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The Substitute to Productivity

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Quote of the Month



We always talk of being productive in life. Our education system aims to inculcate in us a sense of productivity. Our employers expect maximum productivity from our sides and we expect the same from our subordinates as well. The blessed month of Ramadan that we just witnessed was aimed at making us more productive as servants of Allah. Naturally, this raises the question of why everyone demands productivity. A productive business yields better profits, a productive housewife makes the house a home, a productive student is an asset for his teachers and parents alongside benefitting himself in the longer run, and the list continues.


But the true and complete worth of productivity—as for all other traits—can only be understood when we have a clear picture of the converse in front of us as well. And even though it is very predictable, for an example, an unproductive father can never serve as a role-model for his children—instead, may even end up losing the respect every parent demands. Likewise, an unproductive bank not only stays in a state of perpetual loss, but also (as proven historically by The Great Depression of 1929) becomes a liability on a country’s economy. We can see countless such precedents—of varying severities— of unproductive modes of living in our daily lives and when asked to make a choice between the two lifestyles, everyone (excluding those who are adamantly and arrogantly spend their lives in trivialities) would prefer a productive lifestyle over an unproductive one. Yet the latter exists, and quite tragically, in a much larger number.


The extreme examples of an unproductive lifestyle that have been quoted above may raise an issue that isn’t there anything between productivity and its appalling converse? Can’t one alternate between the two, being productive at one time and unproductive at another? The answer is simple: no.


Now before I proceed, I feel that it would be useful if I clarified my choice of topic. Around a decade ago, a park was made in our locality. The decision and its implementation generated a lot of jubilation from the residents. Over time, the fanfare died away and the park slowly started becoming deserted. Even the caretakers became lethargic. What now remains of the park are its decrepit boundary walls, which enclose huge puddles of stagnant water with litter floating in it, and patches of bare dusty land which previously housed lush green grass. When I went there a few days back and saw the condition of what used to be fit for a picnic-spot, I concluded that if any place, thing or even ability for that matter, is not utilised for any productive objective, it is bound to be wasted in some unproductive and hence detrimental occupation. There is no middle path. What does seem to be a middle path is nothing but an effective facade, something that first takes you into confidence—very discreetly, very slowly—that nothing is wrong in being a little less productive, and a little more, and more... By the time one realises that he has compromised too much, the scope of being “less productive” has transformed into a state of being utterly unproductive.


I will present a personal example here and many of us might have encountered a similar situation in our lives. There was a time when the store in our house used to be so well-organised that we would proudly show it to people who came over. The reason was that it was serving a productive purpose in the house.


It was during one of those days we became infected by the Convenience-Mindset Syndrome (or CMS)1 and put the first unnecessary article in the store, with the intention of removing it soon after. This “soon after” never came, and in what we continued to perceive as the middle way between productivity and its converse, we had soon managed to convert the store into a dump.


The same applies to abilities. If a person’s abilities are not recognized and channelled into the right direction, very soon, his abilities will be serving a wrong direction. History is full of such examples. Had someone recognised Sultana Daaku’s2 philanthropic interests and channelled them in the right direction, he would have definitely made a more significant and honourable mark in history.


The perfect analogy for the transition from productivity to the state of being unproductive is that of trust. It takes years to build and just a very small lie or a very tiny speck of deceit or a spark of doubt to break. Tie a knot in your kerchiefs, make a writing on your wall and be assured that there is no middle way between productivity and its converse. You will have to fight the CMS continually and strive to maintain a high level of productivity at all times. Once you even start deviating, there is a high chance that you will have no idea where to stop. So why not play safe, nip the devil in the bud, and completely disallow anything to substitute for the productivity in our lives?


1On a brief note, CMS is a mental script in which certain conventions of convenience (which mostly are not wrong in themselves) trigger one to deviate from his principles, for example availability of Internet (a convenience) may encourage one to waste his time on social media rather than research, for which the person had actually opened the laptop.


2Sultana Daaku was a famous dacoit of South Asia who would loot the rich and then donate everything to the poor. He was later hung to death.


Areeb Nafey Uddin Siddiqui is a Timelenders family member and is currently an A level student at Generation’s School, Karachi. He has attended the Strategic Visions, Strategic Time Management and Visions Retreat (Malaysia) workshops. He is simultaneously a poet, satirical writer, and also addresses serious issues like organizational and personal skills. He writes in both, English and Urdu. He has also conducted the Strategic Time Management training in his school for the domestic staff. Currently, he is doing an extensive internship with Timelenders.




Mark Goulston has been named one of the top psychiatrists in the US and his book Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone is an important read on developing personal and professional relationships. It has so far been translated into 14 different languages. In the book Goulston talks about how our mind processes conversations and how we need to interpret that conversation in order to assess it correctly. In simpler words, Just Listen is a book on communication that discusses the critically overlooked need to really ‘listen’ before reaching a conclusion on what was actually said.


In today’s high-paced, high-speed technological world, everyone is impatient to get his or her word out either by text or through speech. On the same note, the reader or listener on the other end is equally impatient to respond right away by type or speech. This breakneck environment has subconsciously tuned us to invariably develop the habit to skip over written words. Similarly, as listeners we have developed the habit to only listen to what we wish to hear in conversations. Where writing experts advise never to respond to important written material immediately without reading it a couple more times, Goulston emphasizes the critical need to pay attention to conversations to decipher their actual meaning.


The first section of the book starts by telling us briefly how the human brain functions and how it processes verbal communication. The second section deals with Goulston’s ‘Nine Core Rules For Getting Through to Anyone’. Contrary to how people tend to blame the other person for ‘saying’ the wrong things, Goulston explains how it is often our fault for interpreting those words ‘incorrectly’. This always happens in haste and this is exactly where things start to go wrong.


In the second section of the book, some interesting tips include ‘rewiring’ ourselves to listen. Goulston writes, ‘Get rid of the filter. The stuff you think you already know about someone—‘lazy’, ‘loser’, ‘whiny’, ‘hostile’, ‘impossible’—is in reality, blocking out what you need to know. Remove that mental block, and you’re ready to start reaching people you thought were unreachable.’ In the tip on how to make the other person feel ‘felt’ he writes, ‘Making someone ‘feel felt’ simply means putting yourself in the other person’s shoes’.


The two tips I found applicable on the majority today is how we need to make a conscious and sincere effort in being ‘interested’ in the other person and how to make people feel ‘valuable’ This is opposed to being focused on impressing others by making ourselves look ‘interesting’. In Goulston’s words, ‘As the old joke goes, ‘You can’t fake sincerity’. You can’t fake interest either, so don’t try. The more you want to influence and get through to discerning and successful people, the more sincere your interest in them needs to be’. A genuine interest in others is the key to being sincere.


Dissonance is another ‘ill trait’ that Goulston discusses as being a frequent culprit in bombed domestic or professional communication. So what exactly is dissonance? In Goulston’s words, ‘Dissonance occurs when you think you’re coming across in one way but people see you in a totally different way….Dissonance also happens when you think you’re coming off as wise, but people see you as being sly—or when you think you’re coming across as passionate, but other people think you’re ‘over the top’. Other important tips Goulston discusses include helping people to exhale emotionally and mentally, when and why to bare your neck when all seems lost, and how to steer clear of toxic people.


Goulston devotes the third section of the book to the ‘Persuasion Cycle’ in attempting to accomplish an impossible task. He says, ‘The following techniques take just minutes, but they can change the course of a business project, a sale, a relationship, or even a life.’ The techniques that he outlines as part of this cycle include ‘The Impossibility Question’, ‘The Empathy Jolt’, ‘The Reverse Play, Empathy Jolt #2’, ‘From Transaction to Transformation’, and ‘The Power Thank You and Power Apology’. In the last section, Goulston sums it all together also identifies some challenging situations.


Just Listen is a one of the key communication books especially in today’s time. It makes relationships easier by helping us understand people better by making us understand ourselves first. It is only when we realize how we actually decipher conversations that we can really learn to ‘hear’ between the lines of the conversations that we hear around us. For all the invaluable advice it contains, Goulston’s book is worth ‘listening’ to!


Irum Sarfaraz is a freelance writer/editor settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, USA. Her published credits as writer and web content developer include well over 2,000 articles in both American and Pakistani publications. Her notable work is the translation of Harun Yahya's epic Atlas of Creation-Vol 1 and Evolution Deceit. Sister Irum will be writing the Book Review for Envision every month. She offers editing, content and ebook creation, and book translation and representation through her company Wordlenders.



As you all know that number of people go through our workshops every year and many of them go through inspiring changes in their lives. Here is one such feedback I recently received from a Timelenders family member. We are sharing it with our readers for the inspiration and to encourage you to attend the workshops, and implement the learning to reap full benefits.

If you have a story to tell, do share with us at envision@timelenders.com.

Yameenuddin Ahmed



Dearest Brother Suleman and Brother Yameen,


I apologize for not keeping in touch with you lately.

After attending below workshops:

  • STM on Feb 10-12, 2011
  • STM on April 25-27, 2014
  • Strategic Vision June 6-8, 2014 by Brother Yameen
  • Sleep management live on May 17, 2015 (watched videos more than 4 times)
  • Where do You Want to Go on May 17, 2015

I'm trying to maintain my Daily Scheduler on regular basis, planning most of my Q2s (important but not urgent tasks) to make them TRQ2s (Time restricted Q2 activities) and completely in love with the power of GK book.

By following the framework as taught, within a span of less than a year below magic is start happening in my life:

  • I offer most of my prayers in congregation with Takbeer-e-Oala
  • I have memorized almost half of 30th Juzz of Quran. Also regularly reading Tafseer Maarif-ul-Quran, read the seerah of Prophet (sas) Al-Raheeq-ul-Makhtum / The Sealed Nectar and many other books.
  • I recently got promoted from Finance Executive to Senior Finance Executive due to quality performance in last one year.
  • I planned to get married in October 2014 and Alhamdu Lillah got married in January 2015 and enjoying a very healthy and happy relationship with my wife. Currently I’m trying to teach her STM and SV workshops by using Timelenders DVDs.
  • She recently has attended STM and SV sessions as a guest and is really inspired to continue.
  • We are 3 brothers and my father recently commented "In all 3, you are my wisest son" (for taking serious interest in family matters).
  • By regular exercise, balanced diet and incorporating Qailoolah in my daily schedule, I’m enjoying a very healthy physical, emotional and spiritual life. My By the blessings of Allah, it has been months since I got ill.
  • My productivity has almost doubled in last one year specially after implementing STM and Sleep Management framework.
  • My ability to help my friends and family members is increased and I have become a source of advice for them in their personal issues.
  • During STM workshop I intended that I will teach it to 5 people and by now I have taught it to my 2 friends completely and now I’m planning to teach at least 100 people because the more I read and teach, the more my level of understanding increases.
  • After knowing the value of books and reading, I have read 3 books in less than 4 months on self-development and list of to be read books is continuously increasing. I am continuously taking advice from Brother Yameen on this.
  • I'm upgrading my qualification and have registered for CPA (an accounting certification) and planned to complete it by the end of next year Inn Sha Allah.
  • After applying time quadrant frame work, I have identified and replaced almost all my Q4s (Not Important Not Urgent activities) with Q2s and can handle Q1s and Q3s with much better approach.
  • My relation with my elder brother is stronger now. He attended the Strategic Visions workshop with me. Currently he’s pursuing PhD from university of Shanghai China.

There are so many other improvements in many areas of my life and I'm continuously trying to perform all my roles with excellence.

Currently I’m writing my Vision for next 32 years and also planning to attend vision retreat at the earliest. I am really thankful to you and Timelenders for showing me the path towards productivity, effectiveness and to add tremendous meaning to my life. May you continue to enlighten the community and may the Almighty Allah accept your great efforts.


Mohammad Farhan


Stress Management

Marriott Hotel, Karachi

25 July, 2015


Sleep Management

Marriott Hotel, Karachi

26 July, 2015


Where Do You Want To Go

Marriott Hotel, Karachi

26 July, 2015







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