For me, life started getting faster when I was in grade seven. Today, each year is like a quick turn of the page. Each month, almost like a blur. This is why planning is so important. Every second, every minute, is so important, we cannot afford to lose it.
Whether it's wasting hours in front of the television set consuming useless sitcoms and daytime soap operas, just "hanging out" with friends all too often, or putting off studying or a work project till the last minute, almost all of us are guilty of wasting our time.
Although January 1 will not be the Islamic new year, talk of resolutions, change, decisions, etc. should spur us to take action and to plan ahead. You don't have to plan for the "new year" per se. Maybe you can plan until the next Ramadan.
Whenever you decide to do this, here are seven reasons to, Insha Allah, convince you of the merits and importance of planning for the coming months:
1. To see where you are and where you want to go Islamically.
If our purpose in life is to live as Allah has asked us to live to achieve success in this world and in the hereafter, where do we stand at the moment? Are we living in a balanced manner as Allah would like us to, really, or is our wealth etc. also what we worship? Are we doing our acts of worship properly, regularly, sincerely?
How is our financial situation? When will we pay Zakah? How much Sadaqah did we give in the past year?
These are just some of the questions we should ask ourselves at the end of a given year. They help us realize where we stand, and help us identify not only our mistakes, but can also help us realize where we need to go.
If the purpose of our life as Muslims is to worship Allah, our worship of Allah in all aspects of life needs to be assessed and solutions for weaknesses developed. Planning in advance helps us do that.
2. To see where you are in terms of your family
You may have noticed that in the last year, you and your family have grown apart. Or your relationship with your spouse and kids is deteriorating.
Once you've identified this problem, planning in advance can help you develop some solutions. For instance, if you've grown apart, you can plan to attend the one-week Muslim family camp in another part of the country. Or you can plan a trip somewhere together in the summer. By planning in advance, you can get everyone in on it and even the buildup to the activity can be a source of family excitement.
If your relationship with the spouse and kids is not in good shape, maybe you can start calling a family meeting (maybe the first ever) to openly discuss the situation.
3. To identify your career/educational goals
Maybe you've always talked about making the career switch to a more Halal source of income. Or you've always talked about going back to school, and now that you've got the money to do so, you're ready, but you haven't planned for it.
Career or educational changes cannot be done in a slapdash manner. They require months of careful planning. These plans need to be discussed with the family, since they often impact family members (especially if the person making the career or educational switch is a parent).
Planning in January, when a new semester begins, for September, when the next school year begins, can help you assess what needs to be done beforehand to get into a new program, for instance.
Planning months in advance can help you seek the right Halal job, and give you enough time to inform your boss so the company can find a replacement, for example.
4. By planning in advance, you can plan for emergencies
Looking at the year ahead in advance and keeping your goals in mind can help you plan for emergencies. Maybe you've heard from the grapevine that your company is going in a loss, and you want to make a change before you lose your job, or maybe your father in Syria is very sick, and you have a feeling you will need to fly down there to see him for possibly the last time.
By planning in advance you can collect the necessary funds to keep the family going in case of job loss, or to fly to Syria instead of waiting until the last minute for something to happen.
5. To identify what you need to achieve your goals
Have you realized that your Islamic knowledge is very weak after assessing the last year and realizing how many things you did without knowing the Islamic perspective on the issue? Have you realized how many times you submitted work projects later than deadline because of your disorganization? Have you realized how many times the kids missed Islamic weekend school classes because they got up too late on Satureday morning?
By planning ahead, you can identify and develop some concrete solutions to implement.
For instance, for gaining Islamic knowledge, maybe you checked out an Islamic website and found a one-month Islamic educational program taking place in the country. By planning ahead, you can save enough money, get a good price on an airline ticket, make arrangements with the family, and attend the program without the hassles of last minute preparation.
If your work projects are always being sent in late, maybe you can look up some time management seminars to attend so you can identify and implement tips that can help you curb procrastination and disorganization.
If the kids are regularly missing weekend Islamic school, setting a proper Friday night sleep schedule and Saturday morning routine in advance can give you and the kids time to get used to it and have them attending their classes weekly.
6. You can plan mundane activities
Whether it's the car getting checked, the kids' doctor and dentist appointments or a big house clean up, planning in advance can help you sit down with the family or the concerned individual and discuss when is most convenient for these types of necessary checkups and activities.
Don't wait for the muffler to fall off the car, the kids to complain of toothaches, a major sickness, or a house that's falling apart to do what's needed. Plan in advance so you can save time. You'll know what materials you'll need and will have a better opportunity to get everyone or the given individuals involved in these tasks so they get done quickly, efficiently and with cooperation.
7. Wake up everyday with a purpose
Planning for the year, the month and the day in advance helps you not only accomplish your goals. It's also a way to maximize your energy and time. Some of us may wake up knowing we should be doing something today, but don't have it all worked out beforehand. Our days then simply become less productive and a series of events we are reacting to, instead of time spent aiming for our higher purpose as Muslims.