According to the American Time Use Survey, on an average day, 95 percent of people in the U.S., aged 15 and over engaged in some sort of leisure activity, such as watching TV, socializing, or exercising. Of those who engaged in leisure activities, men spent more time in these activities (5.9 hours) than did women (5.2 hours).
The challenge when Ramadan and summer coincide is that summer is all about leisure, and Ramadan is about pushing ourselves spiritually.
Many individuals and families curb television-watching and listening to music during the blessed month, for instance. While this is easier when kids are busy in school, it is harder when they’re at home and constantly complaining of being bored.
With leisure time and Ramadan at their longest this year, there are still ways we can adjust our schedules to make the most of the blessed month spiritually without severe sleep and leisure deprivation.
1. Pick your leisure carefully
As addictive as our favorite television shows are, we live in an age of DVRs and Netflix. That means unlike in the past, we can easily catch up on those episodes after Ramadan. If you watch a couple of programs a week, cut down to one and record the rest.
2. Make afternoon naps or downtime mandatory
For parents at home with kids, this can mean setting a specific time for everyone to rest or engage in some quiet activity (not involving a phone or computer) like reading or arts and crafts.
For those who work, using the lunch break to find a spot or to go to the car to catch a half hour nap will go a long way in improving productivity. Apart from setting your own alarm on your phone, have a family member or friend call you as well to wake you up in time.
3. Eat light at Iftar
Not only will this help you avoid falling asleep during Taraweeh, but it will also help you sleep more easily, as your stomach isn’t busy digesting a heavy meal.
4. Schedule leisure for short bursts
While Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him, encouraged us to live a balanced life in which we work hard and play hard, Ramadan’s emphasis in on working hard spiritually.
That said, squeezing in some time for an enjoyable activity can serve to refresh us. This can be done most effectively by scheduling a short time for it on a daily basis. For example, surfing social media or news sites for just 10 minutes instead of your usual half hour or hour.
5. Scheduling in times for worship and learning
To really make the most of time spiritually in Ramadan, scheduling specific types of good deeds for certain parts of the day offers a system that can become part of an easy routine. For instance, you can:
- read a certain number of pages of Quran right after Salah
- call your parent while preparing Iftar
- connect briefly with a friend who is not fasting twice a week during your social media time
- sit down with a child and read an Islamic story to them right after afternoon nap
- memorize one new verse of the Quran right before bed
- schedule to give Sadaqa (charity) after Juma every Friday
The benefit is that just as we brush our teeth at a certain time in the morning and a certain time in the evening, these acts of worship in Ramadan will become a habit tied to a particular time of day.
6. Avoid caffeine at Iftar time
Avoid caffeine within four hours of your desired bedtime. Otherwise, it may keep you from being able to fall asleep right after Taraweeh and waking up in time for Suhoor.
7. Combine leisure with a spiritual treasure
The most effective way to balance the need for fun with spiritual striving is to combine the two as much as possible. For instance:
- after Suhoor, if everyone is awake enough, head to the nearest beach, mountain top, or park and pray Fajr there, staying a bit to watch the sun rise.
- eat Suhoor at a 24-hour restaurant
- eat Iftar at a Muslim restaurant with other fasting individuals and families
- if everyone is awake enough, get some nice, light ice cream after Taraweeh prayer
- if your kids are part of the local library’s summer reading program, include Islamic books about Ramadan and other spiritual topics in their reading list
- collect food donations at the next Iftar party you attend
- do brief exercises after each of the five daily prayers instead of a long, intense workout during the day that can exhaust you as you fast