Like excess in anything, there is a price to pay for overachieving.  Unless he/she recovers through hitting bottom or some sudden epiphany, an overachiever is destined to either crash and burn and/or to miss happiness by a wide margin. 

So, when I talk of the successful person and/or the productive person, I am speaking of a person who does that which gains the most total value out of life.  And you can't get the most value if you focus on one thing to the point where getting more of that one thing has less value than many other things

If you study productivity, success, or economics, you will undoubtedly end up learning about diminishing marginal returns. 

In most areas and activities, the benefit/effect/return per amount of effort begins to decline at some point.  We call that basic  "marginal", meaning extra return, beyond a certain early point, where we add a margin (amount of effort) and get back a margin of extra return.  When the return on the margin diminishes it will tend to go below the return that we can get on the margin from some other activity - we don't keep on in the old activity as its returns are diminishing more and more.  If we can get 5 units of value per hour from a new activity and only 3 units from an old one, any person in his right mind would choose the greater one.  But we seem to have forgotten to assess what the value is...  See Operating Based On Marginal Returns - Stop When They Are Not As Great As The Alternative!!!.  This is one of the most important concepts of any in life, and using it religiously can make the difference between a so-so life and a truly great, satisfying, happy life. 

I wished that I had learned this whole area much better and much earlier, instead of just being intellectually aware of it.  You might wish to read My Personal Life Of Overachievement - Driven By An Illusion - Fortunately this is not the total strory of my life! 


I know a very smart, very knowledgeable fellow who can recite all the rules for being more productive.  And he is also a fellow who does an exceptionally great job in certain things, beyond good.  But he has to be perfect or great in everything and satisfy everybody's request for him.  He, and his wife, do not know how to say no.  And both, she less than him, drive hard to please others, beyond beyond! 

Would you think that they suffer from burnout and lots of anxiety?

You bet. 

They are greatly motivated, very good people, but they are selling themselves and others short of what could be delivered. 

He, despite his great knowledge and ability to spout all the wisdom about diminishing marginal returns and also about The 80/20 Principle does not follow these.  He takes on low return items, often driving them to perfection with almost no extra payoff for the perfection.  And in so doing, he cheats himself of what is more rewarding - and fails to use his great talents to even greater effects on other people and the world. 

He is an overachiever (or extreme avoider of criticism, operating as if he is on a never-ending quest to gain his father's and the world's approval).  He is experiencing constant stress and anxiety, but needlessly, for no real advantage.  He could be much, much more productive (even though people already "see" that he appears to be highly productive), yet he stays stuck in low marginal return actions when he could, with the same energy, produce a much higher marginal return for his time, plus be free of pressure and anxiety. 

He needs to say "no" and to draw boundaries all over the place, not letting crappola and diversions leak into his tank.  He needs to follow the urgings of this site and the highest principles of productivity.

Instead, he and his wife could acknowledge the great service done for others, be proud of it and how they care to do what is right - yet also integrate that with what else is of value in their lives, so that they "maximize the total accumulated value" and not the quantity of what is done nor the seeking of approval, going down the great sinkhole of life.

My Personal Life Of Overachievement - Driven By An Illusion - Fortunately this is not the total strory of my life!