How to Avoid Overexertion: Tips for Workaholics

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Effortless" by Greg McKeown. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are you a workaholic? Do you often work yourself to the point of burnout?

In today’s hustle culture, many people think the only way to live a productive and rewarding life is to work as hard as possible. This idea is so ingrained in our culture that many work to the point of overexertion, sacrificing their mental and physical health.

Here’s how to avoid overexertion and burnout in a culture that never sleeps.

Pace Yourself

The obvious way to avoid burnout and overexertion is to get enough rest. But in today’s hustle culture, many people find it difficult to find the proper balance between working too hard and working too little.  

If you work too much, you’ll inevitably hit a point where you can’t keep the momentum going. But if you work too little, you may lose the motivation to continue. The goal, then, is to find the ideal balance between exertion and relaxation.

Finding this balance will take trial and error, but the key is to determine the minimum and maximum amount of daily effort that works best for you. The minimum should be easily achievable but enough to constitute progress, and the maximum should be the most you feel you can do on a daily basis without getting exhausted. Having a limit on daily effort can sometimes seem counterintuitive, as you may feel that when you’re on a roll, you should keep going. But doing so can lead to a habit of overexertion and underachievement. No matter the task, find that sweet spot of productivity and stick to it.

How to Avoid Overexertion: Find a Work-Life Balance

In The 5 AM Club, Robin Sharma also recognizes the importance of sustainable progress that McKeown supports. Sharma argues that to be productive and creative, you must take the time to recharge your mental and physical capacities. Taking time off not only helps you avoid burnout but also strengthens your mind and body. To accomplish the most, you must find a balance between work and restoration. 

Another way to pace yourself is to consider your level of ambition. In Ego Is the Enemy, Ryan Holiday argues that maintaining a balance between too much and too little ambition can help you find success. This balance can be difficult to find. It’s easy to work relentlessly toward your goals and not realize it until you burn out. But it’s also easy to lose motivation and stop working toward your goals. You must know when to push yourself and when to stop to maintain long-term success. 

How to Avoid Overexertion: Tips for Workaholics

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  • Why you don't need to hustle and burn out to achieve your goals
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Darya Sinusoid

Darya’s love for reading started with fantasy novels (The LOTR trilogy is still her all-time-favorite). Growing up, however, she found herself transitioning to non-fiction, psychological, and self-help books. She has a degree in Psychology and a deep passion for the subject. She likes reading research-informed books that distill the workings of the human brain/mind/consciousness and thinking of ways to apply the insights to her own life. Some of her favorites include Thinking, Fast and Slow, How We Decide, and The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

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