How to Pray When You’re Too Tired to Pray

We all have faced times where we got super busy. High busyness correlates to low amounts of sleep, which in turn correlates to low amounts of energy. When energy runs low, relationships are frequently the first things to go. It’s unfortunate, because these relationships are he best tool for recharging and getting re energized and out of the ruts that drain us. The most important relationships that this affects are those with our close friends, our family, and most of all, God.

If you do not view yourself to be a religious person, I still think this is a noteworthy observation, because our busyness also affects our relationships with our close friends and family. I find when I get very busy, I employ many of these techniques to make sure my relationships with God and with those I care about don’t fall by the wayside:

In this article I am going to briefly describe three techniques you can use to keep up your prayer life when you feel too exhausted to pray:

  1. Having designated prayer time.
  2. Having a designated prayer journal.
  3. Having prayer lists.

I wrote in a previous post that I employ morning and evening rituals to help build habits that help me to be more productive. In both my morning and my evening rituals, I pray. Having a list helps me not to forget it, and by writing down that list, I remind myself that this is something that is important and should be neither rushed nor ignored. I also know that I need to allot  45 minutes every day for my morning ritual, though I expand this to 60 when I am not so busy, and spend a little time doing Greek word studies in my morning devotions.

When I get tired, I am tempted to graze over or completely neglect prayer time. But the rhythm and the habits are there and built up by being consistent with the rituals, which help me stay solid during my rough days.

I keep a small notebook with a list of names in my satchel next to my pocket Bible. When I stop for prayer or when people are asking for prayer requests, I know who in my life is needing prayer. Frequently going back to this list helps me to be consistent with people and let them know that I have been praying for them everyday.

But more then that, there are times when I am so tired that I think if things to pray about. Keeping a list like this helps me to keep a list of things to pray about so I am not at a loss when I am too tired.

And last of all, my prayer journal. I use it just for writing my thoughts down. By moving my pen across paper, I can keep myself from dozing off in the middle of prayer. Other effective strategies could be talking, prayer walks, sending God an email, and anything else that your body doesn’t confuse for sleep. Furthermore I have found that journaling while sitting down or praying in bed does not help my prayers to be more quality, rather the opposite, so I often pray sitting down, especially when I am especially tired.

These are three things that I do to keep my prayer life running when I am too tired. But just like any other relationship, when one person is struggling, asking the other to help always is the best way to make it through tough times. If you are finding yourself losing time for prayer, ask God to give you the energy and the time, and He will help you make time for prayer.

How to Be More Productive with Spotify and the Pomodoro Technique

Once again everybody, it’s Friday, and my sister Jenny has made some great art for another post!

The spring semester is coming to a close, and I’ve been working on finishing several big projects. In order to get these projects done, I’ve needed to carve out blocks of time where 1) I was not distracted, and 2) I remained focused. Doing this is not always easy to do, but after a bit of trial and error, I think I’ve found a method that works well for me, and I hope for you as well.

The method that I use combines the Pomodoro Technique and listening to Spotify. Just a quick review on how these two things work:

The Pomodoro Technique

Pomodoro Technique Image

The Pomodoro Technique is method Francesco Cirillo developed in the 1980’s to break massive tasks down into digestible segments. Just for context, pomodoro is the Italian word for tomato, named after the tomato kitchen timer traditionally used for the technique. This methodology helps one to remain focused, and makes daunting projects look more manageable. For example, one 4 hour project could be divided into 8 half-hour projects. There are five easy steps to implement the technique:

  1. Select a task that you want to make progress on
  2. Set a timer to 25 minutes. This time can be different depending on your needs or preferences, but 25 is the traditional amount of time.
  3. Work on the task until the timer goes off.
  4. Take a 5 minute break
  5. After doing steps 1-4 four times, take a longer break.

Here’s what it might look like if you started at 1:00 after a lunch break, and wanted to work up until supper at 5:30, you could break it into 8 pomodori and have the time look like this:

  • 1:00 – 1:25 Pomodoro #1
  • 1:25 – 1:30 Five minute break
  • 1:30 – 1:55 Pomodoro #2
  • 1:55 – 2:00 Five minute break
  • 2:00 – 2:25 Pomodoro #3
  • 2:25 – 2:30 Five minute break
  • 2:30 – 2:55 Pomodoro #4
  • 2:55 – 3:10 Fifteen minute long break (handle any major interruptions that may have occurred in the last two hours)
  • 3:10 – 3:35 Pomodoro #5
  • 3:35 – 3:40 Five minute break
  • 3:40 – 4:05 Pomodoro #6
  • 4:05 – 4:10 Five minute break
  • 4:10 – 4:35 Pomodoro #7
  • 4:35 – 4:40 Five minute break
  • 4:40 – 5:05 Pomodoro #8
  • 5:05 – 5:30 Handle any major interruptions that may have occurred in the last two hours. Write notes in Evernote or Omnifocus about what was finished and what still needs doing if project is still not complete.

When I first adopted this system, it seemed counter intuitive to take so many breaks. Over a 130-minute period for four pomodori, only 100 minutes, or 75% of the time is actually spent getting work done. But this actually allows you to get more work done. Here’s why.

First, sitting for long periods of time is unhealthy. Sitting for hours at a time can cause cardio-vascular problems, increased risk of depression, decreased metabolism, loss of focus and motivation, poor posture, the list goes on, and exactly zero things on the list help you get your goals done. By getting up between pomodori, you can avoid all of these effects by standing up, stretching, and even going on a short walk near your workspace, and if you can, in the fresh air.

Second, life is full of distractions. If you have ever decided to spend a block of time working on one task, only to be interrupted by a more urgent task and then not getting the first task done, you know what I mean. In a pomodoro, you do not allow yourself to stop what you’re working on until the timer rings. If you do get up and do something else, you decide to void your pomodoro and it doesn’t count. Instead, you should write down any interruptions that come up and take care of those during your 5 minute or 15 minute breaks. I will frequently send text messages, short emails, and phone calls during my breaks. These distractions are going to happen whether you are pomodoroing or not, and if you’re dedicating 75% of your time to focusing on an important task, the other 25% is there to help you manage everything that would happen otherwise, so the 25% is not actually time wasted.

Third, stopping periodically forces you to check-in on how you’re doing. If you get bogged down in one part of the project and start spending way to much time doing something that isn’t an important part, after spending one or two pomodori on that part, you have a natural opportunity to stop and reassess to see if what you’re doing is effective or whether you should change your strategy.

So that’s a quick explanation of the Pomodoro Techqniue which is only half of the equation.

Spotify

Spotify Logo

Spotify is a commercial music streaming service that I have come to prefer over the last four months. You can select pre-made playlists, which has an advantage over Pandora and other commercial music streaming services that give you songs that a computer algorithm believes to be related, but aren’t always as related as one would like. You can listen to songs in shuffle-mode all by the same artist, all on the same album, or all in the same genre. You choose, and have a lot more control over what comes in your ear buds than many other services.

Up until March 31st, I was enjoying 3-month premium of Spotify with no ads for $.99, or about 1 cent per day. But after this was over, it would cost $5/month for a student license, and I decided to decline continuing premium for now. Now I was faced with jarring ads that might break my concentration and break my workflow. So rather than cave and give back in to the no ad service, I found a way to resolve the problem using the Pomodoro Technique.

Pomodoro + Spotify

Like I said in the beginning, the last two weeks have given me more projects that I usually have, that need me to be focused for hours at a time. I found that fewer people try to get my attention when I have huge headphones over my ears. While the music might not help me focus as much, it is great for drowning out distractions (especially if you have noise-cancelling headphones) as well as having fewer people try to get your attention. Don’t worry, if you’re using the Pomodoro Technique, you can still take the headphones off during pomodori and talk with folks.

So I’ve been listening to Spotify a lot, and I took time one evening to record the frequency of advertisements. I found out that the time between ads is either approximately 15 minutes or 30 minutes, and I say approximately because it rounds off to the nearest song.

This means that Spotify itself can act as a no-hassle pomodoro timer for you. For the every-30-minute advertisement, this signals that you are done with this pomodoro, and should get up and stretch or walk. In the case where you get 2 every-15-minute advertisements, I just remove my headset when I hear the first ad start, and keep working for 30 seconds before putting it back on, so I don’t get distracted. When the second ad starts, I know that I’m finished with that pomodoro again.

When I was using the Pomodoro Technique with Spotify Premium, I would have another timer running, often on my phone. But this was another app that I had to manage, and sometimes I wouldn’t hear the notification sounds over the music I was listening to. And sometimes I would forget to stop the timer from continuing onto successive pomodori, or I would believe that I started the timer when really I didn’t. Spotify does its best to make sure that you hear the ads, and it doesn’t forget to start or stop ads.

This system is great because I get the productivity of the Pomodoro Technique with essentially all the benefits of premium Spotify. I am pretty happy with it, and I am sure it will be a staple in my project-finishing techniques for a long time, or until I get enough income to justify Spotify premium again, in which case I will need another timer to notify me when I am done with a project.

The ABC of Rituals (My Morning and Evening Check List)

By the way, before I continue any farther, I want to thank my sister, Jennifer Wheeler, for making this amazing cover photo. :)

My dad is an airline pilot. Several times a week, he enters a vehicle capable of flying hundreds of miles, several tens of thousands of feet above the ground, over dense metropolitan areas, carrying dozens of very important of people.

What keeps my dad and so many other pilots like him able to keep from making mistakes? What keeps pilots from forgetting things? Checklists and routines.

AsianEfficiency wrote an article on rituals. Some checklists and routines are so important to how we function, that they reach the “ritual” level of importance, something that you do every day at the same time every day, in more or less the same way.

Why is this important? Because if you have a checklist that takes you “automagically” from when your alarm goes off until when you walk out the door of your dorm room/apartment/house, and that checklist does everything you need to get prepared for a successful day, then because you do this ritual every day you will automagically start every day prepared to be successful.

I use a ritual to convert myself from horizontal and asleep to being focused as I walk out my door of my dorm room every morning. I also have a ritual that brings me from a certain time of day (variable because I work evenings some days, and I’m free others), to being sound asleep every evening. These checklists cover everything from reviewing goals, to prioritizing tasks, to devotions, and make sure that the big things that are important to me in life are not going uncared for.

That’s a short explanation. If you want more reasons why this is a really good reason for you, there are other blogs online that you can get to with a google search. In this post, I mostly wanted to share my morning rituals. I focused on making them alphabetical so they were easy to remember, and fun to execute. So with further ado:

Morning ritual

  • Alarm goes off – This is the trigger that starts my morning ritual. As soon as this happens, I instinctively roll out of bed, turn off my alarm and drink a …
  • Bottle of water – This sits next to my phone. I chug it. Your body, which is mostly water has not gotten any of this precious resource all night, and the first step you can do towards reaping the benefits of being well hydrated is to actually drink water.
  • Cold shower – This shocks my body into gear, and forces me to do something uncomfortable first thing in the morning. If you can’t stand to do something uncomfortable for even 5 minutes, how do you expect to achieve your most daunting goals?
  • Dress for success – This is wrapped up with brushing teeth, flossing, and making myself smell nice. The longer I sit in pajamas in the morning, the more tempted I am to adopt the “today is a pajama sort of day” mentality. In general, the better dressed up I am, the better I perform, and I like to do a good job. Taking care of body image is an important part to starting out my days.
  • Establish room in order – A clean living environment is really awesome. I tried cleaning my room in the evenings before going to bed, but what ends up happening is that I sleep in my bed which requires it to be made again, and I also have a tendency to leave clothes on the floor. With most of my getting ready done at this point, I can clean my room and have everything squared away, so that any time I come back to my room throughout the day, everything is spic and span and I am motivated to get work done.
  • Feed on the word – Equipped now to do anything I want, I now spend time in Scripture. More on this in a future post.
  • Give thanks – After reading, I write down what I’m thankful for in a prayer journal. Writing helps me be focused, and I don’t drift off or fall asleep, or get distracted with what’s happening today.
  • Hone in on goals – I’m going to get a whiteboard soon, that I’m going to put yearly, quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals on, and this will be a place I keep going back to to get focused. Currently I do this in Evernote, and that gives me a bit of flexibility. I also check my calendar to make sure I don’t forget any appointments. After this step is done, my mind is free and I know exactly what is due today, and what is important.
  • Invite Jesus to help me with my goals – I do my best to align my goals with what I feel God is guiding me to do with my life, and I know that on my own, I cannot fully achieve these goals, nor should I even try to. A friend of mine summed this up in one of his favorite quotes from a book called Testimonies to Southern Africa:

“I see the work of God is so sacred, that I dare not touch it without the presence of Jesus by my side. All might, all power and all glory Ibelong to Him who loved us and gave Himself for us.”

  • Just do it – This is the last step of my morning ritual, which is actually the first step I want the rest of the world to see. It’s the part where I step out of my dorm room, and start doing the most important task of the day. By getting this done, I know that if I don’t finish anything else all day, that I will have still made progress toward my goals.

In between my morning ritual and my evening ritual, I have an intermediate step called

  • Kick butt all day – I’m not sure if I’ll keep this one here, but right now it serves as a great catch-all for the things that happen between my most important task, and my evening ritual.

My evening ritual is as follows.

  • Learn from a book – I’ve lately been reading more, and this is only because I try to get a little reading in every night, enough to read through one book per month.
  • Make notes from reading – I want to capture the highlights from what I just read, usually in Evernote. It helps me solidify what I learned, and also quickly reference it later if I want to refer to it.
  • Note daily progress in Evernote – This is where my journaling happens. I answer the same few questions every day, and they help me reflect on how I did on my goals, what I learned, and how I can be more focused, and how I can grow closer to Jesus. These are the material that I reference when I’m doing my weekly reviews, which are referenced for monthly reviews, which are referenced for quarterly reviews, etc…
  • Organize what tomorrow will look like – Comparing my long term goals with what I have time with tomorrow, I make a specific action plan for what the next 24 hours will look like. Which projects will I forward, and what resources will I use, who will I email, what is my most important task, etc…. The more decisions I can make in this step, the better I can avoid things like decision fatigue the next day.
  • Prepare for bed – This involves brushing teeth, changing lighting, changing clothes, all the necessary things for getting ready physically to go vertical for 7 hours.
  • Quiet time in prayer – Before actually falling asleep, I spend a few minutes reviewing how the day went with God. I ask forgiveness for times that I fell short, and pray for people on my prayer list.
  • Refill water bottle – I intentionally put a step between prayer and sleep so that I wouldn’t be tempted to fall asleep while praying. I walk over to the sink, refill my water bottle, and put it by my phone. I set an alarm for about 7 hours and 45 minutes in the future, and go to
  • Sleep

So that’s my morning and evening rituals. It’s what I do to make sure life is progressing the way I want it to do, and everything that needs to be taken care of, gets taken care of. The reviews are really important to me to make sure that I continue to be focused on getting what’s important done, and unless I put that in a check list, the reviews, as well as other things, often will get overlooked.

Let me know what you think. This is the routine that I’m using now, but I’m sure as time changes, so will the routine.