“Focus on being productive instead of busy” is a great quote from Tim Ferriss’ book, 'The 4-Hour Workweek'. Being (and staying) productive can be an extremely challenging part of work. Whether you’re a member of the corporate world or self-employed, too often we think that as long as we’re keeping busy, we’re being ‘productive’. However, these two words have different meanings.
By no means do I excuse myself from falling into this trap, as I do it quite often. Sometimes I have to remind myself of Ferriss’ advice in order for my brain to flip that switch, and not just do things throughout the day to keep myself busy. Actually waking up with a prioritized plan for the day, even if it only includes one or two tasks, will keep you moving forward and give you some sense of fulfillment at the end of the day.
My music catalog is extensive and includes quite a bit of stuff that I’m even embarrassed to admit I have, but I know I’m not the only one. Music is a ‘mood’ thing. When we’re sad, we may listen to more somber music. When we’re feeling happy, we listen to more upbeat music. When I go to the gym, I want music that is going to create an energetic feeling that will motivate me to push my limitations, and keep me going.
I think productive work needs that same type of influence. What I listen to when I want to get shit done is very similar to what I listen to when I’m working out. If you pick the right stuff, you can fall into that sort of trance where you become so focused that time flies and you are actually being PRODUCTIVE.
You can find any number of methods for productivity, but here are 4 ways you can use music to be more productive:
1. Tune Out. When I need to tune out all other distractions and really focus in on my task list, I throw on the headphones and crack open Pandora, Spotify, or my new love...Amazon Music. Regardless of your platform preference, the key is the headphones (or earbuds). Just playing music through your computer speakers or a nearby radio still leaves you more susceptible to distractions from office noises and conversations, or the kids, dogs, or spouse when working from home. Wearing headphones allows you to fall into your own little world where it’s just your thoughts and the music that’s fueling them.
3. Create Focus Blocks. Make a playlist, or maybe a few of them that will last for a set amount of time…30 minutes is usually pretty good. Focus on your work efforts for the entire length of that playlist without taking a break. At the end of it, take a break, grab lunch or whatever, and then either pop that playlist back in or put in a different one. This creates ‘focus blocks’, where you can shut the office door and work undistracted for designated chunks of time throughout your day. Obviously you want to prioritize, but if you do a lot of multi-tasking during your day, each focus block could be used for different jobs.
This is a great tactic for productive workouts at the gym, too. No getting off that treadmill until the playlist is over! Or you can do one exercise per song…just make sure you do lunges on a short song ;)
4. Punish Yourself. Listen to a song that you hate. Put it on repeat, and don’t allow yourself to shut it off until you have completed your task(s). As a matter of fact, I have been putting off this post for so long that as punishment, I am using this tactic right now.
How do you use music to stay productive? Do you have any go-to songs or playlists? Feel free to comment below!