Solving the Quality vs Consistency Tradeoff

Article Author: Shawn @Swyx Wang Created: July 26, 2021 9:24 AM Property: Processed URL: Updated: August 11, 2021 11:33 AM

Every creator wrestles with the tradeoff between quality and consistency. The answer - Default to consistency, and cut scope


“You just need three things to change your life. Number one, create useful content. Number two, post it once a week. And number three, do that for two years. And if you do that I can 100% guarantee that your life will change in ways that you can’t imagine.” - Ali Abdaal

The benefit of pursuing consistency is that it forces output. Good or bad, when your deadline comes you have to ship the thing. Again, and again. And again.

The cost of pursuing consistency is psychology and lack of direction. It’s hard to keep trying your best when your best goes straight into a black hole. Committing to an arbitrary schedule guarantees you will publish work you aren’t proud of, and some people will be turned off by the hit-and-miss (mostly miss) of your work.


“Doing a pretty good article every week, is far less likely to build a big career, than writing a great article sporadically, because the great article will stand out and people will forget [the rest].” - Tim Urban

The benefit of pursuing quality is that quality always stands out.

  • The competition for producing commodities in quantity is a fierce race to the bottom. But there is never enough quality in the world.
  • Quality is also non-linear: 30% of people click the first Google result, yet only half that click the second. Winner takes most.
  • The Internet is a max() function — by definition, most people will only encounter your best work. Spiky greatness over consistent “meh”.
  • Quality builds your brand: A single great achievement is an instant-credibility calling card you can keep using for years.

The cost of pursuing quality is perfectionism. The last mile is the most valuable, but it also sees diminishing returns. Nobody tells you when you’ve gone too far tweaking and adding, ruining a good thing long after you should have shipped it. Many end up not even shipping.

Solution 1 : Cut Scope

“I have this internal quality bar that I just like cannot get myself to release anything that is not good… So the compromise that I’ve come to with myself is something has to get out but I don’t care how–what I will compromise on is not the schedule and not the quality, but I will compromise on the scope.” - James Clear

What people forget when considering the quality-consistency dilemma is that there is a third axis - the scope of work.

Maybe you can’t produce a great essay every week. But perhaps you could scale it down and make one great tweet or newsletter.

Smaller scope encourages brevity. Society increasingly rewards those who can deliver a message in 2 minute pitches, 30 second soundbites, 15 second videos, 280 characters, and Two Words.

Solution 2: Default to Consistency

As I conclude in my podcast recap, both Tim Urban (Mr. A+ Quality) and James Clear (Mr. Cut Scope) agree with Ali Abdaal (Mr. Consistency) that you should start out with consistency. Get your 10 bad talks out of the way. Master your tools. Figure out what “good” even means, to you.