If you were to boil productivity science down to one line, it’s “managing one’s energy, focus, and time for beneficial goals.” It looks simple, but it’s actually difficult and stressful for two reasons:
- Energy, focus and time are finite resources.
- Different priorities (work, family, social activities, etc.) fight for these resources.
But there’s one principle that we can adopt which would free up a lot of our energy, focus, and time and help us lead a productive, stress-free life. This principle was mentioned by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) over 1400 years ago when he said, “Part of the perfection of one’s Islam is his leaving that which does not concern him.” (Al-Tirmidhi).
A simple, yet powerful principle. The Prophet (PBUH) was describing a quality that helps someone not only improve their faith but their way of life. Think about it this way: if we leave that which does not concern us, how much more energy, focus, and time would we enjoy as a result? Consider the following two scenarios:
- You’re scrolling through your Facebook feed and notice a debate exploding online about a topic or a person that’s of interest to you but which does not actually concern you or won’t have an impact on your life. You can choose to spend the next few hours joining the debate, getting worked up emotionally about people’s “stupid comments” and voicing your opinion. Or you can decide that this does not concern you, move on, and save hours of your time for a more productive pursuit.
- You switch on your TV and watch the 24/7 news cycle for a couple of hours. You see scenes from around the world of disasters, death, and destruction. You switch off the TV, but you are hijacked by your amygdala and your emotions are running high (or even worse, you become desensitized and don’t seem to feel anything). Compare this with being on a media diet, meaning that you only engage with the news that concerns you and has an impact on your livelihood and daily life. How much would this extra time help you think of broader, more critical issues in life?
The challenge of leading a life that engages with things that only concern you is that you need to define what does and what doesn't concern you in life. It means that you have to think about your purpose in life, your goals, your vision, and mission. But that’s hard, and it takes time, and so we’d rather just dive into what does not concern us. Unfortunately, this comes with a price: wasted time, wasted energy, and stress.
How different would your life be if you focused only on that which concerns you? Try it out as an experiment for one week. Here’s what to do:
- Limit your news consumption to 30 minutes per day (this includes TV and the Internet)
- Delete social media apps from your smartphone so you won’t be tempted to scroll through endless feeds.
- Whenever someone brings up a topic that piques your curiosity, ask yourself: Does this matter to me? Do I need to care about this? What would happen if I ignore it and don’t engage with it? If the answer is ‘nothing’, divert the discussion to something more meaningful and productive.
- Keep a journal that records your thoughts, ideas, and projects that you work on. When your free time isn’t engulfed in things that do not concern you, you’ll be surprised by how much time you have to think and what this does to your creativity.
Let us know in the comments how the experiment goes for you.
Any opinions expressed here are the author’s own.
Mohammed Faris is an international coach, author, and speaker who helps professionals and entrepreneurs achieve peak performance through productivity training and coaching. He’s the founder of ProductiveMuslim.com and author of The Productive Muslim: Where Faith Meets Productivity.