Perfectionism Ruined my Productivity

by Tobias van Schneider first appeared ✍🏼 on my personal blog

Tobias van Schneider


The one thing that makes designers great is the same thing that makes them the worst people to work with: perfectionism. It’s part of what drives us to design in the first place. We’re not satisfied with what’s out there now, so we decide to make it ourselves.

We’ve been taught perfectionism makes us better. It means we value quality work. It means we pay attention to the details. It means we hold ourselves to a higher standard. But perfectionism might also kill creativity and productivity.

A perfectionist holds him or herself to unrealistic expectations (because who is actually perfect?) so they are never satisfied with their work. They never ship, because they never feel like their work is finished. But that statement in itself is already questionable, because nowadays nothing is ever finished anyways. And then the law of diminishing returns comes into effect — you overthink so much, the work actually suffers instead of improving.

Perfectionist designers are sad designers. I used to be a sad designer, and I used to be a perfectionist. I think I’m still a perfectionist deep down, but what I learned over the years is how to control it and shut it down when needed.

Learn how to prioritize

This is a lesson my friend Pieter Levels taught us in an interview on the NTMY Show. Pieter, founder of Nomad List and self-proclaimed digital nomad, is a perfectionist, but now rejects this tendency.

“Everything in this culture now is so transient,” Pieter says. “Everything goes so fast that it doesn’t even make sense to put extreme amounts of effort and perfection into one thing.”

Pieter saw how much time and effort he wasted perfecting his projects. It kept him from getting the important work done. And that goes against everything Pieter is about — I mean, the guy created 12 startups in 12 months.

He mentions this time when a friend pointed out an issue that was causing an ugly white box to appear on his site.

“I am like OK, cool. Where like two years ago I would immediately change it, now it takes days to change because it…