How to Craft Your Very Own Focus-Friendly Music Collection


Do you work with music? Yes, music can get you incredibly productive. But it can also distract you big time.

So instead of improvising something to listen to while you work, why not craft your very own focus-friendly music collection? That’s what we’ll do today…

Why music makes us more focused

First, let’s examine why music makes us focused at work. In my opinion, there are 3 main reasons:

  1. Listening to music is highly enjoyable, it stimulates the reward circuit of the brain. And this gives you the illusion your task is equally enjoyable. I often say focus-friendly music is a continuous reward as it rewards you along with the task you accomplish.
  2. Focus-friendly music also gives you a sense of predictability. This translates into a sense of control in your task.
  3. There’s also a sense of continuity. Your brain is expecting to listen to the rest of the music. And it makes you less likely to interrupt your task while the music is not finished.

Some pitfalls

But music can be distracting too. That’s because:

  • It occupies some space in your working memory, which can reduce your ability to perform complex tasks.
  • It can induce powerful feelings that make you diverge from the task, or make you want to sing or dance.
  • It can be unpleasant at times when it’s too chaotic.

The best tasks to work on along with music

Because of these pitfalls, it’s usually best to listen to music while doing routine or unpleasant tasks. In the case of complex tasks, I often prefer to work in silence. But sometimes music can give you the courage to pursue hard tasks. Just don’t expect to be as fast as you would be in complete silence.

3 criteria to choose music-friendly music

Here are 3 criteria you can use to create a great focus-friendly music collection:

  1. Avoid music with lyrics, or else your brain will be tempted to grasp them
  2. Use music with at least some sense of harmony and regularity (avoid aggressive music)
  3. Try to choose emotionally neutral music, so that it doesn’t make you diverge from your task

That being said, these criteria are less important if the music is very familiar to you. For example, my collection includes the soundtrack of the movie Fight Club, which is aggressive at times. But I’ve listened to it probably more than 200 times, so it does not distract me.

Where to find focus-friendly music?

Here are 5 sources I recommend to find focus-friendly music:

  1. Classical music, notably baroque music (Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach, etc)
  2. Instrumental soundtracks (I like Danny Elfman and Hans Zimmer)
  3. Your own collection of music albums. In that case, you can use the criteria I mentioned above to select your best focus-friendly music or choose albums you have listened to over and over again.
  4. Alternatively, you can hunt for “focus” or “study” playlists on streaming sites like Spotify, 8tracks, and Deezer. They are not always ideal, but they can give you some ideas.
  5. Lastly, commercial sites like Focus@Will and can simplify your life with their preselected focus-friendly music. Sometimes, you can also take note of the artists that are featured, and dig up the rest of their music collection.

Working with music is a great way to increase your productivity. With a focus-friendly piece of music, you get into the flow of your task faster. And it encourages you to work on a hard or boring task. I also like to listen to music when I have willpower challenges at the end of my workday.

Sometimes, it can be tricky to find focus-friendly music. But if you use the 3 criteria I mentioned, you can’t go wrong. I wish you a lot of pleasure listening to your collection of focus-friendly music!

Featured photo by Manuel Nägeli on Unsplash 

About the author 

Alex Philippe

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