Maghreb region), stock for soups/porridge, pakoda mixes, smoothies, etc.
Remember, Ramadan is not a month of eating, but you do need to eat healthy, balanced meals in order to be able to do your daily duties while fasting. Make sure you plan a well-balanced diet for you and your family, and take into account any little ones who may not be fasting.
Lastly, but not leastly, I recommend Halalify’s Ramadan Battle Plan for your planning purposes, and stay tuned for my post on Bullet Journal ideas for Ramadan. Subscribe to my blog here to stay updated.