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The Pitfalls of Overachieving: 3 Ways to Reclaim Your Progress

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How to Control the Law of Diminishing Returns for Success

Overachievers are simple people. They wake up, get to work, and never stop until they collapse.

How do I know? I was one of them.

For most of my life, I thought doing more was the only way of achieving more. So, I have always tried to give my best, never taking breaks. Do you think this behavior brought me success?

Definitely no. Na-ha. Nada.

I spent most of my evenings trying to reach my goals. But my craft didn’t improve despite my efforts. On the contrary, it even got worse from time to time.

At first, I was confused. Why did I get less even if I did more?

But then, I figured it out — I trapped myself in the Law of Diminishing Returns.

The Brutality of The Law of Diminishing Returns

If you work more, you won’t necessarily get more. On the contrary, you may ruin your progress. And using the Law of Diminishing Returns, you could explain why it happens.

The law is an economic concept. But it has many touch points with overachieving tendencies. If you wish, you could explain it like this:

After a certain point, each extra input produces a decreasing output.

But what does that mean?

How to Apply The Law To Your Tasks

Suppose you are measuring your productivity in any task. For example, let’s take writing.

  • If you write for two hours, you may produce two high-level pages.
  • But writing for four hours may only give you three pages. Or you may keep the same productivity levels, but your work will lack originality.

Therefore, you will obtain fewer results for every extra step you make. Still, overachievers will double down their efforts if the requirements increase. And if they fail, they will think the amount of work is the issue to solve.

But the more they do, the less they achieve. And in the long run, this behavior becomes unbearable and stressful. Until, exasperated, anyone would quit.

Why do we achieve less by doing more?

The Law of Diminishing Returns is an economic concept. But it also works in your private life.

The results in time will follow the graph below.

Optimal Stop Point for Overachievers - The Pitfalls of Overachieving
Optimal Stop Point for Overachievers
  1. You start working on a task. But you will not achieve any concrete results for the first few minutes.
  2. After a while, your efforts will grow.
  3. Successes add up over time until they reach the optimal stop point. Here, you become less concentrated and lose focus. It is the first sign you should quit for the day.
  4. However, if you continue, the side effects will increase. You will experience foggy ideas, and your results will drop.
  5. At last, you are so exhausted that you are ruining the results you achieved until then. And instead of improving, every input will receive a negative output.

The Negative Returns Danger Zone

Every investment in the negative returns danger zone will have harmful consequences. In this state, you could ruin all your progress, and it is always better to cash out and leave.

Sometimes, you are forced into this situation by close deadlines and urgent tasks. But you have to find the mental strength to quit. Otherwise, you will spend the following days repairing the damages.

You are living an illusion — you have no power to reach your goals in this state. You are fatigued. Your judgment is impaired. And your bed is waiting for you.

3 Ways to Reclaim Your Progress and Quit Overachieving

The Law of Diminishing Returns is brutal. But you can fight it.

Self-conscience is always the first step. And if you are here, you might have reached that point already. So here are three ways to reclaim your progress and quit your negative tendencies.

1 — Train your body to slow feelings.

Perfectionists always want more because they are unsatisfied with what they have now. And training your body to work with slower feelings is one way to solve the problem.

You don’t have to feel the rush of emotions constantly. And the feeling of being involved in something could become overwhelming.

Sometimes, slower emotions can help you take a break from the game. And then, you may turn back stronger and with more energy.

Here are four ideas to train your body to slower emotions:

  • Take long breaks between tasks. Give yourself more time to refill with motivation and energy.
  • Resist the urgency of working.
  • Fight the voice in your head that tells you you are losing time and you should get back to work.
  • And schedule a 24-Hour Do Nothing Challenge.

2 — Practice mindfulness.

Everybody is concerned about lifestyle. But only a few talk about mind style, which is as important, if not more.

I spoke about mindfulness at The Challenge before. But it has too many benefits not to suggest it now, especially when the article is about being in control.

Emotional control is one of the best abilities you will learn with mindfulness. And, for an overachiever, controlling your emotions is everything.

If you practice mindfulness long enough, you will gain the capacity to observe your thoughts from an external point of view. So you may escape the mental traps your mind is throwing at you.

However, mindfulness requires time and a lot of training before it becomes effective. Yet, the only fact that you are taking 10–15 minutes a day to do it will improve your mental strength. Also, it will help you avoid trying to achieve more.

Here are a few suggestions to use it to control your emotions.

  • Practice body scans as soon as you can. Body scans are the easiest way to approach the practice. And you will observe improvements soon.
  • Record your streaks to remain motivated. Track your mindfulness repetitions as you do for any other goal.
  • Use mindfulness to recognize when you should stop working. Learn to identify the exhaustion signals of your body. And stop before it is too late.

3 — Set overachieving boundaries.

You may set decent boundaries if you are good at setting goals.

Limits are as simple as your goals. But instead of targeting a purpose far away in the future, they focus on what you can do now to achieve a healthy mindset.

How much work can you do optimally?

How many hours can you remain focused in a distraction-free environment?

  • Set limits for the maximum work you can do in one session/day.
  • And check your boundaries often. Sometimes, a good push of motivation will allow you to do more. Other times, you might get exhausted earlier.

Final Thoughts

Apply the Law of Diminishing Returns to fight the pitfalls of overachieving. Train your body with slow emotions, practice mindfulness, and set clear overachieving boundaries.

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Original Publication: The Pitfalls of Overachieving: 3 Ways to Reclaim Your Progress