The Japanese focus on imperfection to prevent burnout

A better and kinder perspective on productivity

Kaki Okumura
4 min readFeb 7


Illustrations by Kaki Okumura

How are you doing these days? How do you feel when you wake up?

Many of us start our day with the feeling that we are behind. Behind in work, in school, our health goals, our finances, or our relationships. Prolonged, we end up feeling like we are spending our whole lives trying to catch up– catch up to who or what is not always exactly obvious, but we know we’re running behind.

And so we end up burnt out.

If you often find yourself in this position of never being productive enough, always behind, and overwhelmed by the prospect of how much you still have left to do, I offer a different perspective: You are already caught up, and anything you accomplish today is progress.

You are already caught up, and anything you accomplish today is progress.

It’s two very different perspectives: Scrambling to catch up, versus simply making progress. Even when what we accomplish in a day is the exact same, emotionally we will end the day on very different levels.

When we take on the perspective of catch-up, we may lie in bed stressing about what we didn’t finish, and what we need to do tomorrow. We hold little compassion and empathy for ourselves. We feel like a mess, and out of control. Taken too far, we find ourselves overwhelmed, burnt out, and needing to take far more time to recover.

But when we choose the perspective of progress, we let ourselves feel accomplished, productive, and confident. We’re moving ahead, and feeling energized by it.

We are able to take rest when we need it, rather than feeling guilt over the prospect of doing nothing.​

A tradition of valuing imperfection



Kaki Okumura

Born in Dallas, raised in New York and Tokyo. I care about helping others learn to live a better, healthier life. My site: 🌱