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The winner of the September 2018 writing competition is Sabrina Azhar with her poem titled 'A Message to the Youth'

In Conversation with Sister Aimen - Productivity - Interview Time


I am very excited to interview this wonderful and active sister whom I recently came across through social media. She's a blogger who writes about varieties of topics related to Muslim women, Islam, healthy living, self-development, study tips, productivity, knowledge, and more. As we're all walking the path of bettering ourselves, it is always a blessing to take tips and advice from each other. So, I’ve decided to interview sister Aimen to have her share with us helpful tips on how to be productive, stay productive and be a benefit to not only ourselves, but also to others around us. Why don't we start by learning a bit more about her? Let's get into it.

1. Umm Sumayyah: Assalaam 'alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh sister Aimen.

Aimen: Walaikum Assalam Warahmatullahe Wabarakatuhu sister Umm Sumayyah.

2. UmmS: It is an absolute pleasure to talk to you today, and I hope you're just as excited as I am. But, first of all, how are you doing?

Aimen: I sure am excited to be here! JazakAllah for having me. I am doing good alhamdulilah.

3. UmmS: After such an introduction, I'm sure the readers can't wait to know who Aimen is. So, please, tell us a bit about yourself?

Aimen: Let me take you some time back before I started blogging. I have graduated as a M.B.B.S Doctor and now I'm on the post-graduation road of my medical career. I fell in love with Medicine when I was in my
third year of Medical School but no matter how much I loved it, I knew there was more to life.

I knew that as a Muslim, my true purpose of life was to serve Islam. But how? That's a question that nagged me all the time until it hit me in the final year. I had to help young Muslims like myself, during these times of
Fitnah. My Deen Islam, had suffered so much while I was in Medical school. And I thought I was alone in my misery. But when I looked around, I saw the other young Muslims suffering equally, if not more.

Long story short, Allah opened the first door to my
purpose, my website. This website was born only recently in December 2017. Now I work during the day as a Doctor, and the rest of my time writing articles and designing and creating tools for young Muslims on their journey of self-development.

I particularly mentioned the part of my life in search of purpose so that all of our dear readers start living with purpose, if they aren't doing that already!

4. UmmS: Now THAT was very informative! May Allah bless you. We can definitely learn a thing or two from you, in shaa Allah. I’m pretty sure our readers will appreciate that little background you added. 
Could you please tell us what productivity means to you?

Aimen: Productivity has a different meaning to many people. Most believe it's getting "more" work done in "less" time.

Personally, I believe productivity is working efficiently and doing what you are supposed to do, when you are supposed to do it. Allow me to elaborate...

If you took an hour to write an article that was mediocre, you are focusing on "quantity". On the other hand, if you took 10 hours to write an article that's amazing but you missed the deadline for submission, you are focusing on "quality". Finding a delicate balance between quantity and quality to complete a task within a set time-frame is being work-efficient. And being work-efficient is being productive at work!

There are so many aspects of productivity that I'm afraid I won't be able to define all of them here. Productivity covers all aspects of our lives including personal, family, social, spiritual and health-related productivity besides the work-related productivity mentioned above.

5. UmmS: Subhanallah; that does make sense. We often think that we’re productive when we get more things done. But balance is surely the key here. How would you describe a ‘perfectly’ productive day for you?

Aimen: I am not a fan of the word "perfect". In fact, I think it should be removed from the "human" dictionary haha. But a highly productive day for me is when I wake up early, spend 10 minutes to plan the day on my Muslim Productivity Planner, follow my morning routine and manage to complete all the tasks for the day written on my planner, especially the most important ones. On such days, the feeling of self-achievement is beyond words, honestly.

6. UmmS: That is true; nothing is ever really ‘perfect.’ I guess a better word could have been ‘most’ or ‘highly’ as you mentioned 😊. What are the short-term and long-term goals you have in mind when you decide to achieve something?

Aimen: If there's a task that requires long-term commitment (for e.g.; a task that will take months or years to complete) that I want to achieve, I simply divide it into bite-sized pieces. I usually take my time planning it all out on my weekly and monthly planner. Sometimes it takes DAYS to plan it out. Yep, days! You might say that's such a waste of time because things might go differently than your plans. I agree life doesn't go according to our plans. But the quality and quantity of work you do in a day is highly dependent on your efficient planning. And a small goal-centered achievement everyday will eventually lead to the completion of the long-term goal, right? And besides, planning takes half the burden of doing the monstrous task off my shoulders. It gives me a practical realistic idea of when I will be able to complete my mission. It also helps me stay focused on the daily project task, so that I walk step by step towards my end-goal.

7. UmmS: Right. You seem quite active on the internet, maa shaa Allah. As you know, besides also being beneficial, the internet can be very distracting (i.e. checking emails, social media, extended research, etc). So, how do you stay focused despite all the distractions, and what motivates you?

Aimen: I couldn't agree more, sister. The internet is a powerful tool, both in a good and a bad way. As difficult as it may be to digest, the only way to be most efficient while working, is to make your phone silent, put it on flight mode or keep it away from yourself. I personally get active on social media at a defined time. I try my best to keep my phone away from me while working or studying.

I use short breaks of 5-10 mins after working for about half an hour (Pomodoro technique) and in my short breaks, I enjoy networking on social media or cruising through the internet. As for emails, I have set an hour or two, daily, to answer all my emails at one time. This way I don't spend all day replying to emails and still manage to reply to my readers every single day.

Motivation comes mainly from within you and from your everyday small achievements.

8. UmmS: Subhanallah. I like that you said, “motivation comes from within.” Making plans to minimize distraction is one thing, but you must stay on top of your plans to achieve it. How do you maintain a balance between work and personal life? How do you manage your time?

Aimen: This is a tough one y'all!

The ONE thing that works wonders in helping me achieve balance in my life, is waking up early and spending the early morning hours to do the most important tasks of the day. The early morning time is golden time. There's a special aura about it. It's super-charged with a strange energy and Barakah! It's your "personal" time. You should go for a walk, breathe the morning air, clear your thoughts, have a detox drink, read Quran, take a shower, plan your day and then start your work. Sounds amazing, doesn't it?

All throughout the day, we are busy either working/ studying or taking care of our children/family. The only time when we are free from responsibility is the early morning time, when almost everyone is sleeping 
😀.

The earlier you wake up, the more time you have to enjoy ME-Time and do important tasks ahead of time.

   9. UmmS: I hear ya. I struggled to get my ‘me-time’ for years. It’s only now that I’m starting to figure it out; Alhamdulillah. So, would you say that you’re usually the most productive in the morning?

Aimen: Alhamdulilah, that's great, sister. Yes, without a doubt the most productive time for me is the morning time. It's when my brain is loaded with energy and ideas.

Another time that's also productive for me is when I wake up from a
short power nap after lunch with my brain fuelled once again, ready
to go!

10. UmmS: Do you have any set schedule for work?

Aimen: I work almost 8-10 hours (sometimes more), in the mornings as a doctor
and in the evening as a part-time blogger. But my schedule is not
fixed since as a postgraduate doctor, I have to sit for multiple exams
on and off. During such difficult times, I take a rest from blogging and take a
short leave from work near my exams. After all, as humans, we have limited potential and limited time. We shouldn't overburden ourselves to the point of burnout.

11. UmmS: That sounds like a LOT of work! May Allah continue to give you the strength, energy, and motivation to accomplish it all in a blessed way. Do you have days when you feel like you haven't achieved as much as you could have? If so, how do you deal with such thoughts on those days?

Aimen: Ameen. Of course, I do! Sometimes when I haven't achieved much and the
tasks on my planner are untouched, I stress out and don't feel satisfied with myself. A smart way to deal with such unhealthy stressful thoughts is by writing the pending asks in tomorrow's priority list. If you wasted time on social media, or by procrastinating, make a note to yourself to NOT repeat the same mistakes tomorrow. OR the work will pile up! Before sleeping, you just need to assure your brain that you will get those tasks done by tomorrow Insha'Allah. If there is a legit reason for which I am unable to follow the plan for a particular day, then I don't lose sleep over it. Guests come by, friends or family might need you, etc.

There are numerous genuine reasons why your day might not work out the way you planned. And guess what? That's ALRIGHT 
😛.

12. UmmS: I think not remembering that ‘it’s alright’ to fall back sometimes is what keeps many people even more behind. You can only move forward if you accept what ‘is’ and move on to make it better next time; something I’m learning to do right now. As a Muslim woman in today's days, do you find it challenging to achieve personal and work goals?

Aimen: I think the answer to that is highly subjective. I personally believe that in today's times it's way easier for women to achieve what they want to in life as compared to older times. Today women can work from the comfort of their homes because of the Internet. Connecting with other Muslim women in different walks of
life and helping each other grow has not only become possible but really easy too.

13. UmmS: Not everyone works on the internet, so would you say the same for those who do not?

Aimen: Ah, good point sister. No, definitely, I can't say the same for women who don't work from the comfort of their homes. I myself work in the tough environment of a hospital and it can get quite difficult at times to balance time between work and family. However, during the days when the work goals are more important and urgent, I isolate myself to focus solely on work. And during times when my family needs me more, I put my work aside and try to spend more time with family. It's not always black and white. But the reward is in trying sincerely, right? 
The advice I would give to all my sisters who work is that it all comes down to prioritizing your daily goals. If your priorities are always work-related, then there's a problem. No matter how important our work is, women are given the responsibility by Allah to groom their children well. If our children are being neglected, then we are not carrying out our prime duty efficiently. So, we should all try to strike a good balance between work and family, and truly own up to our most important responsibility, raising our children in the light of Islam, Insha'Allah.

14. UmmS: Very important point, maa shaa Allah! From the top of your head, when you think of productivity, what's the best personal quote and Islamic quote that comes to your mind?

Aimen: That's a very difficult question sister, since I have so many quotes popping on the top of my head asking me to be the "chosen one" haha. But this one wins today:

Personal quote: Live purposefully, spend mindfully and work hard to grow every single day.

As for the Islamic Quote, I have to mention these life-changing ayahs.

"When you have taken a decision, put your trust in Allah” (Quran – Surah 2: Ayah 159).

“And [He] will provide for him from where he does not expect. And whoever relies upon Allah - then He is sufficient for him. Indeed, Allah will accomplish His purpose. Allah has already set for everything a [decreed] extent.”  [Quran- Surah Al-Talaq : Ayah 3]

15. UmmS: I love it! These are beautiful reminders that we must all strive to live by. What's the greatest life advice you would give to a Muslim (men or women)?

Aimen: The greatest advice for any Muslim is to hold on to your spiritual connection with Allah because at the end of the day, NOTHING matters. Only your relationship with Allah matters. If there's anything you want to do in life, make sure it doesn't compromise your spiritual relationship with Allah. If it does, then STAY AWAY from it since nothing is worth compromising your relationship with Allah Subhana wa Ta'alla.

   16. UmmS: What a VERY important advice, subhanallah. It is very easy to get carried away and compromise our deen, but, remembering that nothing else matters could very well be humbling and bring us back to reality. Is there anything else you would like to share with our readers, in shaa Allah?

Aimen: There is one more thing I would like to add, sister. I want all the young Muslims today to know that they are not alone in their struggles. The only way to prevent ourselves from falling repeatedly is to lean on lean on each other. There is nothing in life that we can achieve alone. We need Allah and we need each other.

17. UmmS: I absolutely agree! I often say that “Allah created us as ‘social’ beings. We were meant to deal with one another.” The attitude that goes “I need no one” can be very deceiving at times. As you mentioned, not only do we NEED Allah, we also need each other. 
Ah; jazaki Allahu khayr (may Allah reward you with the best) sister Aimen. Now, before I let you go, for those who may want to connect with you, would you please let them know where you could be reached?

Aimen: Jazak'Allahu khaiyr sister for your prayers. For those who want to reach out, here's the link to my website, The Muslim Youth Programme, in case you want to visit. Please direct message me if there's anything you would like to talk about. I reply to every email I receive alhamdulilah. I would be happy to communicate with the dear readers and support them on their journey of self-development Insha'Allah.

18. UmmS: I was initially happy to conduct this interview with you, but now, happy is an understatement. You’ve shared a wave of useful reminders and tips that I’m sure our readers could very much benefit from. I’ve also learned from you and feel a bit more revitalized after this interview. I really appreciate you taking some time out of your busy schedule to conduct this interview with me. I wish you all the best forms of success in every project you undertake. Assalaam ‘alaikum warahmatullah wabarakatuh my dear sister.

Aimen: You are very kind with your words sister. It has been a great joy talking to you! I pray Allah blesses all you do and adds barakah in your life dear sister. Ameen.  Walaikumassalam warahmatullahe wabarakatuh.

19. UmmS: Ameen

There ya have it. This was an interview with our sister Aimen. Alhamdulillah, she shared lots of useful information and was very detailed with most of her answers. I hope you all enjoyed this interview and found it beneficial.
Until next time, in shaa Allah, assalaam 'alaikum warahmatullah. 

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