Time Flies, But You Are The Pilot

“Like sands through the hourglass; so are the days of our lives.”

Of all the quotes that I used to hear as a child, this must have been the one that stuck most. On returning from school, I would hear the television on, playing music that introduced the soap opera “Days of Our Lives.”

Many years later, I have come to learn that time is our most valuable resource. If we learn how to control and use it wisely, we will maximize our output both spiritually and financially.

We all know that we only get 24 hours every day, and while there are plenty of ways to wring more out of the time we have, there is no way to get more of it.

Our beloved Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings upon him) warned in this beautiful hadith:

Take advantage of five things before [other] five things happen:
your youth before your old age,
your health before your sickness,
being rich before your poverty,
your leisure before getting busy, and
your life before your death. 
(Authenticated by Al-Albani)

The first item in the hadith is about how we spend–or sadly waste–our time as youths. Time is very important in our lives and time management is an art in which few of us excel at. So what are the major time wasters, particularly these days?

How do you use technology?

We live in a very different time now than we did 30 or even 10 years ago. No other generation has enjoyed such an impressive shift in technology and lifestyle changes.

The question here is how can we use technology to our advantage? For instance, the internet, if used wisely, can save us a lot of time. If, for example, we were engaging in studying, rather than leaving the house to go to the nearest library to prepare for assignments or research, we have everything at our fingertips.

However, if the internet is used without discipline, we can simply waste our time surfing social websites such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat and Twitter.

I, for one, am guilty as charged and am so close to deactivating my accounts. Till then, I have plastered on my wall a poster reading “As you read this you are closer to death than at any other time.” It seems morbid, I know, but we all know what scares us and dying without being prepared does it for me.

In the Quran, we read in the verses of Surah Rahman,

{All that is on earth will perish.} (Ar-Rahman 55:26)

This describes the crucial reality that every moment that passes is a moment that brings our death closer. Our lifespan is like an upturned sand-timer and the last grain could fall anytime.

Monitor your use of time

Once we realize that our time is limited, we need to make the very best of it. Time is a tool. It can be manipulated, shared, divided, and saved. There are guaranteed ways to make the most of our time.

Just as nutritionists suggest we keep a journal to log what we eat, it’s equally important to document how we use our time.

Keeping a time diary of how precisely we spend our time throughout the day is one of the most powerful ways to discover how we can better use it. Sometimes seeing it on paper is all that we need to get us up and running.

Jotting it all down allows us to see patterns and movements, both favorable or otherwise, in how we spend our time. It is definitely much easier to make changes to how we spend it because we can see, right in front of us, exactly what changes we need to make with how we use it

Productivity and time efficiency

What’s more, we are able to see what activities impact our productivity the most. Keep it simple though; remember we do not want to spend too much time thinking about it.

These tips give light to the old adage, “work smarter, not harder.”

Instead of being machine-like in approaching tasks, be thoughtful and always ask yourself if something can be done more efficiently or eliminated altogether.

Managing time is not about cramming as many tasks into your day as possible. It is about simplifying how you work, doing things faster, and relieving stress.

In short, it is about clearing away space in your life to make time for practicing deen, for the people you love, and for play and rest. Just like time, these things are not renewable. Once gone, there is no replacing them.

Say NO!

A golden rule in time management can be boiled down to doing what is most important. Each day, identify the two or three tasks that are the most crucial to complete and do those first.

Once done, the day has already been a success. We can move on to other things, or we can let them wait until tomorrow. This includes tasks both for this world and the next, such as reading our daily Qur’an.

If you are like me, you may have issues with saying no. Although not easy, we need to train ourselves to decline opportunities. Take on only the commitments that we know we have time for and that we truly care about. The Qur’an highlights this in the verse:

{Allah does not burden a soul beyond that it can bear.} (Al-Baqarah 2:286)

So why do it to ourselves?

As we agreed, time is limited, hence death is certain. With the time we have, we can focus on quality actions rather than quantity. We need to make sure our intentions are to live a productive life, by serving Allah and His creation. This itself will be enough to count as a positive action.

Develop yourself

Make the best of the time you have by first being the best model of yourself.

Familiarize yourself with the deen and follow the prophet’s life. Copy his deeds and ways. If we do not use our time effectively for something good, then we will definitely use it for something bad, which destroys our reward and our lives.

Work and plan your day around the five prayers.

Prioritize and adjust your time accordingly. Remember: do not mistake movement for achievement. Be busy by being productive.

Surah Asr reminds us of the importance of time, reading:

{By Al-`Asr (the time). Verily, man is [deep] in loss, except for those who believe and do good deeds, urge one another to the truth and urge one another to patience.} (Al-`Asr 103)

Here, Allah takes an oath by time and declares that humankind is in a state of loss. Every single human being, man or woman, is in a state of loss except those who strive and do four things; believe, do righteous deeds, recommend one another to the truth, and to be patient. The surah summarizes all of the above.

You are in charge

Lastly, we should try to hold our own self accountable at the end of each day. Ask yourself, “what did I do today? Did I waste time?” 

We should repent for the bad things we did, if any, and be sincerely determined not to do them again. And for the good deeds, we should be determined to do them again. For surely that is time well spent!

While the bad news is time flies, the good news is you are the pilot!

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About Deana Nassar
Deana Nassar is a published writer. As a mother of four, in her home she’s the sole expert on all things related to marriage, children’s psychology, motherhood and creative survival. She loves charity work, reading and writing poetry, and is mostly known for writing articles discussing family and social issues, faith, freedom, and purpose that comes through God. She can be reached at [email protected]