resources

My 5 Favorite Productivity Resources

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

I know that topics like productivity and organization are not usually things I talk about on this blog, but as my time has become increasingly occupied I have found that making sure I am working productively and efficiently is so important. Not only is it important for work and general balance in your life, but we need to be making sure that all of our actions are also productive for our akhirah. A teacher of mine once said that anything that is not benefiting us in our akhirah is actually just a waste of time, subhanAllah.

Often we think we are being productive, but in the name of productivity in this world, we let our worship slip. I know that it may seem like pushing back this or that prayer to finish the work we are doing, or any number of those small excuses we make for ourselves throughout the day, is a good idea, but the way I like to think of it is this: yes, I can get a lot more done if I am late on a prayer time or two, but how much barakah will there be in whatever I am doing if I am neglecting the rights of Allah swt to get it done?

And these days, I am learning to choose quality (barakah) over quantity (just getting it done).

So today I thought it would be a good idea to share with you five of my favorite resources and tips for keeping on-track with my time in worldly affairs so that I can make the necessary time for worship and deen.

1.My bullet journal

If you don’t know what a bullet journal is, you can check that out right here. Long story short, it is a system of organization and planning that you can do in any old notebook, and it encompasses everything. And I do mean everything. In my bullet journal notebook I use a yearly spread to keep track of important dates in the future, and for each month I do a monthly overview with important dates and goals for the month. Before I was using weekly spreads with my tasks written in on each day, but now that I have become a bit more busy I have decided to start using a daily spread with things scheduled out down to the hour.

Besides its planner function, I keep so many other things in my bullet journal; I have a section for money and budgeting, a section for my tajweed notes, my Ramadan spread, and sections for my creative notes and ideas. Plus a “to-read” spread, because that is important!

The best thing about using a bullet journal system is that you can customize it to exactly fit your needs. All you need is a blank notebook and a pen to get started!

2. Ayeina’s pre-Ramadan productivity challenge and journal

If y’all live under a rock and don’t know who Ayeina is, go check out their website. They are a sister duo who already sells an awesome gratitude journal, and just recently they have come out with their new productivity journal*. In honor of that they are running a pre-Ramadan productivity challenge that everyone can join in on on social media, in order to use these next six months wisely to mentally and spiritually prepare ourselves for Ramadan.

The thing I love about this journal is that it encompasses so many aspects of our lives: faith, relationships, personal development, and work to name a few. This journal is a great way for someone who feels intimidated by getting organized to get into productivity in a guided way, and in shaa Allah make lasting changes and habits that will increase their productivity in the long run.

If you are interested, you can get your hands on that right here*.

*These are affiliate links, which means that if you decide to purchase through this link I will get a small commission at no extra charge to you. Don’t worry, I will never recommend anything that I don’t love myself!

3.Making the most of time

We all have the same 24 hours in a day, what makes us more or less productive is how we use those hours. One of the things that I absolutely love doing, and I’ve mentioned this so often before, is listening to beneficial podcasts while I am doing tasks that would otherwise be mindless. When I am doing housework, needlecrafts, even things that don’t take a lot of mental space, like creating images for my blog, I’ve always got a podcast or video on in the background. That way, I can turn what would usually be down-time into learning or even iman-increasing time, depending on the type of podcast I am listening to.

This also works well if you have a long commute to work (or a long trip to anywhere else), or just need to “veg out” every now and again when the kids go down for their naps.

Alternatively during these types of times you could also do dhikr. Saying subhanAllah, alhamdulillah, Allahu akbar, while you work on things keeps you in the remembrance of Allah and in shaa Allah will gain you rewards for the akhirah.

As a general tip, always remember when you are doing these kinds of mundane tasks to make your intention for Allah swt!

4.Get off that social media

This tip is directly related to #3 about using time wisely, and again it is less of a resource and more of an action for you to do.

The main point: get off social media. Set boundaries around when you will be on social media, for how long, and what for. If you have a business and you use it for that, make sure that is what you are using it for.

There are plenty of apps that you can get on your computer that will block certain sites for you for a set period of time, and though I have never tried those out myself I would love to look into it!

One thing I have done recently is taken the social media off my phone. The only two apps I still have on there are Instagram and Whatsapp, because my phone is where those have to be. Facebook, Twitter (which I don’t even use to begin with), everything else is all off my phone. I have even deleted my WordPress app and my Gmail app so that I don’t keep checking my notifications every five seconds.

5.Organization is key

I don’t know if this one is just me, but I just cannot get anything productive done if my space (i.e. my whole dang house) isn’t clean and organized. Having my desk space organized is especially important for me to keep myself on track, because if my space, or even just the desktop on my laptop is cluttered my brain tends to also feel cluttered and bogged down.

For those of you looking for resources to help get organized, my blogging sister Fatima recently opened up a members-circle on her site where she shares a ton of information, courses, and resources on organization. I believe she has a free and a paid option; I haven’t actually got the chance to look into this one myself yet (I don’t actually need much help around organization and I don’t want to get into another group “just because”), but I have read her blog and follow her social and I am sure it is going to be great! If anyone does end up joining I would love to hear from you back here on how you find it.

And, of course if you have any tips or resources around productivity, efficiency, and time management, and especially relating all of those things back to our ibadah, I would love to hear them in the comments!

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inspiration

Behind the Scenes vs. Highlight Reel

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

This is a subject I have had on my “to write about” list for quite some time now, and since it fits so well with what I have already posted and what I have planned for the month, I don’t know why I have been dragging my feet about getting it actually written.

Perhaps it is because it is a slightly tired subject, but in today’s day and age I think that no matter how much it gets said there is always room to say it again. After all, we should

” […] remind, for indeed, the reminder benefits the believer.” Qur’an 51:55

This dunya is such a distraction, and we get caught up so easily in our work and our lives that even when we hear a reminder ten times a day it still feels new each time. Our minds are so cluttered they become sieves and those things that really matter slip through, while all the rest of the useless junk gets caught up in our heads. So I am writing this, knowing full well that it has been said a million times before and realizing that I am no less in need of the reminder myself than I was all the other times I have heard it.

I think what best sums up what I want to touch on today is that quote from Theodore Roosevelt, that comparison is the thief of joy. While I do not think it should be applied as a universal statement, I think when we use it as a lens to filter how we look at other peoples lives (as shown publicly) it is still highly applicable.

Social media has been around for some time now, and the internet in general even longer, and yet we still so often fail to realize that what we see online, whether that be through social media, blogs, or even the results page of a Google search, is all curated content. Every photo and every last word are carefully chosen, filtered, packaged and presented to achieve some sort of agenda, whether as innocent as sharing a happy moment or a capitalistic as trying to sell you things you don’t need.

On social media people only post pictures of what they want you to see; in an online article the author only writes the words that she wants you to read. Even that Google search has its own way of curating results to favor certain factors over others.

I won’t go so far as to say it’s all a lie, but at any given time on the internet we are only getting a percentage of the truth.

Even today, as people are getting more interested in seeing the real-life and the vulnerability, there is still an aspect of “organized chaos” and curated reality in what is shared online. I am guilty of it myself; yes, I shared a photo on Instagram of my ugly desk-space to prove that anyone can work from anywhere. But I also arranged my notebooks in an eye-catching way and put a filter on the image to tone down the awful paint on my rented walls.

This is nothing new to most of you, but in reflecting this past month on my spiritual practice and my own internet usage, I just want to remind everyone that you cannot compare your behind the scenes, pile of dirty laundry, arguing with your husband over the high water bill, same dinner second night in a row, real life with someone else’s highly curated, perfect styled desktop, on-point abayah, travelling around the world highlight reel.

I wrote about this from a more spiritual perspectivein last week’s post on faith as an inner and outer practice and I think that post and this one were perfectly joined in the Instagram bio statement of a sister that I recently connected with:  “My posts do not make me pious, but ‘every reminder benefits the believer.'”

I guess what I am really getting at with this post is what I have been saying all along this month, and what tends to be a recurring theme here on the blog in general is this: we need to not only watch what we are doing and saying and posting both online and off and realize how it may affect others, but just as importantly, we need to take the time to check in with ourselves and see how we are letting others’ curated photos and words and thoughts affect us.  And though this is most easily exemplified in the online sphere, it applies is many, if not most of our offline interactions as well.

How often do we see a random person on the street and envy her something about her life, without ever pausing to think a second about the struggles she has been through or is going through?

I have found lately for myself that I tend to get jealous when I see and hear about other women living such “easy” lives in Western countries, where everything seems to be at their fingertips, when really I have no idea what they go through on a daily basis. My struggle may be different than theirs, but perhaps if I knew their trials I would be grateful for my own. Perhaps if I lived in their situation I would be much farther from Allah swt. When it comes down to it, Allah and only Allah swt knows the truest form of ourselves and all that encompasses.

To leave you with one practical step you can take to avoid falling into comparison and its negative effects: choose your company wisely, on and offline. It is easier to do (and I have written about it before) offline, as physically spending time with someone takes energy to plan and execute. We can easily make an excuse if we feel that the person is someone who drains our time and energy without putting anything positive into the relationship.

But how often do we think about who we interact with online? How many friends do we have on our lists, how many people do we follow just for glimpses of their lives that we otherwise know nothing about? My best advice to anyone on social media or in the blogging world is to be just as sparing with who you give you time to online as in person. Un-follow the accounts of people that you don’t know, or that give you negative feelings (like jealousy, lack of self-confidence, etc.), and only follow those that uplift you and make you feel good. Un-friend all those who are just online to debate, or post about every aspect of their lives, or again, those people that you don’t even know or talk to. Only read the blogs and the articles that bring benefit to you.

Make the time and make the space for you to be so focused on your own development and happiness that you don’t even have time to compare your behind-the-scenes to everyone else’s highlight reels.

resources

Lives of the Prophets: Nuh (as)

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Today I’ve got another set of notes from Qalam Institute’s podcast series Lives of the Prophets. If you missed any in the series up until now or are a new follower, you can click here to see all of the previous posts I’ve done.

Today’s episode was about Nuh عليه السلام. It was another exciting one for me; as I keep saying coming from a Christian background and only having a vague idea about the stories of each of these prophets has made it just that much more interesting to delve into their stories in the Islamic tradition. So, without further ado, I hope you enjoy as much as I did: Continue reading “Lives of the Prophets: Nuh (as)”

reflections

Faith: Not only an outward expression

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Just this morning (or a couple of weeks ago as of posting), I hopped onto The Dua Journal’s Instagram stories to talk about something that has been on my mind for a few days now. Obviously not a whole lot can be said in a 5 minute video, and since it is on Instagram stories it will be deleted after 24 hours anyhow, which is why I wanted to write something here to really dig into the idea a bit more.

In that video, I talked about the two different dimensions of our Islamic practice, the inner spiritual dimension, and the outer or “superficial” if you will, practice. More specifically, I talked about how when we want to make big shifts or changes in our spiritual practice, those changes need to be led by the inner aspect.

I talked about how important it is to work on your mindset, your intentions, your faith, and all that is in your heart in small incremental steps. And I talked about how if you do this, the outward changes that you are trying to make will come about naturally in time.

I gave the example of my own convert story, and specifically the example of how I came to wear hijab. My putting on the hijab was the result of months and months of reflection and learning about what hijab really means in Islam. So, after embracing it with my heart, the day that I put the thing on my head was almost insignificant. I just picked the scarf up off the floor, put it on, and never looked back. But the key is, I already had already done all of the inner work to make it possible, and without all of that as preparation who knows where I would be with hijab today. Because we all know the feeling of overwhelm and burnout that comes when you jump into something half-heartedly, with incomplete understanding, or worst yet, under external pressure and without really believing in it ourselves.

The last piece of advice I gave in that video was to never, ever judge yourself harshly just based on someone else’s outward practice, and I want to dig a bit more into that in this post. Continue reading “Faith: Not only an outward expression”

inspiration, resources

Hadith of the Month: November

“Take on only as much as you can do of good deeds, for the best of deeds is that which is done consistently, even if it is little.” Narrated in Sunan Ibn Majah

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Welcome to November everyone! I almost wrote welcome to October and then I realized exactly how close 2017 is to ending; does anyone else think that’s crazy or just me?

But to the point: this month’s hadith. I have been really feeling this hadith lately and I wanted to share my reflections with you from two slightly different angles.

For the past few months I have been looking at this hadith through the lens of what I wrote about in this post here. While that post was specifically about going through an iman slump, and not forcing yourself into more than you can do, in general we can take the hadith to mean that you shouldn’t over-burden yourself with a long to-do list of good deeds, but rather do what is within your capacity in order to avoid being completely burnt out and giving up on those good deeds all together.

But just today as I was reflecting on it, I began to think of it in a slightly new light; that we should only take on a small amount of good deeds, so that we can take on more later.

Let me explain that…By taking on only whatever little is within our capacity, as the hadith mentions, we will be much more capable and likely to make that small deed into a habit, something done consistently. And when that small deed is a consistent habit, we can begin to take another baby step to grow upon it. Continue reading “Hadith of the Month: November”

reflections

Depression and Islam

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

OK, before I get into today’s post, I want to ask a little favor of y’all. Normally this is not something that even crosses my mind when I write for this blog but today I am sharing something really (though I don’t like this word) raw. So I would ask that whatever you have to say, whether you agree or disagree with any statements I make, please do so gently.

Today I want to talk about depression. I had thought about talking about mental illness in general, but it is not something I have a whole lot of experience with up until recently, so I would like to stick with the part of it that I know the most about personally, though I am sure that many of the more general points I make can apply to other situations as well. The first part of the post is my general reflections on the topic, and the second part of the post is actually something I wrote I few weeks ago on a really down day. Continue reading “Depression and Islam”

inspiration

My Favorite Surah: Al-Rahman

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Today is the last of my series of Qur’an themed posts for October, so I wanted to share something more personal and special with you.

I have a lot of surahs that I love, in fact I love the whole Qur’an. The one surah that I find myself having a constant relationship with, that I will reliably get watery-eyed when I hear, and that really just has a special place in my heart is surah number 55, al-Rahman.

I fasted my first Ramadan in 2014, a mere eight or so months after I said my official shahada. Despite the fear of the unknown, I still consider that first Ramadan to be my best one ever, alhamdulillah. One of the things that made it so special was the time and energy I had to put in extra efforts, and the community I was surrounded by.

My very good friend had bought me a year long subscription to Bayyinah TV as a graduation gift, and that year their Ramadan program was all about Surah al-Rahman. She asked me if I wanted to memorize the surah with her while we were going through the lectures, and of course I said yes! (I had never memorized anything longer than Ayatul Kursi at that point, but hey, I’m a go-getter.) I diligently watched the lecture that came out daily, and tried to memorize the verses that went with it.

I didn’t memorize all of Surah al-Rahman. Continue reading “My Favorite Surah: Al-Rahman”

inspiration

Incorporating More Qur’an into Your Life

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Rahmeen

I originally wrote this post just before Ramadan, in order to share some practical tips for kick-starting your relationship with the Qur’an in that holy month. But since this month’s general theme revolves around the Qur’an, I would like to share some of my relationship with the Qur’an and some of those tips again.

My personal relationship with the Qur’an started early, though I didn’t realize it then. As I returned from my semester abroad in June 2014, laden with books about Islam and relationships with real Muslims, I picked the dusty old English translation off my shelf that I had bought out of curiosity as a rebellious 13 year old. I quickly realized the translation was awful, and so I headed to Barnes and Noble to pick up a more reliable side-by-side Arabic and English version.

I began reading, and soon picked up the pace to a surah a night. I was so interested that even when I got to the shorter surahs I wouldn’t put it down until I had hit 30 or 40 pages of reading; needless to say I got through it pretty fast.

At the behest of my then-fiance, I waited around a month after I finished and then gave it another, slower read through. I only realise now how little I understood of it back then. I was uncomfortable with many of the verses about women and war, but something in my heart told me that there was a wisdom behind those things that didn’t sit well with me.

The rest, you could say, is history. I officially took my shahada later that year, and from there my journey with the Qur’an really began.  Continue reading “Incorporating More Qur’an into Your Life”

inspiration

Why You should try Qur’an Journaling

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Coming from a Christian background, I have always heard of “Bible Journaling.” Not that I was ever very interested in trying it, and to this day I’m not actually sure what goes into it. It for sure was not something I thought I would ever try as a Muslim.

But, nearly a year ago, I was looking for some ways to really gain a connection with the Qur’an. Being an English native-speaker, there is only so far I can go with the Arabic Qur’an at any given time, and we all know that it is just not the same in translation.

Then, while randomly browsing a Facebook-group for bullet-journalers (yeah, I keep a bullet journal, go look it up if you don’t know what it is!), I saw a post from the only other Muslimah in the group; it was a photo of her Qur’an journal layout.

It was absolutely gorgeous, with watercolor flowers and hand-lettered headings. I am more of a list-writer myself, so I took the idea and ran with it. Here is the routine I came up with: Continue reading “Why You should try Qur’an Journaling”

inspiration

On Forcing It

Bismillah al-Rahman al-Raheem

Fake it ’till you make it. That’s the saying isn’t it? Though it has always been something that I’ve had a difficult time putting into practice in my life for some reason. That’s not to say I don’t put the work into my endeavors, but I have a very difficult time pretending I know what I am doing if I am really just making it up as I go.

You’re probably wondering what this has to do with anything….Well, what got me started reflecting on this was the idea of iman lows, those dips that occur in our faith, where the excitement just isn’t there but we still have things to get done. They happen for a whole host of reasons, sometimes life gets in the way, sometimes it is just a natural lull.

A lot of the advice I read where it comes to iman lows is to just keep trudging on despite it. Keep praying your prayers, keep making personal duas, keep fasting, and so on. As you continue to do these things your iman will naturally go back up, and you will begin to feel more connected again. Essentially fake it ’till you make it.

I myself have been stuck in an iman rut for a little while now (though at the time this post is going out I feel I am on the mend alhamdulillah). I remember when I first converted I vehemently rejected the idea that my iman high was just because I was a new convert, I assumed it would last forever. And to some extent that new convert passion never did die. But like the mere mortal that I am, I have experienced some ups and downs in the strength of my faith since then. This recent low, however, has been the worst I have had yet.

I’ve been trying to take this oft repeated advice to just keep plodding on, keep going until the faith just comes back, and I have been going at it with all the brute force that I can muster. But it’s not helping. Continue reading “On Forcing It”