Since the beginning of time, someone else has been controlling your time, or rather your timeliness. When we were younger, our parents determined when we got to school and how early or late we were. They helped us to dress and get ready, and we were under their control.
Then, as we got older, we gained some of our own independence, but then, many women get married and then their control over their time is not their own again.
The hours in their day are not necessarily their own. Whether it is reporting to work by a certain time, dropping kids off to school by a certain time, or even preparing breakfast for yourself and hubby before you and he go off to work, all this requires you to have something done by a certain time. This requires punctuality.
One of the hardest habits in life to master seems to be punctuality. Many of us can juggle all that life throws our way, from jobs, to marriage, to kids, but when it comes to handling all of this in a timely manner, some of us fall short. Most of us remember being late to school as children, running around our homes looking for our homework or our shoes. Asking our moms where we put our jackets. Why were we always late? Then, we grew up and got to college or started working and still made it just in the nick of time, barely there before our boss could check the clock. Or we would slide into our college desks just as the professor began to lecture or pass out the test papers.
Why is that most of us are habitually late, not just for work or school, but in many other aspects of our lives?
More importantly, what can we do as women of the house for our families and for ourselves to break this cycle of perpetual procrastination and everlasting tardiness?
Practicing punctuality in practically everything
In everything we do, from the moment we rise, we should practice punctuality. Our priorities should incorporate timeliness and reliability in all aspects of our daily activities. Actually, there is probably little or nothing that doesn't require or could not benefit from our promptness.
Performing Responsibilities with Regularity
This is the most common area of procrastination in that this is where most of us are guilty. Sometimes, some of us develop over the years an "I'll do it later" attitude and we begin to procrastinate in our duties, from the small to the large ones. We begin to put off the laundry until it accumulates and spills over the basket; we allow the dishes to pile up in the sink and then get that sinking feeling in our stomachs as we are elbow deep days later in greasy dishwater. We are up late the night before a big test because we delay studying until the last minute; we can actually put off –anything and everything –all errands, all chores, all duties and responsibilities. But should we?
No, rather we should try to perform our duties as soon as possible. This is best for us in many ways.
1. We can get accomplished what needs to be done and get on with our other obligations.
2. We can do a better job by giving ourselves ample time.
3. We can set a good example for our families by showing them that we take our responsibilities seriously. If they see that we procrastinate, they may take that to mean neglect.
4. Promptness leads to consistency.
As the woman of the household, there are many responsibilities that rest on our shoulders. If we can avoid procrastination, we prevent that over-whelming burden of feeling as if we are always `falling behind' in our housework, in our schoolwork, in our errands, in everything that gets to be too much for us.
Punctuality in Worship
As Muslim women we cannot, however, let domestic responsibilities and duties as wife, mother, and even student or professional prevent us from worshipping Allah punctually, at the right time and with the right intentions. This specifically refers to, but is by no means limited to, prayer. Performing our prayers at their appointed times and with conviction is essential to living life in the best possible way and setting the best example for our families.
One of the first things that we do in the morning and unquestionably the most important activity of the day is prayer, which not only benefits from punctuality but requires it. The Prophet was asked "What deed is most beloved by Allah?; and he answered, “To offer each prayer as soon as it is due.”
Punctuality in performing the prayer means that we drop the dishes (not literally) to offer it when it is due, make sure to do it before we pick up the kids from school if possible, make it at the office if need be, make it at school; whenever its time is due, we must rise to offer it.
The prayer is not the only form of worship that benefits from punctuality: Duaa is a significant form of worship for which punctuality and timeliness is integral. Forms of Duaa like the Istikhaarah prayer and others for thankfulness and Tawbah should be offered at the right time for maximum benefit. Similarly, paying Zakah is another form of worship for which timing could mean everything, especially for those whom the charity could benefit. For example, when we donate money at a fundraiser for a particular cause, the amount of money that we give at that particular time is imperative for that specific cause. We can make plans to give and donate, but if we do not actually do it when it matters, it does not count. The key is to do it and do it exactly when it can generate maximum benefit. For those in need, timing is everything.
Reliability in Relationships
Timing is key for relationships as well as worship. However, for some odd reason, people have the tendency to take relationships for granted. We make them and then assume that they will last; that they do not require any or much upkeep. As women though, we should know that this is not true and to maintain healthy and happy relationships with all who are close to us, we have to work at it regularly and consistently. This means that we have to be one step ahead of crises. Women know that emotions rage strong and can come between two people.
Therefore, it is imperative that we remain steadfast in our efforts to maintain our relationships to the extent that we desire. In other words, our relationships with our spouse, our parents, our children, our friends, and anyone who means anything to us require effort. In order for us to ensure that these relationships remain healthy, we have to be punctual in handling issues as they arise. Think about your most recent and significant disagreement you might have had with your spouse or parent or child. If you might have dealt with it immediately, could you have eliminated the problem or significantly decreased the problem? Maybe you and a friend had a little disagreement. You feel a bit annoyed and decide that it is better to not bring it up again, but of course, you still feel upset about the situation. You hesitate handling the situation immediately because you feel that it might just `wash over' and that it will be forgiven and forgotten soon enough. However, we all know that most women do not function that way.
Many people have too strong of a memory to forget anything until it has been worked through and talked through and true forgiveness has been reached.
Sometimes, women have a tendency of ignoring sticky situations that are emotionally charged; we are hesitant to deal with issues that negatively affect our relationships. However, this is dangerous in that it could prolong the inevitable and make a small problem worse. As is the case with most situations, procrastination is not such a great idea. On the contrary, punctuality is probably the best way to abate any long term crises. This is one of the reasons the Prophet gave so much advice against breaking off ties. For example, he said, "There should be no breaking off of ties, no turning away from one another, no hating one another, and no envying one another. Be brothers (and sisters), as Allah has commanded you." [Muslim] Because anger may strike women (and of course men) at times of emotional weakness, Islam allows three days as a reasonable length of time during which anger may subside.
As difficult as it may seem, whether we are dealing with our chores, our personal worship, or with our relationships, it is best for us to deal with the situation as soon as possible and `nip it in the bud.'