One of the key characteristics of music is the wide variety of potential areas to focus on. There are multiple instruments to learn, many different genres to listen to and study, and countless ways to approach creating music. While this adds to the fun of being a musician, there is a downside to having so many possibilities.
When faced with seemingly unlimited prospects, people can succumb to “choice paralysis.” This occurs when we are overwhelmed by having so many options we can’t actually make a choice. Like when you have a lot of songs you want to learn, or many different exercises to practice, but fail to begin working on even one of them because you can’t decide which to start with.
Deliberately giving yourself fewer choices can curb this issue. If you establish a limit on the number of options to select from, you will be freed from the burden of sifting through so many, making it much easier to decide. This works well when applied to the material you practice, the specific areas of music you focus on learning, or even what instruments or sounds you use for a composition. Having a pre-established “choice cutoff" will make it easier to pick something and get to work.
Having fewer options also prevents you from taking on more than you can handle at one time. For many of us, the appeal of “doing it all” is hard to resist. This is exacerbated by the availability of thousands of books, courses, videos, and plug-ins, which are only ever a click away. We can easily pile our plates too high without realizing it—diminishing the quality of everything we do, and potentially leading to burnout. Instead, if you work exclusively on what’s most important to you right now, you will be able to work on those fewer things at a higher level, and maintain better balance in your life.
While having so much diversity within music is a great thing, it is in our best interest to set constraints on what we work on. Give yourself fewer choices so you can get right to work, and give your full and best effort to a smaller number of things. You can always reevaluate what you’re working on down the road, allowing for adjustments to include some of what you had to leave out previously.