Everyone has their favorite habits for boosting productivity. Your desk setup, morning routine, and diet all play a role. But there’s one thing that everyone agrees can make a difference: focus music.
Soothing beats can keep distractions at bay, wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. Whether you’re trying to drown out mowers or simply get into a groove, put on a pair of headphones. Music can make all the difference in your focus.
With that said, not all music is equally conducive to productivity. You need to be careful about what you listen to. Getting work done calls for very different sounds than getting a workout in.
This guide will walk you through selecting the best music for productivity, as well as a list of tunes to help you get started.
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How To Pick the Best Focus Music For Yourself?
With so many genres and artists out there, there’s a lot of music to choose from. Before you press “Play,” keep the following guidelines in mind:
1. Stick With Instrumental
Songs without words in them make it easier to focus. Lyrics can distract you from what you’re trying to accomplish because you might get the word mixed up with what you’re trying to read. If you’re writing something, you might find yourself typing the lyrics instead.
Intelligence and instrumental music are correlated, perhaps because instrumental music is less intrusive. Instrumental music tends to fade into the background, giving you a rhythm without pulling your mind away from the task at hand.
Stay away from instrumental versions of songs you recognize. It’s easy to fill in the blanks with the lyrics if you’ve already committed them to memory.
However, some exceptions can be made. Creatives who produce videos or audio might prefer tracks that get their creative juices going, lyrics and all. However, if you find lyrics to be distracting, switch back to instrumental tunes.
2. Take It Easy
Not all instrumental music is calm and relaxing. Focus music should be, however. So, beware of instrumental songs that are too loud and stimulating. High volumes and tempos can work you up when you need to stay calm.
Again, some roles can make exceptions. Physical laborers can use more rambunctious tunes to keep them energized. While calm tunes work best for those in desk-based roles, don’t go too extreme. Something that’s too soothing might make you feel tired. Yawning all day isn’t exactly the path to productivity.
3. Pick Music You Enjoy
At the end of the day, the best focus music is what you enjoy. If you hate classical music, don’t put together a classical playlist just because you stumbled on a study about its benefits. Your dislike of the music will take away the productivity you’d otherwise get out of listening to it.
Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you’ve never worked while listening to jazz before, why not? Save songs you like for later listening. Over time, you’ll build a playlist of tried-and-true focus music.
4. Update Your Setup
Before jamming out to your productivity tunes, make sure you have the right equipment. Invest in a music streaming service so you don’t have to listen to ads. Purchase noise-canceling headphones to avoid distracting your co-workers.
Focus music is all about ambience. Anything that interrupts your flow—whether that’s poor sound quality or glitchy streaming—needs to go.
Expect to spend at least $100 on headphones or speakers. For the streaming service itself, Spotify Premium is the standard at $9.99 per month. Slacker, Apple Music, and YouTube Music are also popular.
Building Your Perfect Playlist (With Music Recommendations)
Now that you know what to look for in focus music and how to listen, it’s time to build your playlist. Get started with these smooth, instrumental genres, artists, and songs.
1. Chillhop Music
This YouTube channel has almost 3 million subscribers. Its music videos run 24/7 and feature driving yet relaxing beats.
Most songs on this channel fall into a category called “lofi hip hop,” a type of electronic R&B. Unlike traditional hip hop, lofi hip hop songs follow a slow, steady pattern that induces focus and relaxation.
Chillhop playlists can also be streamed on Spotify, Soundcloud, and Bandcamp. Popular artists include nymano, No Signal, and Sleepy Fish.
2. Andy McKee
Andy McKee is an acoustic guitarist who became famous after “Drifting,” one of his early songs, went viral on YouTube. “Drifting” exemplifies the creative, quiet guitar techniques found in the rest of McKee’s music.
Today, McKee has six albums of primarily acoustic guitar. One of McKee’s most popular pieces, “Rylynn,” is a perfect example of his soothing yet upbeat sound.
3. John Butler Trio
The band John Butler Trio became popular after releasing “Ocean,” a 2012 hit with more than 50 million listens on YouTube. Heavy on acoustic guitar, “Ocean” is an intricate ballad that ebbs and flows like the ocean itself.
Known for flowing changes in key and mood, the John Butler Trio proves that fast songs can be great for focus. The group’s long songs—“Ocean” is 12 minutes long—are less disruptive for long projects. Two other favorites by John Butler Trio are “Betterman” and “Spring to Come.”
4. Classical Radio on Pandora
Classical music has long been a staple for music lovers looking to get work done. Pandora’s classical station features a great mix, from Beethoven to modern artists like Maria Callas and Jorge Bolet.
Pandora has radio stations for every genre imaginable. You can generate playlists based on genre, artist, or even a specific song.
Other music apps offer similar playlists and radio stations you can turn to for your classical music fix. From piano-heavy tunes to violin concertos, you’ll find plenty to perk your ears.
5. Pirates of the Caribbean Soundtrack
Movie soundtracks are full of amazing music. One of my favorites is the Pirates of the Caribbean series, which is lively and adventurous but not in your face.
Like what you hear? Hans Zimmer, the mastermind behind the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack, has worked on a huge array of films. Zimmer also put together the soundtracks for The Dark Knight, Interstellar, and Inception.
One thing to watch out for with cinematic music is associations. As iconic as the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack is, if you’re thinking about Jack Sparrow instead of balancing spreadsheets, you should probably switch to a new song.
6. Legend of Zelda Soundtrack
Another hotspot for instrumental music is video games. If you’re not sure where to start, check out selections from The Legend of Zelda:
Anyone who’s played The Legend of Zelda games will immediately recognize what they hear. The soundtrack is light, airy, and full of awe. Keyboards, harps, and flutes feature prominently.
Although you could spend hours listening to The Legend of Zelda music, don’t forget about fan-produced songs in this genre. The video-gaming community is robust. Instrumental recreations of your favorite games’ soundtracks can be found all over the internet.
7. Nature Sounds and White Noise
This genre may be too relaxing for some, but others prefer less structured focus music. Sounds like thunder, wind, and rushing water can transport you to a quiet, idyllic place to get work done.
One type of white noise to avoid? City-related sounds. Even without lyrics, honking horns or chattering crowds can be distracting.
An advantage of this type of focus music is that it’s loopable. If you find a track you like, go ahead and put it on repeat. When it starts over, you won’t even notice.
Ready, Set, Play
The best part about focus music is that nothing is off-limits. Some people work better listening to Tom Petty tunes than instrumental music, and that’s okay. What’s important is that it’s driving without being distracting.
To unlock your next tier of productivity, spend a couple of hours clicking around on your favorite streaming music site. You’ll get more done, and best of all, you’ll enjoy every minute of it.
More Tips to Improve Your Focus
- Productivity Music for Focus (Recommended Playlists)
- How to Improve Focus: 7 Ways to Train Your Brain
- How to Improve Concentration and Sharpen Your Attention at Work
Featured photo credit: Lala Azizli via unsplash.com
|||^||New York Post: Smarter people listen to instrumental music: study|
|||^||Forbes: Does Classical Music Help Our Productivity?|
|||^||YouTube: Ocean – John Butler – 2012 Studio Version|