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Optimizing Work-Life Balance During Ramadan: A Muslim Professional’s Perspective

Here’s a useful look at how to organize your working day during Ramadan to optimize both work and faith!

Here’s a useful look at how to organize your working day during Ramadan to optimize both work and faith!

Salam Alaikum, and Ramadan Kareem my brothers and sisters in Islam! We’re at the cusp of the holy month of Ramadan where many of us see our daily routines transform to adjust to a new cadence. 

This has an impact on the work-life balance of many busy Muslim professionals – especially in western and non-Islamic countries, where the broader “system” is not adjusted for Ramadan. It does require some adjustments on our part to both stay productive at work and also derive the most spiritual benefits from Ramadan. 

In this blog, I would like to add some practical tips and guidance on how to maximize the Ramadan experience from a busy professional Muslim perspective.  

How to optimize work on a typical Ramadan weekday

We all know how our cognitive and energy levels drain as the Ramadan day progresses. We are typically at our peak energy and cognitive levels right after Fajr (fueled by the Suhur food and coffee/tea).

In the absence of a mid-day meal and additional doses of caffeine throughout the day, we typically feel more drained after mid-day than we’d normally be. 

Based on my experience, the distribution of different types of work in different times of the day may help. See Figure below. 

In my opinion, the time between Fajr and Dhuhur prayers (typically the biggest gap in a day between mandatory prayers) represents the best opportunity to get “cognitive”  type work done – creative work that requires greater level of focus, cogitation and energy. 

This means that we start our work day as early as possible – right after we do Zikr after Fajr prayers, since we don’t need to spend any time on breakfast that we traditionally do on non-fasting days. We “shift-left” (I use the “shift-left” analogy since it is frequently used in software development – which is my domain of professional expertise) as much of such type of work during this part of the day as possible. According to the Sunnah of our Prophet (Allah’s peace and blessings be on him), this is also the time of immense barakah (blessings). 

Fasting means that we no longer need to take time off from work from lunch. Many have suggested that we use this time – right after Dhuhur prayer – for a power nap, if that is possible, since obviously we get less sleep during the night. Others prefer to use that time for Qur’an recitation. 

We typically begin to feel the cognitive energy drain sometime between Dhuhur and Asr prayers. In addition, the gap between mandatory prayer times shorten, which means that it is difficult to perform work that requires long uninterrupted sessions. I tend to schedule (or “shift-right”, to use another analogy from the software development domain) more of the “operational” type work – which requires less focus and is more amenable to interruptions. 

Generally speaking, I recommend that we conclude our work day sometime (maybe 30 minutes) before Maghrib prayer. This gives us the time to do the recommended (Sunnah) post-Asr Zikr and dua before Iftaar. 

Many people even suggest the time between Asr and Iftaar might a good time to get some physical exercise. I personally prefer short stints of anaerobic exercises (such as situps and planks) throughout the day. Others prefer to do their aerobic exercises after Isha/Taraweeh prayers. 

And that brings us to the nigh-time period between Isha/Taraweeh and Suhoor/Fajr. During this time, we get valuable sleep to recharge our batteries. But this period also provides a great opportunity for an immense spiritual reward through the performance of the Tahajjud prayers. 

With the topic of Tahajjud prayers, however, I want to discuss a common concern (and pushback) I hear about reduced sleep. 

We’re constantly brainwashed by the occidental healthcare community about the canonical need for sleeping 7 to 8 hours per night. Well, our beloved Prophet (PBUH) was the most knowledgeable and rightly guided person, and yet he stayed up at least one-third of most nights engaged in Tahajjud prayers, thereby foregoing sleep.

Now, modern scientific research (see here and here for example) is beginning to indicate how Tahajjud prayer late at night is in fact beneficial for health and stress response.

So fret not. The rewards of Tahajjud prayers far outweigh – both spiritually and physically – the investment of a few minutes (maybe just 15 minutes!) of sleep time, especially during Ramadan.  

Ramadan Mubarak!

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