Save Yourself From Burnout By Putting Your Overachiever Tendencies On Hold

Opting for “good enough” can save you from burning out, but what’s a perfectionist to do?

Save Yourself From Burnout By Putting Your Overachiever Tendencies On Hold
[Photo: Flickr user Kyle May]

Editor’s Note: This article is part of “10 Ways To Be A Better Employee In 2015.” Read the full list here.


This message will be a tough one for perfectionists and overachievers to hear, but they’re who need it most.

“Satisficing,” is a term coined by researchers in 2002 who studied the effects of choice on people who felt they needed to maximize every available option, rather than settle for happiness. People prone to maximizing their options felt more regret, uncertainty, and a sense of failure with their final product than those taking the best possible option and settling on it confidently.

“To satisfice is to pursue not the best option, but a good enough option,” the researchers wrote.

And it happens to the best of us: Legendary filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki admits to falling victim to this never ending loop of self-criticism and overwork.

Put more simply: You have to give less of a damn.

Here’s how to shift into a satisficer’s mindset, and avoid burning out completely:


Take 15-Minute Breaks

Studies show that stepping away from a project–and getting up from the computer–for a brief 15 minutes triggers a re-focusing termed “goal reactivation.

When you’re mired in an intense task for hours at a stretch, that flow feels productive, but will leave you wondering where the time went at the end of the day and how you could possible have a huge chunk of to-do items left over. Taking breaks when we’re most susceptible to distraction, around 3 p.m. for most nine-to-fiver desk jockeys, can reset the afternoon for renewed focus.

Keep A “New Ideas” File

At 99u, they suggest a file for idea-keeping, to throw little sparks of genius into while you’re working on more pressing tasks. Filing one-liner inspiration notes away satisfies your need to multitask, but doesn’t allow you to be pulled fully away from what you’re already working on.

It doesn’t matter if you ever get to act on these ideas in the future, but that you’ve kept them for making connections and inspiring future creativity–when you’re ready to tackle them afresh.

Don’t Get Paralyzed By All The Steps

One of the biggest traps maximizers set for themselves is their own vision. Creative people are often great at seeing the end of the tunnel, but get frustrated with the construction along the way, either abandoning a project midway because it’s not panning out as they hoped, or never letting it rest once its finished. The “essentials and embellishments” begin to blur, as Elizabeth Saunders at 99u says:

To not do anything–to the extreme detriment of your creative career–because it can’t be exactly how you imagined in your head on the first run will hinder you immensely. Instead of aiming for brilliant out of the gate, do the basics and then recognize that with almost anything you can refine, edit, and iterate.

Put Yourself First

This one’s the most difficult for people who see their creative and professional work as a part of themselves. “But I am putting my career first, by getting this project done just right,” you might say.


Burnout happens when you’ve exhausted your energy physically and mentally–so set a time to close the laptop every day, and return to it refreshed tomorrow.

h/t: 99u


About the author

Freelance tech, science and culture writer. Find Sam on the Internet: @samleecole.