Welcome to 2014: The Age of Overstimulation.
With countless social networks, continuously updating news feeds and all of the other distractions in everyday life, it’s impressive we get anything done at all. It’s difficult to concentrate when our attention is constantly being pulled in different directions and we’re forced to focus on multiple tasks at once.
Fortunately, there are a variety ways to sharpen your focus and improve productivity. A popular way to drown out distractions is with the use of music to help you focus. Many studies have shown that listening to the right kind of music will help relax your mind, drown out disruptions, and help you concentrate on the job at hand.
Different kinds of music can help you in different ways:
Classical Music for Concentration
The most universally known music that helps you focus is classical music. Since the release of the “Mozart effect” research results, it has become common knowledge that Mozart’s music – and any related classical music for that matter – helps improve spatial-temporal reasoning. This will improve performance with mental tasks such as creating abstract solutions to logical problems.
Turn on these tunes if you’re studying, researching, or trying to conceptualize higher-level ideas. Try out some Baroque classical music from artists such as Johann Sebastian Bach and Antonio Vivaldi.
Noise to Drown-out Unwanted Noise
Certain sounds and noises can relax us and be better suited to drown out interferences. There are many albums and playlists that simply play ambient sounds – the ocean, a storm, a rain forest – that pieced together will relax the mind.
There are a variety of “tunes” in this category, and what you listen to really depends on your personal taste:
- If you’ve ever worked in a coffee shop, you’ll know that the quiet noise and sounds can actually help inspire your imaginative side. Check out Coffitivity for some creativity-boosting coffee shop sounds.
- Fan of Halloween? Turn on a “Halloween sounds” album or playlist to enjoy some spooky noise. Check out this Halloween “Scary Sounds” playlist on Soundboard.com for some frightening focus.
- A more common preference are sounds one would hear outside on a hike or stroll through nature. An album by Tranquility called “Ambient Sounds of Nature” is a good choice.
Ambient Music (Not Noise)
The “Ambient” genre is a broad, all-encompassing name for music that uses beat, pace, and structure to create an “unobtrusive” sound that brings listeners to place of relaxation and better concentration. Common genres that fall into “ambient” include trip-hop, trance, electronic, and even some dance music.
Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” is a particularly popular album in this category (as Brian is a particularly popular artist within the category). The discreet music on this album was meant to help ease the anxiety one feels at an airport, but it can also be used to put you in a better mental place to work.
Ambient tunes can also appease rock fans with subgenres such as post-rock and progressive rock. A good post-rock band to check out is Mogwai; for the latter, check out some classic Pink Floyd or The Moody Blues.
Everyone is different, so the music/sounds needed to concentrate for one person can vary to the next. Sometimes it’s effective to find songs that you connect with on a personal level to help induce a more meditative – and easier to work with – state of mind.
Video gamers can jam to melodies from any old-school or new-school games they play (or have played) to enter a nostalgic place better suited for deeper thinking. Alternatively, any original movie soundtracks can help foster an imaginative mindset reminiscent of the story from the flick. You can try out the score to Indiana Jones, Star Wars, or even Lord of the Rings. Choose your favorite – there is no right or wrong answer!
While you are listening to your music, sounds, etc. to better concentrate or relax, there are few other tips to help productivity:
- Keep the music at a reasonable level. If it’s too loud, the music itself might make concentrating difficult (and damage your earbuds to boot).
- Make your own playlist so you can control the length; it’s best to make a playlist no longer than an hour so you can stop and be reminded to take a break.
- Don’t get distracted by the music itself! This is why choosing albums or making playlists ahead of time is usually a good idea. What music do you listen to in order to focus and get work done?