If you’ve ever had an office job where you had to navigate excel spreadsheets, quarterback communications on several email threads at once, delegate tasks to others and pick up the slack where others have dropped the ball, then you know how important it is to be able to focus. The idea of listening to top forty radio with it’s loud choruses, unbearably saccharine lyrics and idiotic chatter between the music while trying to complete a bunch of work is absurd.
At the same time, working in silence all day long can be tiresome. If you have a love of music and if it energizes and refreshes you, it would be a shame to deprive yourself completely from adding a little colour to your day. Fortunately, with the advent of streaming services and noise cancelling headphones, you can customize your daily playlists and craft work friendly music to invigorate your workplace energy.
There are many different options in terms of what might help you focus, although rocking out to Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen is not likely to aid in your journey. The common denominator seems to be lyrics: your brain will passively attempt to process lyrics while you are working, meaning that like it or not, you’re effectively splitting your concentration. The good news is that the world of instrumental music – from post-rock to cool jazz and everything in between – offers something for everyone. And If you just love silence, well that’s fine too!
If you’re not sure where to get started, here are some broad genres that might be a good fit. If you subscribe to a streaming service such as Spotify or Tidal, they’ve likely programmed pre-made playlists in these genres to save you from an overwhelming ocean of options:
- Classical Music — The soothing sounds of Mozart, Sibelius or French composer Maurice Ravel provide a calm and harmonious backdrop against which you can smash through your daily workload. Most symphonies written before the twentieth century are consonant, meaning the sweet sounds should fade into the background as you work. While the popular theory that listening to classical music actually enhances your intelligence has been disproven – you’d have to roll up your sleeves and actually learn a new instrument to increase your brain power – the sweet sounds from the golden age of classical may help you get into a flow state and hunker down with some serious problem solving.
- Jazz — While you might not do so well with the chaotic be-bop recordings of an innovative player like Charlie “Birdman” Parker, some smooth Miles Davis or Dave Brubeck will often do the trick. If you’re feeling rowdy towards the end of your Friday, you might throw on some Duke Ellington or Count Basie to pump you up while rounding off your week.