Time management is about planning your time productively, efficiently, and effectively to achieve a goal that one wants. Getting a good job, setting up a business, having a good education, raising a good child, economic prosperity, happiness, finding the love of Allah, etc. are some examples. Achieving anything requires planning in respect to resources one of which is time.

Why manage? We have to manage for several reasons.  Overall it is about achieving ones goals with efficiency. And this is because at any given time and context, there is a scarcity of resources. We also need to have a direction in our work towards that goal, and we don’t want to waste time doing this. As human beings, we are different to animals, and so we structure our lives towards our goals rather than be like animals which live and die through a hardwired existence.

How we manage is by first having an objective to achieve. An objective by definition is about having it described objectively – in a way that its achievement can be measured and followed up in time systematically. Each output towards the objective we want have has its related sub-objectives or sub tasks. These must differentiated according to what is urgent or not, and important or not. This analysis will give us a sequence of activities based on importance rather than doing what is only urgent. We then formulate a strategy or approach (the “how” of it) to getting these activities carried out over the planned time period.

We then allocate resources of money, staff, and time.

Time is a very important resource. If we don’t use it carefully, we will be wasting it and when wasted we have lost it. So to cut our losses, we need to keep a good tab on this process. This is called monitoring. With good execution and monitoring (called implementation) the project will be on its way to completion. Along the way, if we see any blemish, the monitoring process will detect this and corrective measures will be devised. This is the real benefit of monitoring. It is not enough just to list and enunciate the constraints; it needs to be addressed in time to not lose the progress of the work carried out so far.

The implementing is the real managerial challenge. While the planning stage of any project requires the input of a mix of persons from many disciplines and visionary leadership, the execution or implementation phase require the dedicated time of an astute manager.  

The above was the technical side of implementation, namely the putting together the physical resources to get things done. There is an inner dimension to time and other resource management. We need to first make a strong commitment to do what we decided to do. This is in the domain of making the right and strong intension. When this is done, the internal energy is immediately channelized. Along with the physical stuff, this internal energy carries us forward much faster than if only the physical resources are the only things available. No commitment, no real progress. Another thing that carries us forward and gives us the impetus to move is the fact that we have something to forfeit when we don’t perform. Most people cannot be expected to have the confluence of the internal push with the physical stuff. And so some incentive (positive or negative) has to be included in the implementation process.  Without these, many people are subject to the vagaries of procrastination. The saying goes as “procrastination is the thief of time”. From or religious point of view, this is the handiwork of the Shaaithaan, who does not want us to succeed in the task at hand. The good voice in ourselves is that push we have, and yet if the voice of the Shaaithaan is stronger, we lose our chance of success.

The reasons we seem to understand as what lies behind procrastination are many. Listing these will help in getting over this. One is that we tend to lie to ourselves. We rationalize our procrastination voice by saying to ourselves that either the task is too big, or good complex and that it cannot be done. Perhaps we don’t have enough commitment to the task when this happens. Another thing is the distraction we are subjected to. Many exciting things happen around us and we are distracted. This means we are not committed and easily swayed by the glitter around us. We may say to ourselves that we will just enjoy this for a moment and will come back to our work. But then it may never happen. More of these time-outs will rob of much of the time that could have been spent more productively. Or it maybe that we don’t enjoy what we are doing or are up against. We may not know where to start or even be afraid we may fail because we are not sure of our capacity to perform this task.

A good approach to stop procrastination consists of doing three things systematically: One is to realize that nothing is too big to achieve. How does one eat an elephant? It is to eat it one bite at a time. Similarly, we need to reduce a tough task into many simple tasks. The way to the summit of a mountain is through dividing up our climb into parts. This way we will achieve our objective.

The next way to melt procrastination is to do the part of the tasks that one likes most and when this is achieved will give us confidence and courage to deal with the more difficult ones. And the third is about ignoring the siren song. Just like the story of the Iliad, let’s not be swayed by the song of the sirens. Let’s not be carried away from our tasks by the distractions that are always around us.

All this happens when we raise responsible children, who would have by the time they grow up, internalized these above values. Time management is an example that depicts the struggle of our lives in the pit of cravings that is our world. Our world is a school in which we have to pass an exam that has been given to us. So time management is very important. When we waste our time forget to do our homework, we can only fail. When we become aware of our lofty spiritual objective and commit to achieving it, InshaaAllah, success will be ours.