Avoiding Burnout in 2023 with the 85% Rule

Struggling to recharge as you push to end 2022 on a high note? What about the concern about balancing your work/life schedule while increasing productivity in the new year? Studies tell us that constantly pushing to find that new gear is actually detrimental to your productivity and overall well-being. We explored the 85% rule and why it could be a game changer for you and your team in 2023!
Avoiding Burnout in 2023 with the 85% Rule
December 13, 2022

Here we are at the end of another year. As you reflect on 2022, I'm sure that some parts feel like yesterday, while others feel like a lifetime ago. You're certainly not alone in that! We've had those same conversations during our team meetings.

Another thing you're not alone in? Feeling like you have a low battery.

Burnout and seasonal depression are typically at their most prevalent at the end of the year. And that's ok. Feeling like you need to recharge isn't a failure on your part, rather, it can be a sign of your productivity and how hard you've worked!

As we recharge and evaluate goals for 2023, we wanted to write about one of the best practical ways to approach productivity, while reducing burnout.

It's known as the 85% rule.

If you've heard of it, we hope this is a great reminder of how to practically implement it. If this is new information to you, let us explain.

The most famous example that brought curiosity to the 85% rule study was Olympic gold medalist Carl Lewis. Lewis won nine gold medals as a legendary track and field star from 1976 to 1996.

When running the 100 meter sprint, Lewis was routinely in last out of the starting blocks. Even as far as 40 meters down the track, there was Lewis bringing up the rear. And yet, Carl would come back to win races time after time.


As the runners sprinted to the finish, others would try and reach an extra gear down the stretch, straining against their body's limit to finish in first. That extra effort drained their energy, tightened up their natural form, and actually caused them to slow down!

Lewis, on the other hand, didn't change form, stride, or effort. He ran at 85% the entire time and would breeze by other runners before the finish line.

The same thing can be true in your workplace! We are constantly falling into the trap of straining, rushing, and overbooking ourselves to "maximize productivity".

Here are several ways you can apply the 85% rule and give it a shot for yourself!

1. Don't overbook your schedule

It can be so easy to throw meeting after meeting on the calendar without time to eat, stretch, or even rest your eyes. Make sure you give yourself a chance to reset between projects whenever possible.

2. Know your strengths and communicate when working outside of them

We tend to be the most stressed when taking on new or unfamiliar assignments. While we should all push ourselves to grow and be multifaceted, communicating your concerns or asking for help is not a weakness.

3. R-E-L-A-X

Aaron Rodgers, QB of the Green Bay Packers is famous for saying this to reporters after a tough start to a season. Don't tighten your focus around one project that you lose sight of the bigger picture. Reminding yourself of successes, other projects, and the fun moments throughout your day can do wonders for a frustrating or overwhelming moment.

4. Know when to take time off

Vacation days and time away from the office are critical to rebooting your creativity. It's often said that our best ideas come to us when we are off the clock and doing something else. Our brains are always working, often times completely unbeknownst to us. Setting aside time to rest and relax often spurs our brain to come up with creative solutions and ideas faster than if we try to put it into overdrive mode.

The saying goes that "slow and steady wins the race." While it's impossible (and detrimental) to be slow in a fast-paced work environment, the principal still holds a lot of truth. A steady 85% that is focused, relaxed, and consistent will help you stay productive, while also allowing for a comfortable flow of bandwidth and creativity through your schedule.

Mitchell Mason

Mitchell Mason

Senior Project Manager
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Progage co-founders playing basketball.

Progage came to life in early 2021, when NFL football player Kaden Smith and entrepreneur Kyle Fenner came together to create a sports marketing agency focused on helping brands win via creative storytelling and social media marketing.