You probably suffer from overachiever syndrome if you’re reading this. And presumably on a quest to figure out how to stop being an overachiever, right?
(If you’d rather listen, my podcast cohost and I talked about this for 30 minutes!)
Is Overachiever a Good Thing?
Well, yes and no. You are reading this on the internet, which means you’re part of a world that (over?!) values achievement. Nothing like a little cultural validation to reassure you of your worth!
Does overachieving feel mostly good? Like happy times with people you love? Like beautiful sunsets? Like meaningful, fulfilling work?
Or does it feel stressful, overwhelming, and ultimately numbing? If yes, read on!
7 Habits to Resist Overachiever Personality
1. Put others’ demands last.
Chances are you pile overachiever fuel onto the fire within minutes of waking by checking your email. Or your DMs. Or your texts. Inboxes and message folders are giant to-do lists generated by the outside world. But here’s the thing… no one else knows what’s best for you.
Requests for your attention do NOT help you give your energy to the things that make you come alive.
Consider this quote:
If the most important thing you can do is listen to your inner voice, starting your day with email is like first putting on intense music at a deafening volume.
Do instead: don’t spend more than 40 minutes a day giving your attention to others. Email and Facebook are the two places I give my attention to others. I spend 25 minutes a day in my inbox. I have a timer that goes off 15 minutes in to keep me using that time efficiently. I spend another 15 minutes answering Facebook messages and comments, with a timer that goes off after 10 minutes.
What limits will you set for yourself?
2. Email Consciously
Ever open your inbox to search for information “real quick” and end up still there 30 minutes later?
It’s hard to stick to the above 40-minute method when those brand new emails are staring you in the face. If you’re a Gmail and Chrome user, check out Inbox When Ready! It’s a chrome extension that hides your inbox and new email count. That way you only see those new messages during the allotted time YOU’VE chosen.
If you don’t have Gmail and/or Chrome, figure out a workaround. Before I started using the free version of Inbox When Ready, I literally just used a piece of paper to cover the screen whenever I needed something from my email account. I’d type some keywords into my search bar and then take the paper away… all to keep control over my attention!
3. Bullet Journal
You don’t have to actually learn the bullet journaling method. But writing out to-do lists and your calendar by hand has been scientifically shown to create different mental connections than digital tracking.
Overachiever syndrome is made more likely by a lack of awareness. Keeping your life logistics on paper will increase your awareness and decrease your overachieving!
4. One. Thing. At. A. Time.
How many tabs do you have open on your browser right now? If you did a lap of your house or apartment, how many “project piles” would you count?
Letting your home, work space, desktop, and browser fill with incomplete tasks is a recipe for permanently fractured attention. Your attention output soars without having anything to show for it. It makes it much easier to end up exhausted and disappointed in yourself.
If you can’t finish something you’re working on, put it away. Rather than open a browser tab, add an item to your (bullet journal?!) to-do list. When you re-write it for the 7th time (during time you CHOSE to think about what you want to accomplish), maybe you’ll realize it doesn’t fit!
5. Keep the Sabbath.
This is not a religious thing. But the best gifts you can give the world and the most fulfilling achievements of your life require awareness and self-care. One day a week, don’t let ANY demands for your attention into your brain.
No email. No DMs or messages. No texts. No social media. No commitments to other people. No plans to accomplish pending goals and items on your to-do list.
In short – no overachieving! One day a week, cut out the noise that keeps you on the hamster wheel of doing too much. Your overachiever syndrome will become less and less of a challenge to combat!
6. Know Your Why
Once a month, perhaps on your birthday-versary, get out a piece of paper and write down your why. (A birthday-versary is the just the day of your birth each month. Mine is the 7th!)
Why are you doing what you’re doing?
Bonus points (I can see your overachiever heart soaring!): do the Toyota 5 Whys method. Not just “why did the engine die?” and “Because the spark plugs failed.” But also – why did the spark plugs fail? Because I didn’t get a tune up. Why didn’t I get a tune up? I was too busy doing X, Y, and Z. Why was I too busy? Because I said yes to too many thing. Why did I say yes to so many things? Because I’m afraid of the consequences saying no might bring.
7. Take a Depth Month
A favorite writer of mine mused at the end of 2017 – what if we had a cultural rite-of-passage of at least once in your adult life of taking a ‘depth year.’ A year where you didn’t take on anything new, but instead read the books you’ve been meaning to read, learned the instrument you bought five years ago, etc.
He’s was just being hypothetical, but many of his readers were so inspired that they started their ‘depth years’ immediately!
I didn’t think I could do a whole year, so I just did a month. It was so freeing to institute a global “no” policy for a short time, that one month turned into two, then three, then six.
Give a depth month a try!