“The soldiers of yore may have faced insurmountable odds to the sound of trumpets, but we desk jockeys are typically left to fend off our piling inboxes with nothing more than iTunes.”
Once you’ve gotten over the wordplay with Disc Jockeys and Coyote in the above quote, you’ll realize that there is some truth in the statement. Music held a very prestigious position in the olden days – there is virtually no culture that doesn’t incorporate it’s own kind of music in it. Even millennia ago mankind knew that trumpets and guitars were as necessary as swords and shields; music is to our mental battles what weapons are to our physical battles.
So whether you were born in 2000 BC or 2000 AD, your struggle with your own mind is the biggest struggle you deal with on a daily basis. Mood, concentration, distractions, they’re your enemies in the modern world, and music should be your weapon against it.
So get your iTunes ready; you’re about to learn how to convert playlists into productivity.
Shuffle is your biggest enemy
Change is the biggest distraction; our senses tune out things that don’t change often, and pay more attention to things that do. In the same way, shuffled music can repeatedly grab your attention too, even if for fleeting moments. You can never be too absorbed in your work to not notice when that Inception soundtrack gave way to Metallica’s latest. It calls for short attention spans as far as your work is concerned.
The solution? Consider familiarity your best friend. Have music of the same kind bundled together in a playlist. Avoid tracks with too much dynamism in them when you’re doing a mentally intensive task. And throw together all the pulsating songs for a workout or labour intensive task.
Use music to blend the noise – not add to it
There will always be some form of noise around you that at times refuses to be ambient. Your colleague might be using an unnecessarily loud stapler that you’d feel like hitting him with; your Mom might decide to use the pressure cooker right about the time you’re being cooked with pressure; that stray dog decided to have nightmares at the very moment you decided your own work was one.
Play some minimalist music while that guy staples sheet after sheet and watch how that irritating sound suddenly turns into an added glitch effect. Play that recording of the waterfall or river flowing that you almost deleted several times and see how the steaming rice adds a white noise effect. Don’t try to tune out that noise with louder drums and bass!
Music can turn repetitive into rhythmic
This study was actually done on assembly line workers and the results come out proving exactly what one would suspect – the ones listening to music while working were more productive. So the next time you see a movie scene in which the actor/actress is grooving to music while doing something as mundane as brushing their teeth, don’t laugh. (unless it’s funny).
This study explains why – music is uplifting. (kinda obvious, but hey, proof!) So use this to your advantage – the next time you see your inbox full of unanswered Emails, put on some groovy music and have some fun.
Your brain does only one thing at a time
Imagine trying to remember what one person said while another is talking to you while you’re playing your guitar. Even Billie Joe Armstrong will struggle to hit the right chords. Experts know, and it is scientifically proven even, that the brain can only do thing at a time. And that is why for most language related tasks you should steer clear of music with lyrics.
Why? Because listening to or reading words activates the language processor in your brain. Ever wondered why did you end up writing in your practical file the very word you just heard on TV? You may think you weren’t listening but you were – you always are.
So….what exactly do I listen to then?
I don’t blame you if you have started thinking your library is sorely lacking in the sort of music mentioned in this article. But do not fear – we have a collection of some excellent, tried-and-tested playlists for you to get started with.
“Listening to Mozart makes you smarter”. If you haven’t heard this, well you just did, and some people insist it is because of how Classical and Baroque Music helps out when trying to focus. Here are two excellent links to get you started;[youtube width=”602″ height=”150″ video_id=”E2LM3ZlcDnk”] [youtube width=”602″ height=”150″ video_id=”gEibRc-oJKs”]
Video Games such as SimCity are actually famous for having some excellent sounds in them – and it’s pretty reasonable too, since the mere point of music in video games is to get out of the way while helping you stay focused on other stuff in the game. Cinematic music helps too – and there is something really cool about studying to the soundtrack of Inception.
Digitally Imported is a free internet radio service that streams dozens of channels, anything and everything electronic. If you’re into Minimal, Progressive, Chillout, Ambient Downtempo or any one of the fancy genres they have channels on, it’s excellent.
SoundCloud is filled with music (and playlists!) of music that is specifically produced to help you focus. But when you want to dodge music altogether, why not use noise instead? RainyMood and SimplyNoise are basically sites with self-explanatory names – they have several noise-based ambient sounds for you. And websites like Coffitivity are for the few who prefer the ambient sounds of a coffee shop for productivity (unique, but works).