Goodbye Multi-tasking Hello Little’s Law

Do you have 3 to 5 songs that you still can’t play through with ease?
Are you not seeing as much progress as you’d like?
Do you have numerous works in progress that you still haven’t finished?

Have you considered that you are trying to do too many things at once?

We live in a world where multi-tasking is seen as a notable trait. It’s pushed on us from every angle. We should be able to brush our teeth, wash the dishes, drive a car, type a thesis, all while catching the six o’clock news and solving our families problems.  Ever stop and think maybe you shouldn’t try to do all of it at once?

My recent story

I recently realized I was not making progress on the number of “projects” I had on my desk. I decided I must be doing something wrong because I was working hard and spending lots of time on them. I was making a little progress on this project and a little on this one and that didn’t add up to any SERIOUS progress overall.  Perhaps I needed to try something different.
So I decided to stop all of them except two. Fast forward a few weeks later and now I’m trucking along, especially on one in particular.  Things are getting done and the number of unfinished things is decreasing.

Little’s Law

In the area of production, there is a law called Little’s Law.  It simply says that your throughput is related to the number of works in progress and the lead time (time it takes to complete the project). Given a few assumptions, the idea is that the more things you are trying to do the less optimum your production is.  It makes perfect sense, you can’t do everything at once and do them all well.  It also makes sense that the lead time on one project gets reduced if you add 10 projects on top of it.

So let’s apply Little’s Law to your music practice:

I want you to choose only 1-2 things to work on for a solid week, regardless of how repetitive and boring it might get. Forget about everything else. Forget about the checklist of 10 things you need to practice. After that week is over, look and observe your progress on those two items vs. the progress during lots of multi-tasking.  Report back, let me know, I want to hear your story and experiences.

A disadvantage of multi-tasking is it’s hard to get into a groove. While you jump from one thing to another your brain has to restart and in some cases it has to stop and find the material it is you are working on.  On the other hand, a disadvantage of doing only a few things is boredom might eventually set in.  However, I must ask, what is worse? Repetitive and boring or not improving?

 

Let’s stop trying to do everything, focus on a few things and get some things done.  Good luck fellow musicians.

 

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Jody Hughes Written by:

I am a full-time banjo and acoustic guitar teacher, performer and composer. I have performed on the stages of Carnegie Hall, The Grand Ole Opry and The Ryman Auditorium. My interests include developing educational materials for the advancing banjoist and composing Original Music mixing my background in Bluegrass, Jazz, Classical and Latin Music.

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