What are your non-negotiables?

INsights 026, Friday 21st October 2022

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Assalamu-alaikum. Peace be upon you.

This newsletter is sent out every other Friday. 

Since this is the 26th edition, the first year of INsights has been completed… 🥳

In reflecting on this mini milestone, I’ve felt a great deal of satisfaction. 

You see, I haven’t always been the most disciplined person when it comes to doing things based on a strict routine or timeframe over and over again. 

So the fact that I’ve managed to publish around 1,000 words every other Friday has been something of an achievement for me.

Sometimes I’ve been ill, sometimes I’ve been travelling or dealing with a particularly intense schedule of teaching commitments and family situations. On occasion, I’ve had severe writer’s block and come so very close to letting you know that the publication would just be postponed until next time.

But in the end, thank God, I’ve always pushed through and ensured that the ‘Send’ button has been pressed without fail every two weeks.

In other words, INsights has been one of my non-negotiables over the past year.

Treating it as such has been hugely beneficial. 

It’s helped me become more reflective and get my thoughts out in a more coherent manner than the way in which they exist in my head – often a total jumble I tell you! 

I think I’ve become a better writer with the regular practice, and the experience has given me the confidence to start working on my first book. 

I’ve learned and benefited a lot from the responses that you’ve provided when clicking the links at the bottom of this email and sharing your own feedback and reflections. I’m not able to reply to every comment but I enjoy reading every single one. 

Best of all, even when one person writes a really heartfelt message to share how much the words have helped them in that particular moment saying, “This was just what I needed to hear right now…” it makes my small effort feel so very worth it.  

Essentially, consistency reaps rewards and it has a positive, compounding effect. 

In my view, having meaningful non-negotiables is, well, non-negotiable.

This basically means making certain pledges that are never broken and carving out time to focus on specific activities without fail. 

As believers, this principle is nothing new...

The obligations we have towards our Lord and the ones that we have towards each other based on His instruction are non-negotiables. Salat is the most obvious example and the starting point of commitment and self-discipline.

But the ones I’m referring to specifically here, and which I’m recommending you consider having if you don’t already, are the voluntary activities that build on these foundations. Through these, the aim is to achieve excellence over time in different areas of our lives. 

Beyond the ones relating to my personal worship, here are some examples of my other non-negotiables currently:

- Having 4x 3-hour deep work blocks every week. These are windows of time set aside to focus completely on producing new material that I hope will add value to people who want to lead a truly God-centred life. No distractions. No admin tasks. No social media. Just thinking, writing, recording videos, planning for an upcoming live session etc. Doing this for 40 weeks a year without fail for the next 10 years will mean nearly 5,000 hours of high-quality creative time. You see, it really adds up! But without the discipline, it would just end up getting squeezed out by other less valuable tasks. 

- Spending every Wednesday with my parents. Between dropping off and picking up my kids from school, I try to spend quality time with each of my parents separately. I might take them out for a walk, or shopping, or for lunch, or tea and cake, help with admin tasks… whatever makes them happy and makes their burdens lighter. 

- Preparing and serving breakfast at least five days a week. I never saw myself doing this, but now I feel very passionate about being the one who puts together a top-notch breakfast for the family most days in the week. Sometimes it’s the only meal in the day I get to have with my wife and children together as I tend to be quite busy when it’s their dinner time. I know the consistent experience is creating happy memories for everyone, and my omelettes have now become so highly-rated by the kids that they won’t accept anyone but me looking after them most mornings. Importantly, my better half very much approves, which can only be a good thing!

- Completing 3x 1-hour exercise sessions every week. I don’t think anyone hates exercising more than me. I’ve been on and off over the years, but currently I’m totally on top of it. I’ve got myself into the mindset that if I don’t look after the body God has given me, I will be seriously answerable to Him. This is one of those activities where only the fear of God can get me going, but no doubt I experience the benefits in terms of greater energy and overall wellbeing too.  

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I share these examples not only to cement my own commitment to them but also to give you ideas of some of the things you might consider including in your own schedule. 

What helps me stick with all of these, as well as publishing INsights, is scheduling and support. 

I put everything that’s important to me in my various calendars which layer over each other to create a very colourful looking schedule each week. As I often say to my wife, “If it’s not in the calendar, it’s not going to happen.” By contrast, if it’s there, then it most probably will! 

Getting support with fulfilling our commitments might just be a question of letting others close to us know about them. Or it might be arranging specific support that you know you need to succeed. 

Back to INsights for an example… I know I wouldn’t have succeeded in producing these 26 editions without the help of my trusted friend and colleague Farzan, who lives and works out of Dallas, Texas. He’s always provided invaluable editorial and operational support, as well as healthy pressure when I’ve needed it! So big thanks to you my brother…

So now to you, dear reader…

What non-negotiables will you put into your schedule that will help you:

  • better know, appreciate and serve your Lord?
  • develop an important relationship with another person who you know isn’t getting enough of your time?
  • achieve any other goal that you’re not yet working on regularly enough to make actual progress?

Spend some time now to think of just three things that you’ll stick to on a regular basis for the ten or so weeks that remain between now and the end of the year. 

Put them in your diary, share them with those around you… and go for it. 

See what a difference it makes! 

May God bless your time and efforts with abundant success.


PS – in case you’d like to check out some of the previous editions of INsights, these three were the most popular amongst readers:

Edition 009: Jetlag, war and a car accident

Edition 012: Tarawih troubles

Edition 021: Recent challenges

The one I enjoyed writing the most was the finale of the 4-part series on the mission-driven life:

Edition 018: Mission-driven | What will you sacrifice?

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Have a blessed fortnight. I'll see you in two Fridays, God willing.

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