If you are like me, and a thousand more of us, we tend to be great at starting but not so great at finishing. And even if you aren’t great at starting, then I still think you may be able to relate. But if you’re a starter, you know what I’m talking about. You have a great idea—it could be a song, a record concept, consistently connecting with fans—anything, and you start it and you are stoked about it! Then, you get past all of the low-hanging fruit of your idea, and you get stuck, or your SOS (shiny object syndrome) kicks in, and you drop the ball and start chasing that squirrel. Before you know it, you have a bunch of unfinished, half started projects. Discouragement sets in and the excitement you had at the beginning of each of them is lost.
This is a vicious cycle and can (and does) rob you of all desire to keep doing what you actually love doing! I have experienced this most of my life, but there are things that you can do to get past this and actually start finishing what you started. I would be lying if I said it is easy, but it’s not. I have found that the first step is realizing that I need to be in it for the long haul and that I have to focus on what I was excited about in the first place. It also means learning to embrace failure as part of the process. Finishing at a slow and steady pace is better than blowing all your energy at the beginning and stalling half way.
I also realized that time is an excuse which is self sabotage in disguise. There are plenty of activities that take time to ramp up before getting into “the zone”, but I have found that music writing and recording, for the most part, doesn’t require a lot of prep time if you have a system, and more importantly, a process in place. 15-30 minutes is enough time to at least chip away at what you are working on, and do this over the course of a month, or even a week, you will see progress. I have applied this mindset myself to get past the point of me talking myself out of even starting, and it works.
Start by listing out all of the tasks that need to happen to finish whatever it is that you are working on. If any of the items on your list will take more than 30 mins, break that item down into tasks that will fit into 15 mins – half and hour. Once you have your list, start by taking one item each day and getting it done. If you have tasks that you find difficult to break down, just work on that task for 15-30 mins each day until you do get it done. The idea here is to make small, manageable steps toward completing your objective. It can be mentally challenging because we tend to want to get things done quickly. This is especially true when we can see in our minds exactly what we expect to end up with, but our impatience causes frustration. But, stick to this process, and you will end up completing your project.
One aspect to this approach is that by taking smaller steps over time, you are able to reflect more on what you have accomplished each step of the way, allowing tweaks and improvements to be made along the way instead of having to hack things apart after you are too far along. This type of evolution can bring a whole new quality to what you are creating while reducing, if not eliminating frustration that comes with the pressure of trying to jam it all into 1, 2 or even a small handful of sessions. You may even find a mediocre idea turning into a gem you never thought possibly originally all because you gave your creativity time and space to breathe. Perspective always changes, at least a little, when you leave the project for a short period of time and come back to it a bit later.
This is just one of many different techniques and tools I have discovered over time that has had a serious impact on my productivity, and even more importantly on my satisfaction with my end results. I have been able to create more and better music in part by applying this approach. Nothing can replace honest effort, focus and persistence, but there are countless ways to reduce the friction, stress and anxiety that can come with serious creative work. I hope this has given you something to help move you closer to finishing your next song or record project.
If this has helped and you would like more ways to help get you closer toward building your musical empire, or just finishing that song you started a while back, subscribe below and I will send you more tools, tips and techniques you can use to get there.