July 13, 2018

Ask IH: How do you overcome your perfectionist streak and ship more?

I was recently reading: https://medium.com/thrive-global/these-17-pictures-will-teach-you-more-than-reading-100-books-3914c4855ebe and this particular quote got me

“It’s better to be prolific than perfect.” — Joe Polish

I'd like to hear folks tips/tricks/strategies on how they beat their perfectionist attitude and get things shipped.

  1. 5

    I struggle with this a lot.

    It’s easy for me to go down rabbit holes and labor over details that aren’t practically benefiting my business. I’ve had to stop myself from wasting time overly refactoring code or redesigning something that looks good enough.

    Yesterday I spent almost 6 hours trying to perfect my 2 - 3 sentence description in the Slack Directory and GitHub Marketplace. By evening I was disgusted with myself and knew I needed a break.

    I think recognizing that perfectionism is hurting you is the most important step.

    In addition to wasting time, being a perfectionist can really backfire because when you start over-scrutinizing your work, you often end up making it worse. For example when I was writing responses for a blog interview I started tweaking things to the point where I was making it longer and more boring. I had my brother and a couple of my friends rescue me by proofreading and telling me to stop.

    One of the tricks that's worked for me is to timebox yourself on certain tasks, or get excited about the next task you need to work on so you complete the current one with a lot of urgency.

    1. 1

      Thanks Abi, this is very helpful.

    2. 1

      I completely resonate with you. Setting deadlines does help very much though.

  2. 3

    By embracing my inner arrogance and self-righteousness.

    I built it, therefore it must be perfect. Anybody who disagrees is either a moron or simply unable to grasp the overwhelming perfectiousness of my work.

    Sice I've ditched that limiting middle class morality, I can do anything, even make up new words to describe my own perfectimum. Others have to deal with it. I can go up on a roof and fly into the night sky. Everything is possible now.


    I'm being about 50% serious.

  3. 3

    I recommended ‘Just Fucking Ship’ by Amy Hoy. the whole intent of the book is to get you to ship a product by the end of reading it. Check it out at


    It’s a short read and Following the steps outlined in her book is taking a huge weight off my shoulders when it comes to over-thinking vs taking action.

    1. 2

      Thanks Gaelan. I have this book. Big fan of @amyhoy :) I’m going to read it again, it has probably been over a year since I read it.

  4. 2

    By simply prioritizing user feedback over perfection, and by accepting the fact that perfection is nothing but a dangerous illusion. Additionally, perfection is often just an excuse to cover the fear of putting yourself out there.

    I make it my mission to launch imperfect stuff. I intentionally leave stuff "rough around the edges", so my users can guide me to towards making stuff better. To this for a certain amount of time and it kind of becomes second nature.

    You know that saying that goes something like "assumptions are the mother of all f*uck ups"? Well, perfection is nothing but a whole bunch of assumptions neatly bundled together :)

  5. 2

    I'd love to hear @csallen's thoughts since I listened to [episode #60](https://www.indiehackers.com/podcast/060-sherry-walling-of-zen-founder) of the podcast today and he said:

    Courtland Allen [00:36:34] Yeah. I’m a huge perfectionist with anything that I put out publicly, and it definitely slows me down. It’s a really difficult habit to get over.

    Anything you've found recently that has helped?

    1. 1

      I explicitly take my perfectionistic tendencies into account and make plans to counteract them. This works best when done as soon as possible. A few examples:

      In the beginning I was considering another couple ideas besides Indie Hackers. They were both code-intensive. I know from past experience that I can start coding and not look up for months, so I chose to work on Indie Hackers because it'd help me avoid that fate.

      Something similar happened with meetups recently. I really wanted to build a fully-featured meetups system that would rival what you get with Facebook Events and Meetup.com. I designed the whole thing, and I even started writing code… but then I remembered to stop and ask if I was being a perfectionist, and the answer is of course I was, and I could get 80% of the value with 10% of the work by just letting people link to these external event sites.

      Another question I've been asking myself is, "What blockers am I putting in unnecessarily?" As a perfectionist, I often won't let myself do task Z unless X and Y are done beforehand, even if X and Y aren't strictly necessary, and Z can do 80% of its job without them. I've found that I can move at a much faster pace if I just skip straight to Z regardless. Again, this is something I have tot explicitly remind myself to do.

      I don't have a solution for the podcast yet. It's tricky. There are no blockers and there are no MVP opportunities. The only two variables I can tweak are (1) how good I am at interviewing, and (2) how much tolerance I have for sounding like an amateur. Since I don't think I can lower #2 any time soon, I have to work at #1, and that should gradually reduce my editing burden.

      1. 1

        Thanks so much for taking the time to reply, I really appreciate it. Interesting to hear that this tendency led you to choose Indie Hackers over others. I know myself (and others!) are glad you did. It is a fantastic resource. :)

        "What blockers am I putting in unnecessarily?"


        I am very bad at this. This is my Achilles heel, and I need to get better at it. I think this XKCD was made with me in mind: https://www.xkcd.com/974/ I need to be more cognizant about this specifically, or I think I'll keep putting things in front of myself; cutting out the unnecessary and getting to what delivers 80% of the value now.

        Mmm, yeah. Podcasts are high-touch human interaction, nowhere near a SAAS product, but I can say that in my opinion, it's one of the most valuable, and interesting parts of Indie Hackers. I also have a podcast I stagnated on that I want to revive, but as a father of three, I find it hard to find quiet and the time. My thoughts now are to instead of fiddling in Garageband and editing and pulling in intro music there (I find too many knobs to tweak, as good a product as it is), I'm going to try to use https://anchor.fm/ and try to record direct to my iPad, and get episodes out quicker, rather than having to have my laptop and Garageband, upload things myself, etc. etc. I'm hoping this is a better MVP opportunity in my case.

        Perhaps for you, you can try to outsource as much of the process (besides the actual interviewing a founder) as possible, some thoughts and I don't know if you're doing some/all of these things now:

        • Hire an assistant to schedule/setup slots with founders, so you just show up and interview

        • Using a third party to do much of the hosting/analytics, e.g. https://fireside.fm/ or something else (https://www.weeditpodcasts.com/8-top-podcast-hosting-companies/), there are many out there these days (I point this out, if you're not doing this already because I built my own system using AWS S3, static sites, etc, and I probably shouldn't have)

        Again thanks for the reply. Love bouncing ideas off you, and the great community here.