How to tame that designer (or creative) OCD

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The one thing that has always been my downfall in creativity has been my perfectionist + obsessive nature for details. It’s a curse and a blessing in many ways, one that I know many creatives share. Funny enough, having a blog has really tamed me…or helped to make my eye for decision-making a bit better! I realize that I will never be satisfied. It can always be better. Nothing can be perfect. But you know what? I’ve turned this into an opportunity to make things better for the next time…and the next…And hey, I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with having that designer OCD – it’s what makes our work the best it can be and what makes some people just plain AWESOME. All I’m saying is, take it easy from time to time, will ya?

Do you share my obsessive nature? Maybe these tips can help.

I know how easy it is to fall down the rabbit hole. Before you know it, hours have passed and you’re still working on the. same. thing. By now, you’ve probably forgotten to eat or drink anything. So take a break – go for a walk, get (or better, make) some food, anything really that takes you away from your computer screen and/or work project for at least 30 mins-1 hr.

As designers and creatives, we see details that no one else does, including “flaws” that no one else sees (I know, it’s quite annoying). Welcome it, learn to embrace those little things that no one else notices.

So many times, I have finished a post and got it all set to schedule for the next morning. Yup, 2 am and finally, I’m ready for bed! And theeeen…I take another peek at it…and you know how that goes. I spend another hour “fixing” what didn’t need to be fixed. Once you have the initial hunch that your work is done, SET IT AND FORGET IT. Well, for as long as you can anyway.

Ah, of course you could have done it differently, but guess what? You didn’t. So instead of dwelling on those “-haves”, make it into an opportunity to do it better next time! You won’t believe how much this helps you grow and develop your skills more!

Because comparing yourself and your work to others can really make you go crazy!

6 // EASE UP
Okay so maybe I have some control issues when it comes to my work. I don’t think I’ve come across a designer or creative who doesn’t have some itty bitty issue with this as well. I’ve learned to ease up a little bit, something that only you can do for yourself. I’ve learned that it’s okay to let go every once in awhile, take a break when you need it, and focus on yourself (this also included me going down to 4 days of blogging after my work/life balance post). And you know what? It actually feels pretty darn good!
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Minimal details_coco and mingo

Full disclosure and total reason why I wrote this? When I do posts for others and for companies that I love (i.e. LEIF), I want to make it the best I can. I realized yesterday that I just wasn’t happy with that post, and I actually made some color edits to it last night. I had to go through the entire day in agony because I was at work and couldn’t make the changes to the post until I got home. I know, I should take my own advice, but I just couldn’t help it! See the post here if you already have or if you haven’t!

Okay, so you’re not an obsessive perfectionist like me? Err…Well, this post just got a little awkward then!
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board l to r . 1 . 2 . 3 . 4 . 5

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Other posts you may enjoy:


  • |Harmonyanddesign|

    No sabes como te entiendo. Estoy totalmente de acuerdo con tu post, yo tb soy inmensamente obsesiva.

  • Alecia

    I totally am like this. I am learning as I go along also. I recently came across this quote :

    “If you have nothing to say, don’t feel obligated to pretend you do”

    I loved that quote so much and think it really pertains to blogging these days. So many bloggers obsess over blogging everyday, and their content actually suffers because of it. Good for you for taking a day off, you really deserve it – I truly believe our brains need time to rethink and thus make room for more creativity.

    What I am trying to say I can say relate to you Jess. I tweak my posts a million times and then still seem to find that one thing that doesn’t make it the BEST! This has been a learning process for me to let go of the smaller things, and grab a hold of the things that actually matter in this blogosphere (which I believe is to be producing unique content and connecting with your readers)

  • Winny

    Wow, a really nice post topic πŸ™‚ Thanks for sharing, Jessica! Sometimes I feel that way too and reading this post makes me realize that I need a little break.

  • Kelly Brito

    Reaaaaaaaaaally good advice. All tips are spot on! Thanks for the great reminder! πŸ™‚

  • Corina

    i totally have that ocd. i think there was once that i was working on a blog post more than 4 hours. Not for the post itself but for the graphic. I love yours tips and advice sharing so much, they are truly helpful. there are sometimes that we just have to leave things as they are!!

    ps the LEIF post, looks awesome now as much as it did yesterday! to calm your ocd, you have to realise that whatever you do, is just perfect!

  • Ali Mackin

    Haha oh my being a graphic designer I hear you! Soooo true. And sort why I started my blog. I trying to transition out of working in graphics. But oh yeah I have been down the rabbit hole many times : O

    Allie of Dressing Ken

  • Madison

    yes!! i have such a hard time with this. i am really trying hard to accept my flaws and realize i am NOT perfect!! haha i really like this πŸ™‚ thank you!! <3

  • Victoria | Oh So Pretty

    OMG Jess – well you know my designer OCD as I like to share it with you all the time! We are exactly the same, it’s crazy! Especially looking at it a billion times before posting. Ugh, too many late nights and funny thing is I always end up with the original! I completely agree with every single one of your tips – it’s actually doing it that’s hard! πŸ˜‰

    I hope you’re having a great day, love! I’m going to go write you a little email now <333333333333 xoxo

  • Jane Y.

    you know what i found hard to have this perfectionist trait? when working with other people or leading a team to getting something done. i would have this vision and it would just be so easy if i just did everything but often times i was put in this situation where i would have to manage a team. and two personality traits of mine clashed – being perfect and not wanting to hurt people’s feelings. it was just so so hard. but it was a really great learning experience for me. how to work within a team. how to make people feel good about their work but challenging them to go even more. and learning to let go, be content and like you said, strive to be better next time. such a great post jessica!

  • Janine

    this was much needed! lol
    – Janine

  • Ice Pandora

    Ah man I see myself in this ‘OCD’ :c sometimes I work the entire
    afternoon on just one silly post! Taking a break sounds great
    this time! Thanks for these handy tips c: Xx

  • Rowena

    As someone with total creative OCD, I can totally use these tips! When I’m editing photos, I just see things that irk me that no one else would probably even notice and if I don’t fix it, then I just fixate on it. Thanks for this post Jessica!!

    Rowena @ rolala loves

  • juni // hej juni

    hah! this post cracked me up just a little bit. oh designer ocd woes! if it helps at all, Jess your posts are absolutely beautiful! always!

  • Tara Victoria

    A-M-E-N to this girl! I am one OCD perfectionist when it comes to my designs and blog. I love that you said this: “So instead of dwelling on those β€œ-haves”, make it into an opportunity to do it better next time!”
    I have a difficult time with that. Probably the hardest part of being a crazy perfectionist. Stepping back and saying ok this is how it is, BUT next time… I always forget the but haha. Thank you for sharing. Great perspective on how to deal with these issues. Love it!

  • Noor

    Oh I am super crazy just like this lol. I will do something and add it to my blog then preview it and change it a million times. IT takes so much time for me to do anything bc of this.

  • Angel Y.

    You’re speaking to me today lol! Sometimes it takes me forever to complete something because I’m worried about all of the small details. These are great tips!

  • emily

    I can TOTALLY relate to everything you just said! My husband always laughs at me fretting about that tiny detail that everyone else is guaranteed NOT to notice. I, too, have had to learn to step away and stop playing the comparison game, dang it. Be true to yourself and people will love you! Thanks for putting to words everything in my head πŸ™‚

  • Danielle

    I used to have OCD really bad especially when it came to my work. I am a perfectionist! I have learned over much time that I can sit and edit and re-edit things until the cows come home. It’ll never be “perfect” and I need to stop comparing myself to others and be happy with me and what I create. Thanks so much for this reminder Jess! It came at a good time πŸ™‚ Happy Wednesday!!!

  • Latrina (@oftreesandhues)

    I’ve must’ve read this post of your three times already. How weird is the timing… I mean, you saw my recent blog post. It’s like our brain are on the same wave length! lol, I love it, Jess. And I really can’t thank you enough for sharing this with us!!

    It’s UN REAL just how much I needed to hear this. And all the points you’ve made… taking breaks… embracing one’s flaws… the should haves and what ifs… the perfectionist-ism… are all things I try to be better at each day. It’s tough. But posts like this one… wow, so perfect… really makes you stop and think, you know.

    I’m bookmarking this because I know I will need to read it again sometime. πŸ™‚

  • Kristyn @ Milk + Crown

    I’m such a perfectionist as well, and it can make it really hard as an artist! I think your advice is spot on. We have to learn to accept our imperfections sometimes–all we can do is do our best! πŸ™‚

  • Nikkol | Peter Loves Jane

    Obviously there are a few of us! I’m dropping down to 4 days on my blog, too, so I can do more of what I really love. Not that blogging isn’t fun, but I do like to do other things, too… πŸ™‚

  • Erika Lee Sears

    Ugh I am a total perfectionist too and the best piece of advice that I ever got for writing on blogs is just write and do not correct while you write.. of course proof read when your all done πŸ™‚

  • Miranti | Pen & Peplum

    Oh my gosh I love this post – it really speaks to me! Number 1 is major for me at the mo. Must remember to step away every now and again πŸ™‚

  • trishie

    Oh I’m definitely an obsessive perfectionist – to the point of losing sleep if things aren’t just right. I wish I wasn’t like so though!

  • Nnenna

    This advice is sooo good. I’ve totally fallen into the hole where I’m working on one small little thing for hours, trying to make it perfect. Taking a step back at that point works for me too (although I need to learn to do it earlier, and avoid several hours of frustration!).

  • Elizabeth

    I hear you, Jessica! I know that agonising feeling. Eeeeeeeek. Sometimes I make fifty changes to a post – mostly words – after its been posted. Lately I’ve caught what I call the `deletion affliction’ too! I post a pic on Instagram or a pic paired with words on my blog and then delete, delete, delete fearing its not good enough, looks terrible or people will laugh. Mmmmm. Perfection! Love your blog, btw. You are my fave new find xxx

  • Stacia

    Oh yes. I am trying to hard to get better at several of these. Sometimes I have huge successes, and sometimes I’m like you where I sit all day at work waiting to go home and fix what I think of as a HUGE, OBVIOUS problem. Good luck to you!

  • Laicie

    Ugh I am sooo bad at this! I check and double check and can obsess for hours if I’m not careful. Such good advice, now if only I could follow it!!

  • Charlotte

    Thanks for sharing, I definitely need to try and remember these every so often!

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