Tips for listening to music while you work

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I’ve never quite grasped how to work efficiently work while listening to music. I feel like I’ve tried every method.

I’ve studied to classical music (Bach, Beethoven). I’ve streamed concentration playlists on youTube. I’ve experimented with the one-song method as recommended by Matt Mullenweg, founder of Wordpress. He listens to one song on repeat until it becomes background music. I had some success with Leon Vynehall’s “Midnight on Rainbow Road, but my phone died after the 6th play.

I’ve even tried the hum of a coffee shop in real life and my headphones with coffitivity. Maybe it’s just me. I love collecting beats so maybe listening for the potential loop like Madlib does at the root of my problem.

So I’ve also explored other noise-producing apps that are designed to improve focus. SimplyNoise offers different frequencies of noise — white noise, pink noise, and brown noise. Rainy Mood plays a 30-minute thunderstorm loop. I write to the sound of rhythm of rails. With minimal beats and no lyrics, these ambient sounds have helped me get closer to a flow state.

And then there’s sheer silence, the kind of environment you get at a library or at home with the door closed.

But if you’re at the office, you may have to use different tactics. Tom Popomaronis of Inc Magazine summarizes the best ways to listen to music while working at the office.

“Music can make a huge difference in your workday. Feel free to crank up the volume if noise has you working like a snail, you’ve got a case of the Monday’s, or you’ve got something mundane or familiar to do. Ideally, though, make your playlists out of songs you already know, and if your tasks involve any sort of linguistic processing, focus on lyric-free options. Lastly, if you have something to learn, pump up your mood with music before you get started.”

Have you had any success in working to music, ambient sounds, or any sound in general? Do you notice any differences in working to music at home versus your professional life? Please let me know in the comments.

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