Written by Mohammed Farisfounder and CEO of The Productive Muslim Company
“Some people are so poor, all they have is money” — Bob Marley
He was the most generous man that I ever knew. Yet, financially, he was poor.
His name was Omer Aamer Balhabou, a man with a big heart who lived a simple life as a butcher in the city of Dar-es-salaam, Tanzania.
Even though he was not wealthy, everyone in his family, neighborhood, and the broader community was touched by his generous spirit.
Whether you were the plumber or an honored guest, he would treat you with utmost benevolence — giving you his time, attention, and abundant energy — that you leave his presence feeling overwhelmed by his generosity.
Jeddi Omer was my maternal grandfather and reflecting on his life, I learned that being wealthy is not a prerequisite for being generous. I learned that you can be generous by spending your three most precious resources: your energy, focus, and time on those you know and don’t know.
Below I explore what it means to be generous with these three sources and some practical tips to be generous with them on this #GivingTuesday.
Being generous with your energy.
We all know someone who, when they walk into a room, lights up the entire room with their energy and character. We also know people who can drain energy from the room simply by how they show up (a bit like the difference between Tigger and Eeyore in the famous children’s series “Winnie The Pooh!”).
Being generous with our energy means that we first need to understand where is our energy spent and learn how to manage, renew and use our energy wisely across roles.
If you were to draw a chart with energy on the x-axis and the different roles in life on the y-axis and assess how you spent your energy levels across your roles, your graph would probably look like this.
We give most of our energy at work. When we come home, we are cranky, moody, and tired, and don’t have the emotional, physical, and spiritual capacity to deal with other important areas of life.
I had a coaching client who had a problematic relationship with his teenage daughter. He’d come home tired from a long day at work and simply doesn’t have the energy to deal with his daughter’s mood swings. I asked him whether he took naps during the day, and he said he didn’t. So I gave him the homework to take naps every day for 2 weeks and report any changes to his relationship with his daughter. He seemed confused at first but promised to try it out. After 2 weeks, he came back reporting that he was amazed how a 20-mins nap helped him be more patient with his daughter since he had a bit more energy when he came home, and this improved their relationship greatly!
Our energy levels are finite, and unless we renew, manage, and spend our energy wisely, we’ll end up squandering all the energy we have at work, leaving very little for the most critical areas of life.
During my productivity masterclass, I share practical strategies to help working professionals manage their energy. My top 3 strategies are exercise, naps, and being in a state of remembrance of God. Whereas the first two renew your physical energy, the last one, nourishes your spiritual energy, which helps you deal with life’s tough circumstances.
Practical Tips to Give Your Energy on #GivingTuesday
- Try to take a 10–20 mins nap at work, so you refuel yourself for the rest of the day and are able to give your best with your family in the evening.
- Show up at home to your spouse and children with extra energy — even if you’re tired — and you’ll see how everyone will be excited to see you energetic instead of looking tired and moody.
- Going for a family walk in the evening or some kind of sports activity in the evening is also a great way to give energy to your loved one (and refuel yours at the same time).
Being generous with your focus and attention
Do you know what we crave the most these days? Someone’s undivided focus and attention. We crave it so much that there are now paid online services to have someone listen to you!
We live in an attention economy, where companies literally make money based on how much focus and attention they get from you. This is why we have so little focus left for people who need it the most from us: our children, our spouse, our parents, and our friends.
I was once giving a talk at an elementary school in South Africa, and I told the children that I’d be meeting their parents the next day and asked them what would they want me to say to their parents. Without a missing a beat, all of them shouted at once, “Tell them to get OFF their phones!”.
If you ever hear your children or spouse complain that you don’t give them enough time even though you think you’re spending time with them, it probably means that you’re not giving them enough focus and attention.
One of the most striking aspects of Prophet Muhammad’s life — peace be upon him — was how even though he had a large family and a large following — we never heard any of his wives, children, or companions complain that “O Prophet of God, you’re too busy for us.” Ever wondered why? It’s because, even though he might spend a few minutes with you, he’d give you his blessed undivided attention, and that would fill you up for days.
If we want to be generous, we need to be generous with our focus and nourish others with our undivided attention. This means managing our external and internal distractions and not letting them get in the way of what’s truly important to us.
One technique I teach in my productivity masterclass is to set up “focus sessions.” These are blocks of time that you schedule in your calendar to focus on one person or a task deeply for 25 to 90 minutes. If you can have 3–5 focus sessions per day, especially focus sessions with those closest to you, you’ll be amazed how much impact it’ll have on your life.
Practical Tips to Give Your Focus on #GivingTuesday
- When you get home, put your phone away — ideally somewhere you can’t see it. And truly be present for your family.
- Try to have a deep conversation with a family member or friend — a conversation where you listen to what’s being said and what’s not being said. Be curious, ask questions, and listen.
- If you are distracted internally by your emotions or anxiety, write them down from a third-person perspective and see if it helps calm you down and focus.
Being generous with your time
We live in strange times where we are more connected to more people than ever before, yet we feel very lonely. In fact, the UK recently created a Ministry of Loneliness to address this “sad reality of modern life”!
One of the reasons we feel so lonely is how little time we give to each other (and when we are together, we don’t focus on each other!).
We’re so busy with work, family, and personal errands that giving time to listen to a friend, having chai with a parent, attending a funeral, or visiting a sick person, feels like a luxury that we can’t afford.
Giving time is perhaps the most challenging form of giving; since there’s an opportunity cost to giving time; if we give time to someone or something, that means we’re saying no to a million other things we want to do at the same time.
However, this is where learning productivity techniques is important. If you’re able to get something done in half an hour that would typically take you 3 hours, that’s time saved you can spend with your parents, spouse, or an old friend.
In addition to learning productivity, when it comes to being generous with our time, we also need to believe that when we give time to others, we’re not ‘wasting’ time. Instead, we are attracting Barakah (divine goodness and blessing) to our time.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “The people most loved by Allah are those who are most useful. The deeds most loved by Allah, are; happiness brought to a Muslim, helping to relieve a hardship from him, paying a debt for him, or driving away from his hunger. Helping a brother in Islam in need is dearer to me than doing i’tikaf (spending time to worship) for one month in a masjid.”
If you think about all the activities mentioned in this hadith — they all require us to sacrifice time from our busy schedules and to generously give time to others. As hard as that sounds, that’s what’s most beloved to Allah SWT.
Practical Tips to Give Your Time on #GivingTuesday
- Review your weekly calendar, and see if you can block time out for areas of your life that you tend to neglect, e.g. quality time with a spouse, 1:1 with a child, or volunteering for your community.
- Assess if there are any time-wasting activities in your calendar that you can cut out or reduce a little.
- Try to focus on activities that bring Barakah into your life, we list numerous of them in our 21 Sources of Barakah. Check it out here.
What happens when we are generous with our time, energy, and focus
When Jeddi Omar passed away, my mother, who was there during his last days and his funeral, shared how the streets were filled with mourners from all walks of life. His generosity of character made him so beloved to people he knew and didn’t know.
I learned from his life that when we are generous with our energy, focus, and time, we’ll see Barakah and Love in our lives that no money can buy.
May Allah have mercy on you, Jeddi Omer, and help us be as generous as you.
A generous offer to the LaunchGood Community
On this #GivingTuesday, I’m excited to offer a 10% discount on my Productivity Masterclass that starts tonight Tuesday, 24 Rabi’-II 1443H (30th Nov, 2021) at 6pm US Central Time.
Simply enter the code GIVINGTUESDAY on the checkout page and the discount will automatically apply whether you’re paying in full or in instalments.
This is a 6-week live program on how to manage your energy, focus, and time to live a fulfilling life (without feeling stressed).
When you sign up, you’ll get:
- Six Live Teaching Sessions on how to manage your energy, focus, and time for maximum productivity
- Three Working Sessions to implement what you learn with your fellow cohort
- Unlimited Q&A time after each session
- Private online discussion forum
- Lifetime access to future updates of the Masterclass
- Certificate of Completion
Our masterclasses come with a 30-day money-back guarantee. So if you’re unhappy for any reason whatsoever, let us know within 30-days of signing up and we’ll give you a full refund.
Looking forward to working with you and helping you be a person with abundant energy, focus, and time to give to others.
Mohammed Faris is the founder and CEO of The Productive Muslim Company, a faith-based productivity and leadership training company based in the US. He’s the author of “The Productive Muslim: Where Faith Meets Productivity” and creator of the Barakah Journal. Get a 10% discount off their Productivity Masterclass that starts tonight by entering the coupon GIVINGTUESDAY when you register here: https://productivemuslim.com/productivity.
Mohammed Faris is an internationally sought speaker, coach, and author who spearheaded the niche of productivity and Islam. He's the founder of ProductiveMuslim.com and author of “The Productive Muslim: Where Faith Meets Productivity”.