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Last Updated on December 1, 2020

Productivity Music for Focus (Recommended Playlists)

Productivity Music for Focus (Recommended Playlists)

Music has the power to move us, but many people underestimate how it affects us in the workplace. Can you really hear “Let it go” without wanting to stand on your chair and belt out the lyrics for the entire office to hear?

The beat pumping out of our speakers doesn’t just affect how we feel. It also impacts the way we work. The question is, does music make you more productive and efficient?

In this article, I’ll look at how music affects our work. Together we’ll discover how we can harness the power of music to boost our productivity, with productivity music recommendations for focus.

How Music Impacts Your Productivity

Different genres of music have varying effects on our brains. What boosts productivity for one person may be distracting for others, but there are some general principles to help you select the best productivity playlist:

What You’re Doing Matters

When you’re writing or doing a language-heavy job, songs with lyrics are distracting.[1] Music with lyrics kick your brain into multitasking mode. It’s essentially like someone talking over you while you’re working.

For writing and reading new information, opt for instrumental-only music.

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That doesn’t mean you have to write off music with lyrics altogether though. Save those songs for times when you are stuck doing a repetitive task like filing papers or clearing your inbox.

Your Music Taste Matters

Another important consideration is how much you like what you hear. A 1994 research study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that surgeons listening to music worked more effectively than those who worked without it.[2] This was true regardless of whether the surgeons picked the music or if the researcher selected it for them.

Hearing a song you love can definitely provide some motivation—especially if you’re bored or don’t enjoy the task you’re doing. Hearing music you like improves your mood, which can boost your productivity.[3]

5 Rules for the Perfect Productivity Playlist

1. Embrace the Sounds of Nature

When you think of listening to rain fall or birds chirp, you might immediately imagine an afternoon at the spa. This relaxing music can put us in a better mood, which can definitely improve our efficiency at work.

It’s not just that the sounds of nature make us feel better. They also affect the brain in the best way possible for improving cognitive function. Since natural sounds often have an element of randomness, they can help improve our focus without becoming a distraction. Sounds related to water appear to be the most effective.

A 2015 study in the The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America found that natural sounds are an excellent way to mask the background din of the open office plan.[4]

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2. Get Motivated (And Drop the Bass)

Sometimes you need to feel empowered at work. Music allows us to tap into your inner strength. The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University recognized the clear connection between music and motivation. They conducted a study which asked participants to rate songs according to how they made people feel while they were performing different tasks.[5]

The takeaway: songs such as 50 Cent’s “In Da Club,” “Get Ready for this” by 2 Unlimited, and “We Will Rock You” by Queen were clear winners when it came to motivating participants. Though these songs all come from different genres, they all have a pumping bass that leaves the listener feeling energized.

Study participants completed their tasks with greater efficiency and used more confident and empowered language when compared to a group listening to less intense music.

3. Turn up Your Favorite Song

While music generally makes people feel better, being able to listen to music you like creates a marked productivity boost.

This is what Dr. Teresa Lesiuk, a professor at University of Miami, found when conducting research on the connection between music and productivity. Since songs tend to relax listeners, they often afford them the chance to explore solutions they may not have considered when in a hyper-stressed state.

4. Play at Your Speed

There’s a reason why we tend to run faster and perform better at the gym when we’re listening to fast music. Even if you’re not actively listening to a song, the tempo can impact your work speed at the office as well.

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According to a study from BMS College of Engineering in Malaysia, when looking for a stress-relieving song, choose something with about 60 beats per minute.[6] The tempo is slightly slower than the resting human heart rate. This larghetto beat, neither too fast or too slow, is enough to produce a calmer state without making you want to fall asleep.

Perhaps you need to feel energized. If that’s the case, you need an uptempo playlist. A 2007 research study found that people do a better job with cognitive tasks when they’re listening to songs with a quick tempo.[7] If you’re not sure where to look, Baroque music is a safe bet.[8]

If you’re looking for a more customizable experience, check out Focus @ Will. They have some great playlists for concentration, and they’ll tailor your playlist to fit your needs.

5. Make Sure the Music Is Not Too Loud

It can be tempting to crank up the tunes that inspire us the most, but excessive volume is distracting. A 2012 article in the Journal of Consumer Research discusses the connection between volume and productivity.[9]

Music played at a reasonable volume encourages creativity and abstract thinking. Turn it up too loud though and you won’t be able to hear yourself thing. Anything louder than 85 decibels, the approximate volume of a snowblower, is too loud.[10] On the other hand, your volume should be loud enough to mask the sounds of office chatter.

1. Productivity Music Playlist from Evan Carmichael

Evan Carmichael, best known for his motivational YouTube videos, has put together a 2-hour playlist to help you focus. Full of electronic uptempo instrumental music, this playlist paves the way to getting more done in less time.

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2. Upbeat Instrumental Work Music by Live Better Media

If you aren’t a fan of electronica, you might enjoy this playlist of positive uptempo songs. There are over two hours of music to get your mind working and put a smile on your face.

3. Music to Increase Work Productivity: The Pulse

This playlist sounds a lot like video game music, and it does a great job of waking up your brain without distracting you.

4. 8 Hours of Productivity Music with Binaural Beats by Greenred Productions

Turn this on in the morning and you’ll be set for the entire day. This music has an ethereal quality that will leave you feeling relaxed and help you find your flow state.

5. The Most Productive Playlist Ever – Songs For Work on Spotify

If you’re in the mood for some popular music that will motivate you to reach new heights, this one’s for you. Some of these lyrics are NSFW though, so make sure you’re listening to this through headphones.

6. Productive Morning on Spotify

When “The Most Productive Playlist Ever” seems a bit too intense, try “Productive Morning.” It includes songs from well-known artists, but these are mostly instrumental.

Bottom Line

To get the biggest productivity boost from your playlist, be mindful of the volume and tempo. If you’re writing, stick to the instrumentals so that your brain doesn’t try to decipher lyrics while trying to think up sentences for you. Be mindful of your own energy level when you’re choosing music.

Most importantly, play what you like. There’s plenty of science supporting the positive effects music can have on listeners. It’s up to you to find your personal soundtrack for a focused and productive work day.

More Productivity Tips

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on January 19, 2021

How to Eliminate Distractions for Achieving Your Goals

How to Eliminate Distractions for Achieving Your Goals

We all have our own set of goals we want to achieve. Goals we have been working on for months, years and maybe even more. Goals that we keep chipping away at but are not able to make the necessary dent in, to make an impact and complete them.

Despite all our late nights, early mornings and weekends of working in the perfect place, the precious timebox or updating our checklists – we simply cannot achieve the goals in front of us.

Are we not good enough?
Is our goal completely unrealistic?
Are we not sure what it is we are actually trying to do?

Perhaps. Maybe, it’s a combination of all of these put together and everything around us that keeps distracting us from our purpose, reducing our focus to the point where we can’t generate the internal focus and drive to accomplish what we want.

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All those Notifications

If you want to hit the low hanging fruit – start here. We are bombarded, BOMBARDED, with notifications 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Years ago, when my computer prompted me for updates, I would get notified of them and later walk away – letting it update in peace and quiet. Now, I get them weekly to my phone, update this OS, download this app – constantly staring me in the face asking me to click update, constantly reminding me. Add to that mix all the emails and social media notifications and the buzzing gets even louder. Sure “some” of it is is important but when you are trying to focus on the task at hand, you don’t need that email from work or friend request coming in. You need to eliminate that distraction to the point where it cannot be easily overridden.

When I’m working on one of my important goals, I turn off my phone and throw it across the room. The throwing (perhaps, gentle placement is more realistic) is an important act. The goal is for it not to be in arms reach and if I feel the urge to check, I find myself feeling that pang of guilt of actually, consciously, making the decision to walk across the room to pick up my phone.

On the web, I’ve played with a few applications and have found Strict Workflow to be the best tool to help here. Strict Workflow is a Chrome extension that blocks your access through your Chrome browser based on a timer. When the timer is active you can’t access those sites, when you are on break you can. The only way to override the change once it is active is to uninstall the extension.

Uninstalling the extension is akin to walking across the room to pick up my phone. If I were to uninstall the program while it was active I would feel that pang of guilt again asking me, questioning me whether going onto Facebook was worth not achieving my goal. And the internal follow-up question to that?  Do you really not have 30 minutes to spend on this goal?

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And I would figuratively hang my head in shame and mumble to myself – yes I do – and get back to it.

Guilt isn’t the greatest emotion in the world, but when it is used to get you back to what you need to be doing, it can be quite effective.

You are doing too much

Even after you’ve taken away all those distractions, you might start to find something still holding you back. It might be a subtle hold, perhaps more akin to a tug at your heart, it will come and go but will always be there… nagging you… pulling you down… holding you back… distracting you from your real purpose.

What is it?  One of your goals, maybe all of them?  Perhaps you have too much on the go?

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This is the hard choice that many people struggle with, as we want to accomplish so much in our lives.  But we need to make hard choices to move forward in life and this sometimes involves dropping the goals that are holding us back. These are the secondary goals on our plate that we simply aren’t going to achieve.  I recently had to make this decision. I had a couple of technical blogs that were languishing. I had not been writing in one of them for a year. Every few weeks I would remind myself of this fact to the point where it would become this 30 – 45 min conversation about how I could do it, what would I write about, where would I find the time, etc, etc, but then never do anything.

So I removed the distractions.

I deleted both blogs about 3 weeks ago. I could have kept them up and running for the next 6 months, but I chose to take them down immediately. Out of mind, out of sight. At first, I was sad, feeling as though I had failed. But a week later, those distractions were no longer consuming me, I didn’t think about them anymore and my time, energy, and focus were directed towards where it needed to be – on the goals I really wanted to focus on.

The Duality of Opportunities

Isn’t it a great feeling when someone you don’t know has seen your work and says – “Hey, saw your work, can we have lunch or would you be able to help on this project or can you do this presentation with us, etc, etc” – so many great feelings start to churn through you at that point in time. I love that feeling, it’s a feeling of validation and acceptance in all that you are doing and gives you such an incredible push. But like any sword, opportunities also have a double-edge to them. Sure it’s great to be acknowledged, but if that project is too big, not in line with where you want to be focusing your time or simply too big of an undertaking – walk away.

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Taking control of your distractions involves making tough decisions. You can’t do it all, no matter how hard you try, you can’t. So sometimes we have to be picky with what we choose to do and the opportunities we take. You don’t have to be rude about it, but you do have, to be honest with yourself about it.

Pick the opportunities which are most aligned to your goals, toss the rest.

There are some uncomfortable feelings here – frustration, guilt, forced loss – that you need to deal with when taking control of your distractions. The answers are not always easy and can involve some deep soul-searching on what you truly want to accomplish.

Deleting all the games and unnecessary apps from your phone, that’s easy, but turning down opportunities or generating that feeling of guilt when start to waiver are feelings we don’t generally lean towards. If you are serious about achieving your goals – not only achieving but surpassing them – then you need to take control of what is holding you back.

Because if you don’t, if you let them run rampant when you do realize it’ll be too late and you’ll know, in a heartbeat, that the feelings you have at that point in time (of not having met your goals) are infinitely worse than what you would have felt if had taken control of them from the beginning.

Featured photo credit: VIKTOR HANACEK via picjumbo.com

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