Posted by: Dawud Israel | April 13, 2021

Ramadhan 2021 based on 7 Productivity Books

This Ramadhan I wanted to apply productivity literature to achieving a successful Ramadhan. Ramadhan is a time for improvement, where no matter how lazy you are, you have to fast and worship. It is a time to transform and discover your potential.

Planning, executing and doing your own tarbiya in a strategic and practical manner is the focus here. Understanding weaknesses and improving your spirituality is my aim here. There is a lot of expensive deen self-improvement courses floating around online ($400 masterclasses?) and I also want to point out here this information is not hidden but easily available at your bookstore or elsewhere online. This is not rocket science.

(My apologies for not posting in a while…and my editing is not as clear as I wanted with this new wordpress but thats what happens when you are a parent!)


Mental models as I understand them are questions to ask that will help frame and focus on succeeding in whatever you are aiming for.

  • First mental model: Ask the opposite of what is a success?
    • “How can I be as unbeneficial to my deen today?”
      • No fasting
      • Watch TV all day
      • Missed prayers and taraweeh

So now I know what I need to focus on and what the passing mark will be.

  • Second mental model: Break down the essential parts of what works
    • What are the components of success to a good Ramadhan?
      • Less food
      • More worship
      • Guarding eyes, tongue and private parts
      • Avoiding TV, movies, music
      • Sadaqa
  • Third mental model: What are the Second order effects?
  • What are the long term consequences of Ramadhan success or Ramadhan failure?
    • A weaker Ramadhan next year.
    • Lost ajr.
    • No forgiveness.
    • Setting a bad example to family and kids.


OKR – objective & key results is the main idea in this book

Objectives: “If you set your goals ridiculously high and it’s a failure you will fail above everyone else’s success.” – James Cameron

An example is do 20 khatms of Qur’an in Ramadhan.

Key results – how much Qur’an you read in a day in Ramadhan. A metric of juz/day. Or counting pages and aiming for a 2% increase in pages recited per day. Here is a chart I used last Ramadhan so you get an idea…

4 AGREEMENTS by Don Miguel Ruiz           

This book speaks to 4 promises you make to yourself. What I find beneficial of this book is how it aligns with Islamic values and controlling the tongue. Lastly it helps me personally in not beating myself up for my failings but to keep trying.

  1. Be impeccable with your words
    • Qur’an is the best word
  2. Don’t take anything personally
    • Don’t let hunger cause crankiness and make you angry
  3. Don’t make assumptions – ask questions and clarifications
    • Give people benefit of the doubt
    • Tell people “I am fasting” if they argue with you
  4. Always do your best – if you fail forgive yourself and move on
    • Keep moving and don’t get discouraged when you fail


Every distraction is preceded by some discomfort

  1. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy – Aim to rid bad urge by waiting for 10 minutes: Imagine urge on a leaf doing down the river. This method is helpful for smokers trying to quit. Visualizing
  2. Ego Depletion is a Lie – you have an inexhaustible will power reserve and can’t run out of willpower. Resisting urge increases willpower. The idea that the more you resist the weaker you willpower becomes is actually not true. This is a lesson that applies to Ramadhan especially where it may seem like willpower is weakening but its actually getting stronger.

3 Pacts you have to make with yourself:

  1. Effort Pacts – add effort between you and what you want (i.e K-safe timer lock for cookies)
    • Put food away and hide TV remote from yourself
  2. Price Pacts – spend $ or burn bill if break the pact
    • Give sadaqa if you miss salah or look at something unlawful
  3. Identity Pacts – tell people you don’t do xyz so people will stop you
    • Everyone knows you are fasting at work so they will not let you lie or do anything wrong

“Anecdote to Impulsiveness is Forethought”

KAIZEN WAY by Robert Maurer

  1. taking embarrassingly small steps to a goal weakens resistance to change
    • do wudhu before iftar
  2. ask smaller questions
    • can you read Qur’an in 10-20 minute intervals?
  3. focus on smaller steps and rewards
    • stay awake for 20 minutes more per day

COMPOUND EFFECT  by Darren Hardy

  • Focus on % Percentage gain over Net gain: Will I still be reading Qur’an after Ramadhan in the same amount?
  • Trade Immediate Results for Core Values: How can I keep being a good Muslim free of pride? Is my impatience making my deen suffer?

EAT THAT FROG by Brian Tracy

  • If I disappeared and went on a road trip for a month – what would be the consequences to my work/business/project?
    • Uncomfortable (tadpole) vs. Fatal consequences (frog) – confront and eat the frog
  • What are key results to keep going? 
  • What one task can you do all day long to contribute to great value?

The obvious answer is to just read Qur’an and to let listening to the hundred different Islamic lectures that come out in Ramadhan. My key results are whether I think I got laylatul qadr or if I unlocked a new all time in high in how much khatm Qur’an I do.

This article was just a glimpse on how this knowledge can be used by Muslims for free. I can go further and share even more material that is available. What money and time and knowledge cannot do however is apply it to your nafs and tarbiya. That you have to do on your own. 🙂

Subhanaka Allahumma wa bihamdika ash-haduana la ilaha illa Ant astaghfiruka wa atubu ilayk, ameen.

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