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 fastermake 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 by Nobukazu Takemura on Grooveshark

One day you'll be done with all your work. One day you may miss working. Stay positive.

2. Microstoria – "Zuhause"

Zuhause by Microstoria on Grooveshark

Lots of bizarre electronic sounds on this one, all of them extremely calming.

3. Soundtrack from Pikmin – "Forest of Hope"

The Forest of Hope by Strawberry Flower on Grooveshark

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

2/2 by Brian Eno on Grooveshark

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"

Wait For Me by Blade Runner (soundtrack) on Grooveshark

Think of what would have happened to Harrison Ford if his character had lost focus while investigating the Tyrell Corp.

6. Vivaldi – "Summer"

Summer by Vivaldi on Grooveshark

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"

Catchy DAAD by Oval on Grooveshark

Not catchy at all, but it gets the job done.

8. Schumann – "Kreisleriana"

Kreisleriana, 8 fantasies for piano, Op. 16 by Schumann, Robert on Grooveshark

Keep it classy.

9. Mozart – "Piano Concerto No. 21"

Piano Concerto No. 21 - Mozart by Mozart on Grooveshark

If you're lucky, maybe you'll pick up on some of that Mozart effect.

10. Forest Swords – "Thor's Stone"

Thor's Stone by Forest Swords on Grooveshark

Your keyboard is to you what lightning is to Thor.

11. Beethoven – "Minuet in G"

Minuet In G - Beethoven by Beethoven on Grooveshark

Beethoven's genius is now your genius.

12. Telemann – "Pista 13"

Pista 13 by Telemann on Grooveshark

Keep calm and carry on.

13. Ravi Shankar – "Vandanaa Trayee"

Vandanaa Trayee by Ravi Shankar on Grooveshark

Breathe and become one with the spreadsheet.

14. Quantic – "Time Is the Enemy"

Time Is the Enemy by Quantic on Grooveshark

At low volume, the slight panning on that piano offers a much-needed massage to tired lobes.

15. Debussy – "Arabesque"

Arabesque - DeBussy by Claude Debussy on Grooveshark

A romantic tune that'll make pretty much anything seem beautiful and engaging to you.

16. Bach – "Brandenburg Concerto No. 3"

Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major, BWV 1048: I. Allegro by Various Artists on Grooveshark

This piece has been cited by productivity writer David Allen as one of his personal favorite working tunes.

17. Alice Coltrane – "Isis and Osiris"

Isis and Osiris by Alice Coltrane on Grooveshark

Jazzier, but still calming and inspiring.

18. Thelonious Monk – "Pannonica"

Pannonica (Brilliant Corners) by Thelonious Monk on Grooveshark

Just some gentle glockenspiel.

19. Fuck Buttons – "The Red Wing"

The Red Wing by Fuck Buttons on Grooveshark

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.

Tom Barnes
Staff Writer