Productivity talk can edge into dystopian territory, but at the beginning of the year, I like to think of that kind of research and the tips that follow as a necessary self-help effort. And anyway, we’ve all heard the studies about what music does to our brains while we’re trying to work.
“When the task is clearly defined and is repetitive in nature… research seems to suggest that music is definitely useful,” Fast Company notes. As Quartz points out, nine out of ten people are more efficient at work while listening to music. A landmark 1972 study proved that factory workers performed better when “upbeat, happy” songs were played overhead. But what exactly does “upbeat” and “happy” mean to the individual desk worker with access to anything and everything (thanks, Spotify)? And what if “happy” and “upbeat” isn’t really your thing?
I polled a few co-workers here at Flavorpill HQ. Pop hits, Philip Glass, drone metal (like Earth), ambient techno (like Gas), low-key indie rock (like Beach House) were among the answers I received. Personally, I need wordless electronic music in bouts of productivity crisis. Ambient music does the job, but sometimes I need more of a steady bpm to motivate me.
It wasn’t until the late ’70s that Brian Eno started using the phrase “ambient music” to apply to his own sound, at that point already having made his own lasting mark on the genre, first via 1975’s Discreet Music. “Actively listened to with attention or as easily ignored, depending on the choice of the listener” is how Eno described the ambient genre, and indeed the ability to be ignored is helpful in the work environment. I hate multi-artist playlists for workdays because they force my brain to acknowledge stylistic shifts, even subtle ones. So I use full albums. Specifically, I use these full albums (plus my own Aphex Twin megamix), or at least I have for the last six months. I hope you find them as effective as I have.