For the past two days, I have been on an experiment where I keep track of every single activity I do using an iPhone app. I wanted to really see how I was using my 24 hours, and honestly, the results were pretty disheartening.
The experiment was initiated by three concepts that have swirled around my head for a while:
The first was from Surah Al-Asr, where Allah SWT warns us that by the time, man is indeed at loss. I recite the verse almost every single day in my prayers, but the reality of which somehow only struck me these past few days. (The irony was lost on me that I was rushing through prayer whilst reciting surah Al-‘Asr).
The second was from Shaykh Hamza Yusuf’s sermon on heedlessness which I listened to eons ago. Honestly I don’t remember its entire contents, but one point I remembered was that heedlessness is one of the biggest dangers of our time. Heedlessness is defined as showing a reckless lack of attention or care, and it is a disease that has gone viral. We are so busy doing this and that, rushing here and there, that many of us are unaware of the things we actually do. Before I actually went on my dumb smartphone experiment (which has now become a permanent lifestyle), I used to spend hours just scrolling through Facebook and Instagram!
The last phrase swirling around my mind was from an interview I did with Ustaz Shahib (Syukran) where something he mentioned left a deep impression on me: “My capital is not money, but time.”
The truth is that I, and perhaps many of us, tend to measure the value of something according to its monetary value. If I work for 9-5 at this office, how much am I paid? Is it worth to spend this amount to purchase this item?
In some ways it’s not wrong; all of us need money to survive. But Ustaz Shahib’s radical take of his resource as time combined with Allah SWT’s reminder about the importance of time suddenly made it click in my head that I needed to start looking at time as my currency – “How much time will I have to invest in doing X? Is it worth it to spend that time?”
When I began to look at time as my ultimate currency, my attitude towards time shifted. I began to realise that I have to start being aware of how I spend my time – I have to stop being heedless with what I do with it. People who want to effectively use money will count pennies, people who want to effectively use time will count seconds.
And so I started counting.
I did some research, downloaded the app “ITrackMyTime” and began taking note of the duration of time I spent on every single activity I do. Since this is a new habit, there were times I missed recording, but these were either negligible in the bigger scheme of things or sleeping time of around 6 hours.
What I found made me realise how much time I waste in 24 hours. And made me discover some insights about myself.
Using the app I purchased, all my inputs were extracted and nicely placed in the graph above. The above graph tracked 15 hours and 14 minutes of how I spent my day on the 26th (I missed out the time I spent sleeping, and I downloaded this app late morning).
Most of my day was spent on the writing process, followed by a meeting I had for a non-profit project with friends (other work). Today’s (27th) time graph too had writing as the biggest segment, followed by studying due to a couple of online classes I had signed up for.
Then there were other activities that could not be avoided, like doing chores or travelling. These made up almost a fifth of the time tracked, which is rather huge.
But what really saddened me was really how much (or rather, little) time I dedicated to Allah SWT. True, most of my writings have Islamic content and that I sometimes listen to Islamic podcasts or lecturers when doing chores or take the train, but to really dedicate and focus my all only for Allah SWT? I spend even more time chilling (surfing online, lying around etc) than I do praying, reading the Qur’an and making zikr.
By Time, indeed I am in loss.
This small experiment (which I intend to continue and tweak to gather data more efficiently) has the potential to teach us many things about ourselves.
Firstly, by looking at the activities you spend most of your time doing, it shows what you actually value or even hint at what is your passion. Some of us say that family is the most important thing to us, but it is probable that when we actually track our time, other things like work or sleeping are what we dedicate our life to. Likewise, many of the successful people I read about actually realise that what they are passionate and good at is what they essentially spend most of their time doing.
Or if it is like my case, we may say that Allah SWT has the first priority in our life, but the reality of our actions and what we dedicate our life to may not reflect our words.
Secondly, by looking at how much time we spend doing things we need to do, like chores or transportation etc, we can plan on how more effectively we can utilise this time. 2 hours is a lot of time to use (or waste).
Thirdly, the very action of trying to be aware of how you use your time WILL naturally make you more conscious in the decisions you make. Today, every time I turn on Facebook, I see my ‘chilling’ segment grow (I coloured it black to maximise the feeling of wastefulness) and I think – “What a waste of time! What can I do better at the moment?”. When I accidentally slept for 2 hours after Zuhr, I feel a sense of lost for all the things I could have done. When I realised how small my segment dedicated to Allah SWT was, I pushed myself to do more.
Lastly and most importantly, it brings into perspective just how much time we truly spend to fulfil our purpose of being brought into creation – to worship Allah SWT. For the common man like me, the answer is simply, not much.
I hope you too will embark on this small experiment with me. You don’t need to buy the app I use; there are tons of other time tracking apps that are free (I use this because it’s easy, detailed and pretty haha), or you can simply use a notepad.
Let’s take the initiative to take account of how we use our time ourselves, before it is taken into account for us, insyaAllah.
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