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Healthier Productivity: An Easy Strategy to Prevent Burnout

Keep Yourself on Your To-Do List

Keep Yourself on Your To-Do List

Sometimes we’re not just busy, we’re too busy. Going all day from one thing to next. There’s not enough time in the day and still so much to do. We’re running on empty. Life gets this way at times no matter how much try to avoid it.

But sometimes, we’re so caught up with being productive, we don’t realize our way of life has become destructive. It can be by our own doing. At other times, it’s due to circumstances beyond our control, at work or at home. Let’s face it, we’ve been encultured to value productivity and achievement above all things. Even above ourselves.

We need to be productive. But we also need to check in regularly with our bodies and our emotions. It’s easy to get so busy that we stop hearing what they have to tell us. But their messages contain keys to our well-being.

Early one summer I was rundown to the point of collapse: I was moving, starting a new job and desperately needed a second one. I was finishing my thesis, had an important family matter that required attention, and the deadline for an old project was looming in the future. I became irritable, exhausted, uninspired, and my motivation to keep it all going was fast slipping away. I needed help.

I couldn’t escape my responsibilities but I needed to do something different. I called a good friend looking for a solution. She gave me four words, a wise but simple acronym that changed everything. H-A-L-T:

Halt. Check in with yourself. See if you are becoming too Hungry, too Angry, too Lonely, or too Tired. If you are, do something about it.

Hearing this was an epiphany for me. It was so simple, so mind-blowingly simple! I was burning myself out because I had been living in a constant state of all of the above for weeks, without even realizing it. That simple acronym made it plainly obvious.

Following are some ways to recognize that you may need to HALT:

  • Too Hungry: You’re not eating right. You’re either ignoring your hunger or you’re not aware of it and forget to eat. You may constantly eat on the go or while doing something else.
  • Too Angry: You’re resentful about the lack of free time to do the things you really want to. You may also start resenting others who have less going on, as well as those around you who you feel could be doing more to chip in.
  • Too Lonely: You’re lonely for the care-free company of family and friends, and don’t have enough of it. You also may be lonely for idle alone time to spend with just you.
  • Too Tired: Finally, you’re  burning the midnight oil regularly, no matter how tired. You may might be maxing out out on coffee and/or sugar. You’re waking up exhausted every day.

That was me.

I began applying the HALT strategy everyday. Shortly, my energy and enthusiasm improved. I was much more balanced and could accomplish what I had to with a greater sense of ease. I actually got more done, and to my surprise, I ended up having a totally enjoyable summer in spite of having so much to do.

When you’ve got a lot going on, tune in for a moment. Ask yourself: Am I letting myself get too hungry, too angry, too lonely, or too tired? If so, halt to listen to your body and emotions, and take action. Then, get out your daily planner and double check your to-do list, because chances are a very important item has gone missing from them: You.


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