Recommended Reading: The Must-Read 5

Every young Muslim should be actively in pursuit of self-education, daily. And non-fiction books are the way to do it.

Here’s a must-read list (in no significant order):

  • The Beginning of Guidance by Imam Ghazali

Every Muslim, young and old should read and own this book. From what to do when you wake up to why one should avoid satiation, this book is a very comprehensive read. Imam Ghazali speaks about gaining guidance through obedience and avoiding disobedience.

  • The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey

Are you ready for a paradigm shift? I almost guarantee you will (hit puberty twice) become a doubly mature adult by the end of this book. Very potent stuff on becoming a complete and pro-active individual.

  • The Magic of Thinking Big by David Schwartz

Think your way to success. It’s all in your mind, it really is. If it’s conceivable and believable, it’s achievable. Cure ‘excuse-itis’ once and for all.

  • The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss

Hands down the best book on time management and effective productivity. A no BS book which will liberate your mind from the shackles of society’s definition of material success. Also one of the best books for the budding entrepreneur.

  • The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg

Awesome book on how you don’t need college or university to become a millionaire, heck even a billionaire. Ellsberg shares essential street-smart and real world life skills in order to financially thrive in the modern day. Sales, marketing, networking, it’s all there, plus loads of interviews with examples of dropouts who made it big. A must read.

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The Effective Student BLUEPRINT

This following post is a presentation I gave not so long ago to Year 11s and 12s at the school I graduated from. I thought I’d share the transcript with you. I’ve changed it up a bit so it’s more blog-friendly. Enjoy!

Synopsis: A blueprint on being the ultimate effective student. A culminated manifesto cultivated from books, personal experiments and 5 months of my own experience. You know that triangle which consists of good grades, social life and sleep? They say you can only have two, well, I say you can have all three. Like a Bawss.

Note: I followed this plan until about the end of first semester of my tertiary studies. I then decided to go all out and maximize my GPA, which meant going beyond this plan. This blueprint works for those who’ve already settled into a degree they’ve decided to make a career out of. I do not condone laziness.

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The Effective Student.

Being the effective student: how you can maximize output and results with minimal time and effort.

What I believe makes an effective student are three things: Mindset, Management and Energy.

1. MINDSET

You need to first re-think your thinking, correct your attitude. Define what you want. What kind of degree do you want? What profession do you want to have? What kind of career are you interested in. Find out what it is that drives you and stirs passion. Have laser focus on what you want. Vividly imagine yourself being what you aspire to be.

Once you know what you want, get down to the technical side of it. What ATAR do I need? Then you break it down further, what results do I need to get that ATAR?

Once you do this, I believe you’re half way there to being an effective student and achieving your goals.

So, before I get into the second part, I want to clear some misconceptions about studying:

  • Time not spent studying is NOT time wasted. Get that out of you head. Doing less is NOT laziness.
  • Consistent mental peak performance is IMPOSSIBLE. Don’t expect yourself to be always studying, focusing in class, getting stuff done. Energy and productivity are cyclical. You need to alternate periods of rest and productivity. We’ll talk more about this in the third section.
  • Getting an 80+ ATAR is DEAD EASY. I know your teachers may scare you about that, but honestly, it’s really easy.
  • Free time is AS important as study. You need rest and recover to study better.

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2. MANAGEMENT

Once you have your mindset, your thinking sorted, it’s time to design an infrastructure. A management plan that you will follow. That becomes your blueprint. A plan that brings you step by step closer to your goals.

The epitome of management is being effective. Being effective as opposed to being efficient.

Effectiveness is doing the right things which get you closer to your goals, that grade that you want for your next exam, or assignment. Efficiency is performing a task – even if it’s the most pointless task, in the most economical way possible. What you do, not how you do it that is often the determining factor. This is the difference between being effective – doing the right things, and being efficient – doing things well, whether or not they’re important.

Here’s one example. Doing all the questions in one chapter of your math textbook in one period is very efficient. But it’s not effective. Being effective is doing 5 questions in 10 minutes, then moving on the next chapter and repeating the process. (Notice how outcome is the objective here and not output. Outcome is scoring a high mark in that test. Output is getting through as much questions as possible, regardless of its contribution towards scoring high mark for that test).

Before I get into how you can be effective I want to share two points you should absolutley engrave into your mind:

  1. Doing something unimportant well does not make it important
  2. Requiring a lot of time does not make a task important

How can we be effective? There are 5 techniques:

  1. 80/20 Rule
  2. Parkinson’s Law
  3. Elimination
  4. Batching

80/20 RULE

What is the 80/20 rule? The concept is simple: 80% of effects come from 20% of the causes. 80% of our results come from 20% of our efforts. 80% output comes from 20% input. What happens to the other 20% of results? They require the other 80% of your effort.

80-20 rule

Identify what the critical few tasks are and disregard the rest. When you’re studying for an exam, you find out what books are most resourceful and most effective. Find out what topics come up most often in the exam. What type of questions are weighted highest. Focus on those and learn them well so that you absolutely KNOW for sure you will ace those parts.

[Here’s an old post where I explored the 80/20 Rule in more detail > https://ideasfortheyoungmuslim.wordpress.com/2014/03/29/how-i-learnt-effectiveness-from-juicing-lemons/%5D

Capture

2013 ATAR Scores (WA): An average of about 62 of your top 4 scaled subjects get you an 80 ATAR, enough to get into ANY course at ANY university you want, except for medicine and dentistry. (Perth,WA)

 

PARKINSON’S LAW:

Parkinson’s Law is this: the perceived complexity of a task will expand to fill the time allotted to it. What does that mean? Work expands to fill time. If I gave you 24 hours to complete a project, the time pressure will force you to focus on the essentials and forget the details. You’ll do the bare essentials, since you have no time for the details. If I gave you a week, it becomes harder and bigger in your mind to complete. The end product of the shorter deadline is almost always of equal or higher quality due to greater focus. Time is inversely proportional to focus. The more time you have, the less your focus is. The less time you have, the more focused you’ll become.

Use time to your advantage. Use Parkinson’s Law every time you study or do an assignment. The best way to use Parkinson’s Law is alongside the 80/20 Rule together:

  1. Limit what you do to the most essential and important, forget the rest (80/20 Rule)
  2. Shorten work time to limit tasks to the important (Parkinson’s Law)

If you use these 2 strategies together alone, the time you spend studying will actually drop by about 50% while your effective output and results will increase.

Identify the few critical tasks that contribute most to output and schedule them with very short and clear deadlines.

ELIMINATION

We waste time on things we don’t need to do. Bullcrap stuff to eat up time. To make us feel busy and efficient. Busyness. Shuffle some papers, organize your bag.

[I remember in school, people use to say ‘Oh man last night I studied 5 hours straight’. No you didn’t. Watching YouTube, checking Facebook, shuffling papers around and making sandwiches while throwing in a few 15-minute ‘study’ bursts here and there until you go to sleep doesn’t count as ‘5 hours straight’ of study. Claims like these are almost always exaggerated by at least 85%]

So what you do is you make a not-to-list. When you get home, write down a list of things you won’t do in the time that you study. For example you say in this 3 hour period: do not check facebook, do not leave room, do not internet surf. You can even use 80/20 rule here again by asking yourself what 20% of my activities is wasting 80% of my time. Once you eliminate the timewasters and distractions, it becomes very clear what you have to do.

BATCHING

With batching, you allow things to accumulate and you catch up rather than staying up-to-date. To get the big important things done, you postpone the little time wasters and distractions. For example, instead of checking Facebook every time you get a notification, you let them accumulate.

Once you batch things like email and Facebook, you’ll want to space them out even further. Maybe once a day, or once a week.

What batching does it’ll concentrate your tasks and group them, so that you have longer segments or blocks of time in which you carry out 1 thing. You’ll stay longer in the zone so you have greater focus to get study done in a shorter period of time.

Capture2

Light grey sections are productive output periods. Batching results in longer bursts of undisrupted productive output.

There’s 2 things you’ll realise from batching:

  • Most things you think are urgent and important aren’t urgent and important
  • You’ll have peace of mind so you can get the important things done.

Those were the 4 time management techniques.

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3. ENERGY.

I feel that physical energy is closely linked to motivation, mental stamina and endurance. If you’re feeling tired all the time, sluggish, groggy, you feel hungry, that’s going to cut down on your motivation. If you have good physical energy levels, having the mental perseverance to study and to stay motivated becomes very easy.

What you need are 4 things:

  1. Sleep
  2. Breakfast
  3. Exercise
  4. Rest Day

Sleep is by far the greatest energy source for your day. If you don’t have enough sleep, all your senses are maimed. You can’t think straight, you can’t focus, you don’t have the energy to move as much. So you pay less attention in class and when you get home you feel groggy and tired and you don’t study.

How can you maximize energy with sleep? Two things:

  • Sleep exactly 8 hours per day, not more, not less.
  • The Sweet spot: Go to sleep 10.00 pm, and wake up around 6 am. Pray Fajr and don’t go to sleep after that. [Fajr is at around 5.30 am now]

If you study effectively, you shouldn’t be staying up later than 10.30 pm max. If you’re studying 1 am at night, it shows you don’t have proper management.

Next is BREAKFAST.

You’ve probably heard this a lot… because it’s true. From personal experience when I’ve skipped breakfast, I’ve had headaches in the afternoon. Breakfast is more important than lunch or dinner. Food = energy. No food = no energy. It’s simple. No energy means you can’t focus in the morning and so your attention span drops.

Third is EXERCISE.

If you want to become smarter, literally, the secret is to exercise. What can exercise can do:

  • Improves brain function, makes you smarter, faster, sharper
  • Relieves stress and releases endorphins, making you happy
  • Gives you more energy, eliminates lethargy

With exercise I mean a structured plan that you follow weekly.

The easiest and best exercise I’ve found is running. Just do a 10 minute run around the block. Do this 4-5 times a week and you’ll notice a euphoria feeling straight after. It clears your thoughts and puts things in perspective.

The Last technique is REST DAY.

Consistent mental peak performance is impossible. Energy and productivity are cyclical. They go up and down.

Take one day off where you completely forget that you’re a student. Don’t do any school related things. Do anything other than study. Play some games, help around the house. Hang with you friends. This gives your mind a break so that when you get down to work the next day, you feel rejuvenated. If you think one day is too long, do half a day.

For example, take the whole Saturday off. Or take Friday after school off. But make sure that it’s a planned ahead. Tell your family and yourself that you are taking a day off, so you don’t feel guilty if you don’t study. Tell yourself: I’m not doing anything today.

What rest day does is 2 things:

  • Helps you rest and recover
  • Gives you something to look forward to during the week

However there’s one condition. Rest day only works if you work your butt off during the week. Focus hard during the week, be switched on. Then completely switch off during this day.

[This is what happened when I tried to go all out for 1 week: https://ideasfortheyoungmuslim.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/rise-week-the-1-week-mental-peak-performance-challenge/%5D

If you do these things consistently, you’ll be consistently performing. And you hopefully won’t crash and burn.

Those were my tips, I hope you learnt something and good luck with the rest of your studies.

blueprint summary

Summary


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Phew! That was a long read. If you’ve made it this far, I thank you.

Posted in Lifestyle Design, The Productive Muslim, Time Management | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Interrupting Interruptions: How to Deal with Notifications, Messages and Email

Back in May, I promised I’d dedicate a post on how to ‘train’ others to respect your time. This is it.

You’re working on some high brain requiring task. You’re in the zone, or at least you think you are. Tinnnnggg! An SMS pops up on your iPhone sitting in your peripheral view. Your heart skips a beat as you feel special for a split second. ‘Hey, r u coming 2moro? Uve got to see this epic funny video I saw bro,’ reads the message. ‘Yea man, lol send me the link aha,’ you reply. You put the phone down and secretly crave for the follow up message. You look back toward what you were working on before. Oh no, brain fart. Let me see if Ali emailed me about that workshop this weekend.

Before you know it, you’ve detoured down Procrastination Street, losing out on two of your precious commodities: time and attention.

The power of immediate attention is often underestimated, even overlooked. Having time and attention for an hour, a day, a week, more than doubles your focus and effectiveness at getting important and urgent things done. I’ve said this before. Then how you do you maintain attention? How do you interrupt interruptions before they reach you? How can you train others to respect your time?

It’s all possible. Making others work around your schedule and on your terms is not hard. All you need is an infrastructure and some discipline.

Divide your attention-giving down to 4 categories:

  1. Not important, not urgent
  2. Moderately important, but it can wait
  3. Really important right now, it definitely cannot wait
  4. Emergency! May Day! May Day! Someone is dying!!!

Then assign a medium of contact to each category. Mediums include email, whatsapp/viber, SMS and phone call. Essentially its phone for emergencies and email for everything else. Here’s my assignments:

Category 1: Email – Once a week scheduled checkups for 1 hour max, preferably Saturday afternoons (never check email first thing in the morning or last thing before bed!)

Category 2: Viber/WhatsApp – Daily for 10 minutes max during afternoons, preferably between 4 pm and 6 pm (this is the sweet spot between afternoon and night study sessions). This means you should turn off all notifications for these apps so you can check them manually – this will require considerable self-discipline.

Category 3: Phone SMS – All the time. Your phone for SMS is now the Holy Grail. It’s precious and reserved only for emergencies. No longer shall you devalue the SMS by wasting its power on sending your friends links to nyan cat. Thou shall not waste its power! When you receive an SMS from colleague/project partner/club committee member/etc it means it’s an emergency, so treat it as such. Get to it as quick as possible. If you don’t, others will lose trust in your infrastructure.

Category 4: Phone Call – All the time. When. All. Else. Fails. The ultimate emergency issue has arisen, and you are yet to be notified. White House Down, people are dying. That’s how you should treat a phone call.

*Facebook deserves a mention here on its own. It’s used as a contact medium (Facebook messaging) and also social tool. I recommend treating it like email, once a week. For those who can’t, check daily for 15 minutes max the same time as Viber/WhatsApp. As long as you schedule a time and time limit.

For the infrastructure to work however you MUST:

  • Disable ALL notifications for Facebook, Viber, WhatsApp, email and any other social app on your phone. They are to be checked manually at scheduled times. It’s been too long you’ve been accustomed to obeying that alert tone.

Once you have this infrastructure, and you plan on committing to it, it’s time to train others to work around this schedule. When someone emails you, reply and give them options of contact. Let them know that if it’s extremely urgent, please SMS, if it can wait till the coming Saturday, email. Tell them that you check email once a week. Here’s a sample response:

“ (After resolving an issue or responding to an enquiry)

I check email once a week. If urgent please contact me via SMS on 04XXXXXXXX, or give me call if extremely urgent. If it can wait, I prefer email. I hope you understand as it helps me be more effective to serve you better.

Regards,

XYZ ”

Do this to everyone who contacts you, and soon they’ll learn to respect your time and attention. Your immediate attention will be something precious you don’t give out so easily. Your self-esteem as well as your productivity will boost, as you stop feeling used all the time.

It’s important to note here how you respond to messages and emails. Multiple back and forth communication can be counter-intuitive to the whole setup. Here’s 2 solutions to the back and forth hypnosis:

  1. Provide solutions. For example when organizing a meet, don’t say ‘I don’t know, where do you think is good?’ Instead, reply like this ‘I suggest Hacket Café, what do you think?’
  2. Provide ‘if not’ scenarios. For example, you’re trying to purchase a second hand textbook from an online seller and you’re trying to bargain, instead of saying ‘Is the price negotiable?’ and waiting for a response, say ‘Is the price negotiable? If so, is $80 reasonable^? If not, what’s your lowest offer?’ You get the point.

Use these two tips together to literally cut down back and forth communication by 5-10 messages. The person at the other end will also appreciate your effectiveness and treat you seriously. Cut to the chase, dodge the wiffle waffle and remember to KISS – Keep It Simple Stupid.

^I like to use the word ‘reasonable’ as people don’t like saying things aren’t reasonable. It makes them feel like an asshole if they say something isn’t reasonable (when they know it is).

Here’s an example of how I used these two tips together to produce a potent message (and ultimately a good deal):

I saw an ad online for a textbook I wanted to purchase.

‘Hi, I’m interested in your book. Is $100 reasonable? If so, are you ok to meet at Sci library entrance at 1pm tomorrow? If not, when and where do you suggest.’

The reply was literally along the lines of:

‘Yea sure, sounds good’.

All it took was one message and one reply. It may have taken slightly longer to craft that first message, but hey, it worked. People subconsciously desire direction. People are lazy, they don’t want to think of solutions. They like to respond with yes’s and no’s and okay’s and be herded around like sheep. They like to follow and not lead – this idea deserves another post on its own.

That’s about all I have to say about training others to respect your time and being effective in non face-to-face contact. Design the infrastructure, using the blueprint I’ve provided while using the back and forth solutions simultaneously and believe you me, you will be blown away by how uber effective you’ll become in the art of communication. Not to forget the peace of mind that comes attached.

Vamos!

Ali’s email can wait for now. 😉

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Expectations, Failures and the Pursuit of Perfection

*This post takes a detour from the type of content I usually post. I know it gets into general life philosophy but I thought I’d share it anyways.

‘Only the mediocre are always at their best’ – Jean Giraudoux

Expectations can destroy a person. Figuratively.

How many times have you set out and committed to achieving something worthwile? And how many times have you failed? When did you actually reach your expectations, let alone exceed them? I know, the answer is rarely, because it’s happened to me aswell. Many times. We crave perfection, but fall short every time. Why?

The pursuit of perfection never ends. One is never left with what they desire. I’m talking in terms of personal attributes, achievements and the like. If you decide to take the road of self-actualization, be prepared for a bumpy ride. And I mean really prepared, like 6-spare-wheels prepared.

Why do I say this? Because along with pursuit of goals comes expectations. Expectations of success and brilliance. Amazing results each and every time we put our foot in the right direction. Imagine it did work out the way you wanted. Score an amazing ATAR, get into the university degree of your dreams, hit it big with the corporate world and strike millions. Imagine this happened for a second, you’d probably question it. So much success without a hitch?

I’d begin to count my days if I were that person. Something bad is bound to happen.

If this were the case than what happened to the concept of dunya and aakhira? Joy and happiness is relative. A 5 minute break for the brain surgeon is gold while a 1 month holiday for the unemployed is torture. Without pain and suffering, joy is seldom experienced.

Back to the pursuit of perfection.

When committing to goals, allow some room for error. In the words of Rocky Balboa, ‘ It’s not about how hard you hit, but how hard you get hit, and keep moving forward, how much you can take, and keep moving forward. ’

Be prepared to fall and stumble and slip and trip. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. It’s not about constantly winning. It’s about how you can get back up, learn from your mistakes and keep persisting. Repeated failures show you exactly what you should and shouldn’t do to finally hit success.

‘Ever tried. Ever failed. Never matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better’ – Samuel Beckett

Be ready to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and move forward. Otherwise, those failed expectations will hold you back. As long as you’re moving forward, you’re doing something positive. Some times that rate will go exponential and at other times, it may dwindle. But never allow it to stagnate, or even worse, reverse into the opposite direction.

Have a positive attitude and a burning desire to progress. Know that as long as you find yourself in a state of increasing eeman, character, qualities and traits, you’re on the right track, and you’re winning.

‘And why do we fall, Bruce? So we can learn to pick ourselves up’ – Thomas Wayne

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The Education of Millionaires & How your formal education doesn’t provide you the tools you need for financial security and fulfillment

‘Two more days. Then the weekend. Then repeat the process,’ said a beaten down, slumped family friend as he sat next to me on the bus. It was 7.30 pm and he’d finished work late that Wednesday, not an ounce of happiness shun through him. Let’s call him Adam. Adam is a mining engineer with a typical city office job, working for Rio Tinto on a lifetime contract until he becomes ‘redundant’, for lack of a better option. So this is what you’re left with after you finally graduate university. His situation didn’t look enticing, nor appealing.

Higher education in the new age is more and more becoming exposed of its flaws. It just doesn’t have the biceps it used to have in order to live a comfortable and financially secure life. It certainly doesn’t offer the real life skills to really thrive in the modern world. If you haven’t been exposed to this sort of idea before, you need to get out from behind that rock.

I’m currently reading The Education of Millionaires: Everything You Won’t Learn in College about How to Be Successful by Michael Ellsberg and was originally a bit skeptical on his ideas about how chasing your passions in life doesn’t involve slugging through university ultimately landing a 9-5 corporate job. He’s an advocator of the self-made, self-educated, university-credential free entrepreneur. Made me think, then how does running a business mean chasing your passions? I mean, big money is a pretty good incentive, but to a certain extent.

Until I came across his take on formal education. It was so good it sparked the inception of this post. I just had to share it. Here it is:

Enter Michael (excerpt from page 86)


[On formal education] As I’ve been arguing, and I’ll continue to argue throughout this book: unless you want to go into a profession for which formal credentials are strictly required – such as medicine, law, academia, and so forth, or in which they are strongly preferred, such a rising up through the ranks of a corporate or government bureaucracy along with the rest of the herd – then in my opinion, formal schooling past the basics is an extremely weak form of investment in your own human capital.

What kind of human capital do you truly develop in today’s formal higher education? The ability to write mediocre, turgid academic papers. The ability to cram all night for tests on things you will forget the next week and never use again in your life. The ability to study Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and party Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights. The ability to navigate a social landscape full of binge drinking and Adderall popping. The ability to follow orders and do as you’re told. The ability to manage long-term loan payments on $20,000 to $100,000 of debt [HECS doesn’t exist in the US].

These, and a starter business wardrobe, will buy you a mediocre entry-level job and a lot of job insecurity. You get these meager returns on your investment in formal education for the simple reason that – when all is said and done, when all the lofty rhetoric from teachers and pundits and politicians about the value of higher education evaporates under the harsh sun of a recession – these skills don’t add much of value to anything or anyone in the marketplace. So, only modest rewards flow to those who have invested their time and effort in developing them. That means shit entry level corporate job, shit entry level corporate pay – if you’re one of the lucky ones to even get a job.


Ellsberg has the literary triceps to describe a concept that’d take my primitive writing skills a few thousand words to explain – maybe that’s why he received a six figure advance from Penguin for his second book at 34. It gets what I’m trying to say to you more concisely so best to hear it from him.

Anyways, back to the topic. I’m sorry to say that’s what our formal education system has become. It provides only brain-smarts, but not the street-smarts that’s required to simultaneously live your passions and make big bucks to live comfortably and make a considerable impact on the world (as all young Muslims should aspire to do).

On a more positive note, all is not lost for Adam. It’s never too late to wake up and smell the air. It doesn’t hurt to have a university degree on the side right?

If this post tickled your fancy, then you’ll love The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg. I haven’t even finished reading it as I write this and I’m already recommending it: I recommend it.

 

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RISE WEEK: The 1 Week Mental Peak Performance Challenge

How would you like to feel using your maximum mental potential? Using 100% of your mental effort, brain power and energy to direct laser focus to get those to-dos done like a bawss and be back on top of things. ‘Consistent epic-ness’. Good thought right? I thought so too. That’s why I put it to the test.

I was trailing behind in my studies and it was getting quite annoying to say the least. I’d repeatedly (and obsessively) watched The Climb scene from The Dark Knight Rises for motivation and it stirred unbelievable feelings of rising above lethargy and laziness. Rise.

‘How can you move faster than possible, fight longer than possible without the most powerful impulse of the spirit: the fear of death,’

Or in my case, the fear of mediocrity, fear of failure. ‘Then rise and exploit your full potential. Unleash potential for greatness’ I told myself.

Inception of the one-week full potential exploitation challenge took place.

‘The Ultimate No Holds Barred, Kick Butt, and Take No Prisoners, Dark Knight Style Epic Week of Productivity Pushed to the Edge Mental Peak Performance Challenge’. Full control over mind, body and soul. Testosterone filled, high octane, mofo of a week.

Or  ‘RISE WEEK’ for short.

Beginning on Saturday morning and ending on Friday afternoon.

*The point of it being one week was that I could tell myself that it would end in one week, so keep pushing. It wasn’t a ‘I’m never going to procrastinate ever again’ sort of promise which gets broken the following hour. This was a limited-time-only thing. I could look forward to the light at the end of the tunnel.

There were some ground rules to be made. Here they are:

  • Effective productive study output every chance I get
  • No bullcrap do-stuff-to-feel-busy activities
  • No sleep after Fajr
  • No YouTube
  • No lounging around
  • No unnecessary computer usage
  • All prayers done ON TIME
  • 1 Juz Quran reading daily
  • Postponing all extracurricular to-dos/activities
  • Leave home 7.30 am, get home 8.30 pm (Uni Mon-Fri)
  • Full epic workouts
  • Full attention in lectures
  • Skipping this week’s schedule check of Fb and email

This was really pushing myself to the edge. Full control over compulsions and laziness. This was to see what my limit was, to see what’s possible, to find out what my final rep could be. I was to go for battle.

IMG_0325

What I put on my wall to keep me in the mindset

How did it all go? Well, read on.

The weekend (first 2 days of RISE WEEK) were unbelievable. I was blown away by what is achievable if only you dedicate your mind to it. I got A LOT done and was looking forward to the coming week.

Monday was awesome too, full focus in class and lectures. I didn’t shy at asking questions in labs and tutes, I was on a mission.

Tuesday I began to dwindle. But still, I hadn’t broken a lot of the rules yet, like no YouTube (which to me is the most important habit I want to break right now).

Then Wednesday came along. I crashed. I woke up late, missed a lecture, got to Uni late and lost my drive. It was too much, I had to let it go. To the point where I left campus and went to the river side in a fit of disappointment. 2 hours of solitude and deep thinking. I had to get away.

When I got home that night, my mind was begging me to stop, I went to sleep like a rock.

Thursday morning, woke up 11 am un-refreshed and with a migraine. Unbelievable. I’d never before had a headache just after waking. Ever. Two coffees and two Panadols later, it was officially over. RISE WEEK had ended before its end.

What did I learn from this experiment? Here they are:

  • Unleashing your full mental potential is possible for 3 days max. Maybe 4, but that’s pushing it.
  • Consistent break-free peak performance is impossible
  • Daily rest and repair is required to maintain a long term peak performance plan

However, I also learnt where my limit was, what I was capable of. Will I take on RISE WEEK again? Perhaps. But I’ve discovered a powerful weapon in my newly found arsenal. RISE FEW DAYS (which I now call it) is a mental state you can enter once in a while to exponentially boost productivity to get things done before you pull on the brakes and repair yourself before you crash (which I should’ve done on the Tuesday afternoon).

You can use it during study breaks, exam week or whenever you feel you need to get A LOT done in a short amount of time. And I mean A LOT.

I share my experiment not to brag, but to hopefully inspire you awesome readers to do the same. Give it a try. RISE WEEK. Or now probably RISE FEW DAYS or even RISE DAY. Make some ground rules, prepare a few days before and get yourself into the mental state. See what you’re capable of and push yourself to the edge.

Trust me, it’s a rewarding experience once you reach the other side. Your mind is a powerful weapon, learning how to control and use it to your advantage is an art that takes training and discipline.

Let fear of mediocrity drive you forward.

RISE.

Posted in Challenges and Experiments, Private Victory, The Productive Muslim | 1 Comment

How to Hack Taraweh Prayers

You’ve prayed 2 rakats Sunnah after the Esha Salah and you’re now waiting to rise for the taraweh salah. You rise up, wait for the Imam’s takbeer, and begin. Staying relaxed and focused, placing all attention to the recitation, you feel blessed to have been given the opportunity to pray salatul taraweeh, Al-Hamdullillah. Surah Fatiha passes, all good: no fidgeting, no daydreaming, pure focus on recitation. Full khoshooh and khudhoo. What was the score in the Brazil match again?

Argh, it was going so good! By the time you know it, you’re scratching your left ear and yearning for the next ruku.

There lies much blessing and reward in the night prayers. We should all make our intention such that we aim to attain full advantage of every minute we spend standing in taraweh. Letting such blessing go by to wandering thoughts and fidgets is missed opportunity. How do we maintain consistent focus throughout taraweh?

Here are some pointers to attain that khushoo and khudhoo consistently:

When standing, keep extremely still, consciously try to keep as still as humanly possible. This reduces minute energy usage through bodily movements such as fidgets. Try to imagine putting your body to sleep, while keeping your mind and ears wide awake. Listen and place attention towards the recitation of the Qur’an. If your mind deviates track, identify it and bring focus back to the Qur’an.

Keep posture upright and back straight, with feet placed as wide apart as your shoulders. Maintain breathing at a regular rate through your mouth. Disregards any itches and its associated cravings. I’ll explain later.

Going through the rest of salah, keep movements discreet and exact, with relaxed breathing.

Here’s the pivotal part: when the 2 rakat ends, place hands in front of your lap with palms clasped anteriorly wedged in between your thighs. Look at that same spot you were during salah. Do not, I repeat, do not look around. This is crucial to staying in the zone and in focus. Why is this necessary? Say you see your friend when you have a glance around. That person will be in your thoughts during the next few minutes, even during salah, which will destroy the peace of mind required to stay in the zone.

Stand up as soon as possible and look at that same spot you were during salah. Try to syncronise your takbeer with the Imam’s, there is great blessing in doing so. More often than not, we remain seated and become hesitant to rise, missing out on this opportunity.

Repeat the process mentioned five paragraphs go. Also, do not look at the time, or at your phone. One glance will spoil this entire process. Remember, the goal here is to minimize and eliminate unnecessary body movements, energy usage and distractions to maximize focus towards the Quran and salah to gain maximum reward. Reducing physical energy to maximize brain power, so it can be used solely for Quran concentration.

Do this process until around 8 rakats, and you will find yourself in the zone. Your thoughts of dunya will leave and you will enjoy salah. You will forget the aches and pains for standing for so long. By the time the 20 rakats have ended, you would not have noticed it.

However there is a catch.

This taraweh hack only works most effectively under two critical conditions:

  1. You have sufficient sleep
  2. You haven’t overeaten at iftar

Forget getting past 4 rakats if you haven’t had enough sleep during the day. Not only do you miss out on the full reward of taraweh, standing becomes torturous. If you find yourself lacking sleep every night, try to fit in a few hours after Dhuhr salah. Or an hour after Fajr, just make sure you have around 7 hours of sleep before the night falls.

Iftar time is definitely the highlight of the day for a fasting person. But too much of a good thing is not a good thing. As soon as you feel comfortable and satisfied, abstain from over indulgence. Retract the hands and sit on them! Remember, extra energy will be required to digest that food, making you feel drowsy and sluggish during prayer. Leave one third food, one third water, one third air.

Give these techniques a go the next time you go for Taraweh and inshAllah you will notice the difference!

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