Fear of Change

“Verily Allah will not change the condition of a people until the change what is with themselves.” H.Q. 13:11

 

Highly successful people have many things in common. One such quality is the ability to expect, accept, embrace and love change. People who cant handle constant change are usually those who are easily stressed and break down if things change to much to often. Lets face it these people dont really accomplish much at all. As they go through life stuck in their comfort zones and refusing to take the path of risk, they die never really having lived.  Fear is what keeps us in our comfort zones. You can’t reach your fullest potential thinking, being and existing inside the box. If you are unhappy with your current situation, change is what is required in order for you to get different results. Personally I enjoy the waam, baam, zhipt and wow that come with each day. I guess you can say that I am living an onomatopoeia of a life….

 

 

Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.” ~ Brian Tracy

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Ramadan Mubarak

As salaamu alaikum,

I hope that your fasting is going well and that you are meeting your Ramadan goals. We are now on the 15th day of Ramadan. What were your goals? Now is time to assess where you are with respect to your initial goals. Whatever the case know that Ramadan is an agenda to change your condition. Allah says: ” Verily we will not change the condition of a people until they change it themselves.” How are you doing with respect to the main goal of Taqwa? I enjoy being disciplined. I think that is the greatest thing this month teaches. First of all you have to have the goal of Taqwa (being conscious and aware of God), then you have to have discipline to get up for Suhur and Fajr. Furthermore you have to push yourself to read at least a 30th of the Quran. Then make all of your salah on time. All along the way, you also have to be careful of what you think, how you act and what you say.  For Iftar you must discipline your eating habits so as not to overeat so that you can make Isha and Tarawih. Then you must be disciplined in your sleep. When you think about it this regimen of discipline could actually make you a highly successful person.  Perhaps we could carry these habits outside of Ramadan. When you look at those who are highly successful whether Muslim or not you see the common traits are high doses of:

1. Discipline

2. Goal Setting

3. Conscious/Awareness

4. Controlling what/when/how much they eat

5. Controlling their sleep, how they sleep and how many hours

6. Repetition

Do you want change your condition for the better?

Too much communications ?!?! Email and Text Overload!

Too much communications ?!?!, originally uploaded by occhiovivo.

Incessant email checking is probably one of the greatest hurdles to productivity. How many people do you see that are always on their crackberries trying to look important? In the middle of a conversation with you, you will see them constantly fidgeting and eventually pull out the blackberry or iphone and check it over and over again. As Muslims we should give the person we are speaking to our undivided attention. The Messenger of Allah (SAW) would make his guest feel like the only person in the world in conversation. I used to be one of those who felt the need to check email over 30 times per day. I then realized how much time I was actually loosing. Cutting down drastically on email can actually add a couple of hours to your daily productivity. The hours saved can be used to get more work done or simply increase knowledge of deen. Also keep in mind that information overload adds to your stress and can make you prone to sickness and other diseases. Here is what I do to stop checking email so much.

1. My blackberry email is turned off most of the day. Before doing this looking at my email would be the first thing I’d do when waking up in the morning. This was obsession.
2. I check email only three times per day. Once when I sit down to work, again after lunch then again right before finishing up for the day. I do this for work and personal email.
3. I get people in the habit of calling me if it is something that is really important. The problem with emailing and texting is the human component is lost. Can you imagine the Messenger of Allah (SAW) sending a text to his wife Ayesha (RA) to get his wudu water ready?
4. When I am expecting something from a client I will turn my blackberry on. However I am not checking it all while it is on.
5. When replying to email, I do so in five sentences or less in most cases. In cases of texts I am even shorter. If it is a client that I am helping then I may go over this. However in most cases I will just pick up the phone or organize a video conference.

Conquering the need to incessantly check email is freedom in deed. It is something about it that makes me feel uncluttered and less stressed. I know everything we see in media tells us that we need to be in the loop or informed at all times. I just realized that I was putting my family at risk by my blackberry/iphone behaviors. So hang up the phone/email/text and start treating people like human beings. Stop bringing your blackberry to bed with you, to the dinner table etc.

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Freedom from Stress

stress, originally uploaded by rafa2010.

Anas reported that the Prophet, peace be upon him, used to supplicate, “O Allah, there is no ease except what You make easy, and you alone can turn a difficulty into ease.” (Ibn As-sinni)

When I ran accross this picture I laughed initially because it reminded me of what corporate America was doing to me before I left it. I think stress is terribly underestimated. I recentl watched a National Geographic documentary on Stress. It was a true eye opener. I used to be what I called a “corporate animal.” This is someone who goes to work everyday on high energy, takes on numerous projects, brings work home, works on the weekend and then eventually gets burned out. After a couple of weeks of burnout, this person starts the cycle over again. All this in the name of getting ahead in one’s career. Before I quit/got fired, I was working 10 and 12 hours days in accounting and finance. During month end close I could easily work 16 hours. No amount of productivity systems could balance the loads of work that was coming down the pipeline. Alhamdulillah I later came to the conclusion that I was not a good fit for corporate america. It just seemed as though I was a rat on a treadmeal that would never turn off. I was always on my blackberry, email, phone etc. I would drink loads of Starbucks to keep me going. Little did I know that I was putting my body under loads us stress. If I would have stayed on that path I would probably be dead by 52 (Allah knows best). Studies have shown that people with the Type A personality are more prone to heart disease. These are people that tend to be perfectionists and are pretty hard on themselves. What good is it to always be working to get ahead and reach goals that are unattainable? Many career centered individuals spend their lives chasing career goals. When they reach the goals they are off to something else. I am all for setting goals and reaching them. The problem with most people that set goals is they stay so focused on the goal itself but never enjoy the process of getting there. These people live their entire lives in the future and never enjoying the present. For these people, every friendship, relationship, golf game etc is seen as a means of advancing their career or business endeavors.

There is no such thing as a stress free life. Allah (swt) created us in toil and struggle. I think life would be pretty boring without any stress. The problem with most people is they never turn off or detach. Most people are always connected to work, facebook, email, phones etc. When you see a lot of people they are always in a rush and never able to slow down. Most stress in our lives is unnecessary and can be eliminated by taking some simple steps. Here are 10 simple (or maybe not so simple) ways to reduce or eliminate stress.

1. Identify – This is probably the most important. You have to know those things that are stressing you out before you can eliminate them. You can even make a top ten list of stressors in your life.
2. Disorganization – Being disorganized is another common stressor. Most people are drowing in paperwork, email, tasklists etc. A simple productivity/task management system is important to overcome stress related to being disorganized.
3. Being Late – Being late is a very common stressor. When you wake up late or have to get that extra 30 minutes of facebook, we end having to rush to get ready, rush to get there and this puts the body in fight or flight mode. Make a conscious effort to start getting ready earlier. I try to be at least 15 minutes early to all of my engagements. This gives me time to breath and get settled prior to.
4. Multi-tasking – This is probably the biggest productivity killer around. Learn to single task. By single tasking you can get more flow and enjoyment from your work as well as do a better job.
5. Simplify – Most people are in need of simplifying their life. Learn to simplify your work, your email, information intake, routines, committments etc.
6. Unschedule – Learn to take some things off the table in your schedule. Learn to leave open space in your schedule during the day so you can actually breath and enjoy life. Learn to batch smaller tasks and schedule enough time for the bigger tasks.
7. Slow down – Instead of rushing through life, learn to take things slowly. Stop rushing through your food, enjoy the people around you, enjoy nature. This can remove tons of stress.
8. Quit your job – Our work is the biggest stressor. When I quit my job and started working for myself the loads of stress just went away. Learn to create your own opportunity or go into a field where you are helping humanity.
9. Eat Healthy – Do I really need to elaborate here?
10. Exercise – As little as 30 minutes a day can make a world of difference.

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Back by Popular Demand

I have been getting numerous responses to start back posting. I really really appreciate the support. There have been a lot of changes in my life that have caused me to shift my paradigm and way of thinking. I plan to start posting again very shortly. I have been doing a lot of experiments on myself and plan to share them. So look forward to more articles on;
 
  • Zuhd and Minamalism
  • Enjoying Life Now
  • Slowing Down
  • Uncluttering Your Life
  • Finances and Getting out of Debt
  • More on Productivity
 
 
 
The reality is that many Muslims are not living life on their own terms and to the fullest in a permissable manner. As a result I also plan to introduce/offer my Life and Financial Management Coaching sessions. Many Muslims have needs for Life Coaches and Financial Advisors that are tailored to our specific needs. I offer these services but plan to offer on a wider (world wide) scale and at a much affordable rate than my local clients. Stay tuned and make dua.
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Live Life Now

“What is the matter with you that you dont give your response to Allah and his Messenger when he calls you to that which will give you life?” Holy Quran

I am currently waiting in an airport to travel back home. I just finished a week long vacation with my family in Los Angeles, California. Alhamdulillah, we had a great time. However, being the observationist that I am, I couldn’t help but notice the lifestyle and health of the people of Los Angeles in general. Los Angeles in my opinion is a city that never sleeps. People will actually stay up until 2 am and have to be at work for 8am the next day. This habit alone can take years from your life. Its not like they are staying up for Tahajud or anything like that. These people stay up and talk, drink, and watch television! I went to my wife’s high school reunion picnic and noticed how most people were over weight, drank alcohol, spoke negatively and in general just seemed depressed. Whenever I travel and go to a city I observe the general health of people.  Living the spiritual life, eating healthy and exercising leads to less depression and makes one a happier person in general. The people I encountered all had sad stories. Most of my wife’s classmates not only looked older than their actual ages, they also were not married and some had two and three children out of wedlock. Furthermore a lot of them did not have careers they could readily be proud of. I am sure this is not the case with most of Los Angeles, but just the people whom I came in contact with. People at my hotel were up late drinking in the lobby. When I came to the airport this morning people were having alcoholic drinks in the morning with their breakfast!

I realize this is the way of most people! Most people, Muslims included simply meander through life not thinking they will die one day. They don’t get proper rest, eat horribly, and don’t exercise daily. As a result they are procrastinators, more depressed because they can never set a goal and accomplish anything. People don’t realize that good behavior will save their lives. Proper eating, rest, consistent exercise can help you turn a life of misery into a life of abundant joy and happiness. People continue to put their ideals, goals and aspirations on hold for some imagined time in the distant future. Don’t think for a nanosecond that you will live that long. Begin to enjoy your life right now in the present. Insha Allah you can make this happen by putting Allah first in everything you do. Make daily exercise a priority like your salat or your mealtimes. Make the best choices with your diet. Learn how to turn down food at social gatherings that will contribute to your bad health. Stop acting as if you have all the time in the world to get in shape and be truly happy and healthy. Stop waiting, hesitating and blowing off life- altering opportunities.

You Are Capable of More than you Think

“Whenever I have a project that I need to have done, I give it to someone who is very busy already. I know this person has unique system of getting things accomplished. “   Hasan Al-Banna

One thing about the mind, once is gets used to offering up excuses it becomes difficult to stop. When you get into this pattern it’s like a ship that becomes difficult to turn around once it has set sail on a particular course.  I know people that offer up excuses, even before they listen completely to a proposal. These are the people that you will see trying to wiggle their way out of every Dawah project, team assignment at work or university, or work around the house. You see; once the mind gets addicted to making excuses it becomes harder to break the habit.  At the back of our mind we fear that something may be too hard for us to accomplish or maybe it will require too much time. In reality we are capable of accomplishing much more than we think. People who are addicted to offering excuses are in reality saying to themselves; “I am not mentally capable of accomplishing this, I love staying in my comfort zone so therefore I will shirk as much responsibility as I can. I will not take the lead on anything I am offered. ” The issue of excuse making can be resolved with a shift in attitude. At all times we must have an “ I CAN DO” attitude and trust that Allah will align everything in our favor.  At work today, I was just given a new opportunity. The opportunity would give me more responsibility and more exposure to showcase my talents. I did not receive any more compensation in pay. However there is bonus potential at the end of the year. I could have easily stayed in my comfort zone and shirked any additional responsibility. What the Vice President told me was that she really likes my attitude. According to her, I really have a “take charge, can do” mindset. Masha Allah I agree with her. This attitude has allowed me to accomplish much in a short period of time. This attitude helps me to get much more work done and in a faster time period.  Try carrying your “can do” attitude with you everywhere. Pounce on top of those projects with “attitude” and don’t even think about trying to make excuses.  When you get into the habit of taking on more projects with the right attitude, you are able to program your mind to knock out excuses when they start to rear their ugly heads.  Think about this; when you say the word I CAN, there is different energy or feeling that you feel in your body than when you say I CANT. The word CAN’T actually produces negative emotions and can actually depress your immune system. I remember reading that The Messenger of Allah (SAW) never said NO, in other words he always said YES. If you need to decline a project or doing someone a favor, you need to reword it. Here is an example; “ I cant do it at this time because of such and such, however if you give me a day or so to follow up with you I might have a resolution.” The resolution may be pointing that person in the direction of someone who may be able to help or giving the individual the resources they need to get what they want insha Allah.

 

Benefits of the “can do” attitude….

  • Less stress when undertaking projects
  • Get projects from zero to done in less time
  • Accolades and compliments from family, friends, and co-workers
  • Increased self-confidence
  • More Assertiveness
  • More enjoyment while doing tasks
  • Sense of accomplishment

Some Benefits of Exercise

“And when you are finished with one task, still labor hard.”  Holy Quran  

“Today I will do what others won’t, so tomorrow I can accomplish what others can’t.”  Jerry Rice

This is another post about Exercise. I have written before about the benefits of working out 7 days per week. I really try to get in my daily work out even with a hectic schedule. By all means I work out 6 days per week, but shoot for seven. Most people use the same excuse of not having enough time to exercise. I say right on, there isn’t enough time that’s why you must make the time! You think you are busy, let me give you my schedule. First of all I am a husband and father of two. I work full time as a Senior Accountant. I also have an accounting business. I am also a graduate student working on my MBA. I am also an Associate Imam at my mosque where I give regular khutbahs and classes. I can go on, but I think you get the point. What gives me the energy to do all of this? Alhamdulillah, I thank him for the energy and vigor. I feel great about life. I am happy, healthy, and grateful for everything Allah (SWT) has blessed me with. When you start exercising at least 6 days per week, you will find that you have more energy to accomplish more in other areas of your life. I remember when I wasn’t exercising but only a couple of days per week and eating a poor diet. My life was FULL of drama. My relationship with my family was mediocre; I was tired all the time and struggling with school and work. Each day I woke up and went to work, I was ready for the day to be over with. Every Friday I would be saying along with the others; Thank God It’s Friday (TGIF). Now I say; Thank God I’m Focused! When I began to work out more and eat better, everything in my life began to come together easily. The more consistent I was with my workouts; more opportunities came my way, my relationships got better, and my confidence increased. I became more assertive and the drama faded away. It took me a while to put 2 and 2 together. Try exercising daily, eating WHOLE foods, cut out the caffeine and watch and see. You too will become more assertive, walk with Halal Swagger, gain more confidence and most importantly become more productive. You will find that you don’t need to sleep 8 or more hours every day. You will no longer wake up feeling sluggish and running for the coffee pot or tea bag. If you don’t have time to make it to a gym or cant afford it; there are some great dvds for purchase. Also there are callisthenic exercises one can do in the comfort of their home. You can also go for a run three to four times per week. The main thing is that you must sweat and get your heart rate up daily. Life can be incredible! You too can go through life with energy and vigor every day. You don’t have to have “on and off” days. Start exercising daily and everyday will be a great day. Even the days you have challenges (notice how I didn’t say problems), your exercise and proper diet will give you the strength of mind and confidence to tackle them and find solutions. Allah wants the believers to have the energy and enthusiasm to enjoy life, every day of their life. “And seek with what Allah has given you the hereafter; but don’t neglect your share of this world.” Holy Qur’an.

Email: How to Keep Yourself from Drowning in It

 

 An inbox that is overflowing with to do items is stressful and chaotic. When was the last time you cleaned your inbox? Do you have 4,276 emails in your inbox? How much of it is junk? Personally, when I have an overflowing email inbox, I feel scattered and disorganized. All of the newsletters, facebook friend requests, and work related items etc could take a psychological toll on you. A clean, organized inbox will help you get more productivity out of your day. Here is how you can get your head above water and begin breathing again.

  1. Create an actions folder or label: This folder is where you store the emails that you need to take action on. Anything other than just replying or filing should go in this inbox. Just think of your inbox as your physical desk at work.
  2. Pick and File the Urgent: Go through your inbox and move the 10 or 20 urgent items and file them in your new action items folder.
  3. Now create an Archive folder or label: Everything else outside of urgent and action items need to be checked and moved to the Archive folder. By moving everything else to this archive folder you now have some breathing room. We will get to these later.

 

New Emails

 

You need to set some rules for new emails. Your new email policy should be, not to allow emails to pile up in your inbox.

1.      Process your emails starting from the top: When you open your email, start from the top. Make a decision quickly and move on one of the following action items; 1. DELETE- you need to learn how to use the DELETE button liberally. 2. ARCHIVE- if you think you may want to look at this later just check and move to your archive folder. 3. REPLY- work on making your replies as short and sweet as possible. This may be more challenging in a work setting but you can give it a shot. 4. Move emails that you must take action on to your action items folder. After you have finished go to the action items folder and write those items down on your to-do list.  

a.      Try not to spend longer than 30 seconds on an email before deciding what to do with it. If you learn to process your emails quickly, you will be done with your inbox in no time.

b.      After you have processed your inbox, then start transferring the to-do items onto your to-do list. It is important that you don’t start on the to-do items while you are processing your inbox. You could end up stuck on an item for 30 minutes and forget to finish processing your email.

c.       If you plan to read newsletters, service catalogs and so on, just create and transfer these into a temp folder. I suggest you just delete them and be done with it. You are never going to read them all anyway.

Stay Committed

 

Now that your inbox is more manageable, here are a few steps you need to take in order to prevent things from getting out of hand again.

1.      Stop checking email so much: Try setting a minimum of four times per day to check, process, and manage your email.

2.      Send shorter emails: Stop over explaining yourself and develop the skill of sending the shortest emails possible. Again this may be challenging for a work environment but you should still try. It may even be better to just pick up the phone and call rather than sending an email.

3.      Stop sending so many emails: The more emails you send the more you will get. Call people or walk over to the next cubicle and address the issue in person.

4.      Unsubscribe: Unsubscribe from useless newsletters, advertisements, blogs etc. If this blog you are reading now is flooding your inbox, then unsubscribe it too!

5.      Mass Delete emails: This is my favorite.

6.      Use 10 minute mail: Perhaps you want to review something online that requires you enter an email address. Go to 10minutemail.com and get a temporary email address that will expire in 10 minutes. Another solution is to sign up for a premium email service. I have a service with Yahoo that I pay 20.00 per year for. I can add up to 20 fake email addresses and call them anything I want.

I am sure you have some additional email tricks, please feel free to share in the comments section.

Salams,

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Productivity Cont’d

O you who believe, reverence Allah and let everyone look to what he has sent forth for tomorrow. Again, reverence Allah and verily Allah is aware of all that you do.

 

Nowadays when I read this verse I think about the Hawthorne Effect. The Muslims over at Productivemuslim.com wrote an excellent piece on this subject. The Hawthorne effect is a form of reactivity whereby subjects improve or modify an aspect of their behavior being experimentally measured simply in response to the fact that they are being studied, not in response to any particular experimental manipulation. The term gets its name from a factory called the Hawthorne Works, where a series of experiments on factory workers were carried out between 1924 and 1932. There were several different types of studies done on these workers. In one of the studies, experimenters chose two women as test subjects and asked them to choose four other workers to join the test group. Together the women worked in a separate room over the course of five years (1927-1932) assembling telephone relays. What they found in the study was that ultimately the subjects became more productive because they knew they were being watched. If one observes the workplace today, employees are more productive when the boss is watching.

What if we imagined ourselves seeing Allah in all of our actions? What if Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was sitting right beside us? What if he rode in the car with us to work, ate at the dinner table with us at home or went to class with us at the university? If this was the reality we would all be extremely productive people. The Quran states; “Again, reverence Allah and verily Allah is aware of all that you do.”  Allah is the All-Seeing and the All-Knowing. Let us stop making a million exuses for not being productive. There are so many stories about extrememly productive people, both Muslim and Non-muslim that we could draw inspiration from. I maintain that unproductive people do not live life with clarity and purpose. There are some people that deserve a pass (such as people with medical conditions that inhibit productivity). But for the most part lazy and idle people have no clarity or purpose. They do not have a since of urgency about their life.

Our Prophet (SAW) spent 8 months in the cave of Hira trying to discover his purpose and gain clarity. Many people today will not even spend one hour in khalwa! Living life without clarity and purpose is like getting in a car and driving with no destination. If someone got in their car and just started driving for hours on end, we would call this person crazy right? Then dear Muslims, why do we journey through life with no destinations/goals?

I admire super productive people, especially Muslims. I know you have seen Muslims who have went to the top of their careers AND to the top of their deen. These are the best Muslims. Those who are extremely successful in deen and dunya. I know Shaykhs who are also CEOs. I know sisters who are college professors and can still hold it down on the home front. May Allah make us like or better than these people. May he protect our deen and our affairs in this life.