"The best season to a believer is the winter,
nights are long for those who wish to pray,
days are short for those who wish to fast."
— Imam Hasan Basri
When the snow falls, the days get shorter, the nights get longer, and all you want to do is sit at home by the fireplace and hibernate until spring. But rain or shine, snow or bloom, life goes on and it is important to stay productive, even during the winter season. Here are a few tips to maximizing your productivity during the chilly months:
- Set a regular schedule. Don't be fooled by the lack of light—just because it's dark at 4 p.m. doesn't mean you have to end your day! Stick to a set schedule. Make a to-do list with suggested times to start or complete each task.
- Set goals. When you've got goals of what you want in mind, you'll boost your chances of reaching them in your set schedule. It means you're not just staying productive for productivity's sake, but you've got a finish line you want to cross. Remember: keep your goals realistic. Don't say, "I'm going to redecorate all three floors of the house," "I'm going to lose 50 pounds," or "I'm going to quit all my bad habits." This is probably not going to get done in just one winter without overloading yourself. Make a plan for your goals, and how much time and effort you can allot to reaching each one.
- Do the important stuff first. If your to-do list for the day includes time- or daylight-sensitive tasks, its best to get them done first, while you still have the benefit of sunlight and aren't hurrying at the end of the day. Take time to budget you work: What needs to be done now, can be done later, and how much time will each task take?
- Avoid distractions. We know, we know. It's cold, and you don't want to be out. You want your hot cocoa and your book and want to curl up on your couch. You want to check your holiday e-cards from your coworkers, or look up trips to warmer climates. Recognize this behavior for what it is—procrastination—and keep to your to-do list!
- Set spiritual goals. We always tell ourselves we're going to read more Quran, or memorize that chapter, or pray more Sunnah, etc. Well, there's no time like the present. The great thing about Dhikr, remembrance of God? It's winter-friendly; you don't have to venture out into the dark, cold winter! You can start by reciting a half hour of Quran a day, making five more minutes of Dua when you wake up or go to sleep, pray more Sunnah, or read more about the Prophet's life. Now you can curl up with that book and your hot cocoa by the fireplace.
- Take advantage of the short days, long nights. Remember the words quoted at the beginning of this article. Shorter winter days means you may be able to fast more of them, and longer nights means more potential reward for extra prayers. Take advantage of this time now: with warm weather, we lose this advantage.
- Stick to healthy living. In the colder months, a lot of things tend to throw a kink in our workout routine, or healthy diet. We get sicker in winter, or don't want to brave the icy weather for a trip to the gym, or we've been hit by Seasonal Affective Disorder and are bogged down by a general feeling of grumpiness. But remember that exercise and healthy living make us feel better about ourselves, our situation, and help fight off Season Affective Disorder. Sticking to a workout routine (or finally starting one) and keeping the seasonal desserts to a minimum will help keep us anxiety-free, and more confident and satisfied with our winter productivity.
- Get in the charitable spirit. The winter season is a time many across the country remember the homeless, the hungry, and the poor. There are countless organizations and charity drives looking for help and an extra set of hands. Get out there, and give some of your time to helping others. Giving back is one of the most productive things you can do this winter.
- Relax. Don't forget to enjoy your downtime. After sticking to your schedule and being that much closer to your projected goals, treat yourself to an evening with family and friends, a snowball fight with the kids, or just some quiet time to reflect. This will help you recharge and refresh your mind, so you won't be burnt out by the end of winter.
- Think productively. Believe that you can accomplish what you've set out to do. Did you establish an exercise routine for the winter? Or promise yourself to memorize two new Surahs? Remember to ask Allah for help and guidance, and believe that you can do it. When you're determined to get things done and have a positive attitude, you'll do a better job.