Practicing Kaizen

I’m a big fan of Kaizen. No, that’s not a fancy type of Japanese cuisine (you’re thinking of Kaiseki), but the principle of continuous improvement. This principle is very simple to explain: it simply means not resting on your laurels, and making everything even a tiny bit better every day. But while it’s easy to explain, it can be pretty hard to actually do it.

The problem is the law of diminishing returns: simply stated, the more time or energy you spend on something, the less additional output you get, and the less additional value you add. This explains why it’s so much easier to start projects than to maintain them. The first couple hours are always the most productive, where you go from having nothing at all to creating something tangible. There’s a big rush of motivation, but after that each additional hour you put in seems to give you less and less results.

After a while, you start thinking that none of it really matters, that people won’t see the difference if you tweak the font size anyway, or that nobody cares if that icon is not perfectly centered.

In a way this lack of motivation might be in our own best interest: it frees us from getting attached to old projects, and lets us focus on newer, more exciting stuff. But the thing is, if you want to make something truly great you need to sweat the small stuff. And if you didn’t get it perfect the first time (and who does?) then you have no choice but to continuously apply yourself to improving your product.

Although that’s not true, you do have a choice: you can always start over and try to get it perfect this time. Good luck with that!

P.S.: In an effort to practice what I preach, I made a couple small adjustments to this blog. See if you can spot them!

About Me

I'm Sacha Greif, a web designer freelancing out of Paris, France. You can check out my portfolio, and of course you should follow me on Twitter.

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