I would like to introduce you today to 3 powerful elements of productivity. These are the cornerstone of productivity without which one cannot be productive, and here they are:
I call this the Productivity Triangle, and if all 3 elements meet in a person, he/she becomes truly productive. But if one element is missing that’s when un-productivity kicks in.
So how do these 3 elements work?
Say, “O my Lord! advance me in knowledge ( Surah Taha, Chapter #20, Verse #114)
It all starts with knowledge. Understanding what you need to do, and how to do it. One of the top reasons for people to procrastinate on a project or task is that they do not know how to do it. And they are worried to approach this learning curve out of fear that they may never understand how to do it.
Here’s some good news though: Knowledge can be attained in a number of ways, and I’ve yet to meet someone who has put their mind onto something and failed to gain knowledge in that area. But the key factor here is action, you need to put effort in to gaining knowledge.
Here are top tips to gaining knowledge:
1. Research online/offline: Al-hamdulillah, the information world is in our finger tips these days and this is a blessing of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) upon us all. I’ve found myself if I lack knowledge in a field, I would firstly go to the Library and pick as many books on the topic as I can, I’ll read some of them and scan through others, then I’ll research online or listen to further audiobooks/podcast on the topic and within a few weeks/months, that knowledge gap would be filled with the permission of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala).
2. Ask an expert/someone who has done it before: If there’s something new you need to learn, then know that there’s a teacher out there who’s ready to share his/her knowledge with you. And trust me, no matter how “important” this person is, you’d be surprised how they would love to pass their knowledge to you. Approaching them through associates or friends can be a good start, or a direct e-mail and cold calling can sometimes work. The most important thing is to be persistent until you get what you need from them.
3. Make dua: Knowledge is a blessing of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) upon you, and it’s enlightening. So if you’re stuck or find yourself not knowing much about a subject and really need to learn about it, ask Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) for help and try some of the above methods to gain what you desire. A word of caution here: Make sure you seek beneficial knowledge, that is knowledge that will be beneficial to you either in this world, or hereafter, or both preferrably!
The value of knowledge without action is zilch! In fact, this brings about the wrath of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) – may Allah protect us. Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) described those who had the knowledge but did little action as “those who incurred His anger” in the opening chapter of the Quran. So let’s not be one of them.
But here’s an important point: in one hand we need to remember that we must take action upon the knowledge that we learnt in order to be productive, but we have to understand here that Action/Ability or Skill comes from Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) first and foremost, since without his permission you can’t do anything. That’s why again in the opening chapter we say: “You alone we worship and You alone we seek help from”. So we want to worship Him, but we can’t worship Him without His permission, and this is true servitude to Allah.
When you realise that everything you do, you’re doing it with the permission of Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala), you’ll be humble in your approach, will seek perfection in all your actions, and you’ll be sincere in what you do.
Also, action starts with you taking the first step. Again, those of us who procrastinate, here’s a killer-productivity technique: Start working on a project/task for just 10 minutes and watch yourself drift to 30-45 minutes. Give yourself a 5 minute break and then start again for ‘just’ 10 minutes. I always say that our ‘nafs’ and self is like a baby, and we have to treat it that way; a bit of encouragement, a bit of scolding, a bit of prize and it’ll get a long just fine.
So, you’ve gained the knowledge, you’ve taken action and after a few days, you flop. You can’t be bothered and you’re not productive anymore. 90% of the productivity complaints is regarding consistency. People normally have no issue new gaining knowledge or taking action, but being consistent that’s when they find it hard.
I’ll admit, this is the hardest stage and there’s no easy answer, but here are some helpful advice:
1. Start small and grow slow – It’s tempting when you’re super excited about a project to jump into it with BIG action and BIG tasks only to find yourself overwhelemed a few days after. Why not start small, build small, and grow slowly over the years? Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) said that the most beloved actions to Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) are those that are consistent even if they are small.
2. Break it down – Some of the reasons why it’s hard to become consistent in your action is because the action is HUGE or takes a number of tasks to achieve. Try breaking it down and see if there’s better ways of doing it: can you eliminate some steps? can you delegate some parts?. As the Chinese proverb goes: A journey of 1000 miles starts with one step. My only addition to this is: KEEP WALKING!
3. Check your Intentions – Sometimes when you fail to be consistent on a project, it might be a sign that perhaps your intentions are not pure and sincere. For example, if you’ve tried many times to memorize the Quran and failed, check your hearth, check your intention, who are you doing it for. Normally, when our intentions are pure and when our goals are bigger than ourselves, it’s easier to be consistent inshaAllah.
4. Ask Allah (Subhanahu Wa Ta’ala) for help – I swear upon the One who created me and you, you cannot be consistent in any task, project, endeavour you’re in except by His permission. So ask Allah for help in all your matters and ask Him to that He makes you consistent. Most importantly, ask Him to be consistent in your Deen and religion, so that you’re constantly worshipping Him to the best of your ability and improving yourself and those around you.