We've all been there: that midday lull when all the lines on the page or spreadsheet start to blur and a Reddit visit becomes inevitable. But Reddit is never the answer.
A growing body of recent psychological research has proven that music can improve concentration and productivity in even the sleepiest of workers. Numerous studies have shown that music can help us work faster, make fewer mistakes and reduce stress while completing tedious tasks. However, not just any music will do.
Music that's fast and loud may jar one's attention into focus, but we can't sustain this agitated state of arousal for long periods of quality work. Music that is too sentimental and personal to the listener may end up stimulating the emotional centers of the brain, which can be majorly distracting. Takeaways: No instrumental death metal or Adele.
The ideal music should be instrumental and rhythmically interesting (to keep the brain curious and engaged) at a tempo of around 60 bpms (beats per minute). According to researchers involved in creating the music productivity app Focus@Will, music at this tempo causes a "decrease neural activity, and lead to a relaxed, but awake state called alpha state." It turns out this makes us feel a "state of decreased self-awareness, timelessness and motivation known as 'flow.'"
This "flow" or "zone" is the holy grail. In this positive and frictionless mental state, one will feel less stressed and more focused.
With these criteria and hours of careful research, we've put together a playlist to make you a superhuman.* It's important to note that you should listen to this music at low a volume to keep it from dominating your attention. Give it a try and see if you can get into "the flow."
* We can't actually make you superhuman.
1. Nobukazu Takemura – "One Day"
One day you'll be done with all your work. One day you may miss working. Stay positive.
2. Microstoria – "Zuhause"
Lots of bizarre electronic sounds on this one, all of them extremely calming.
3. Soundtrack from Pikmin – "Forest of Hope"
A surprising number of contributors to a Lifehacker's forum on productive music reported they listened to video game music when they needed to complete challenging tasks.
It makes sense: Video game music is specially designed to stimulate the mind to keep players sharp, attentive and driven enough to keep figuring out puzzles.
4. Brian Eno – Ambient 1: Music for Airports
This piece, by the man who produced U2's greatest albums, was designed to soothe the minds of troubled passengers about to board airplanes.
It can also do wonders keeping one calm and focused in a much lower risk office environment.
5. Soundtrack from 'Blade Runner' – "Wait For Me"
Think of what would have happened to Harrison Ford if his character had lost focus while investigating the Tyrell Corp.
6. Vivaldi – "Summer"
Think of it this way: The faster you get through all those spreadsheets, the faster you'll be able to get outside and enjoy that summer air.
7. Oval – "Catchy DAAd"
Not catchy at all, but it gets the job done.
8. Schumann – "Kreisleriana"
Keep it classy.
9. Mozart – "Piano Concerto No. 21"
If you're lucky, maybe you'll pick up on some of that Mozart effect.
10. Forest Swords – "Thor's Stone"
Your keyboard is to you what lightning is to Thor.
11. Beethoven – "Minuet in G"
Beethoven's genius is now your genius.
12. Telemann – "Pista 13"
Keep calm and carry on.
13. Ravi Shankar – "Vandanaa Trayee"
Breathe and become one with the spreadsheet.
14. Quantic – "Time Is the Enemy"
At low volume, the slight panning on that piano offers a much-needed massage to tired lobes.
15. Debussy – "Arabesque"
A romantic tune that'll make pretty much anything seem beautiful and engaging to you.
16. Bach – "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3"
This piece has been cited by productivity writer David Allen as one of his personal favorite working tunes.
17. Alice Coltrane – "Isis and Osiris"
Jazzier, but still calming and inspiring.
18. Thelonious Monk – "Pannonica"
Just some gentle glockenspiel.
19. Fuck Buttons – "The Red Wing"
All right, this is definitely a lot more jarring than the rest of the songs on this playlist, but the intense and driving synths might be just exactly you need to push you through to the home stretch.
Because, like this playlist, work does end. Eventually.