There it is. The blank screen. Disconcertingly big and empty and just sitting there, challenging you to work-dammit-work! With a deadline looming, a thousand other things to do, and not much time to do it in, you definitely need to get in The Zone. But what if you’re simply not in the mood? Luckily, with the help of science, your earphones, and some really nice audio sites and files freely available online, you’ll be able to tap into your ideal work state in minutes.
So, whether you have a report due, a creative brief to crack, a meeting to prepare for, a catalogue to design, a wall to paint, or a hundred other possible services that you can offer on our freelancing app Kalido, check out the best stuff to listen to when you need to get $hit done.
1. Best for commuting
Not many of us can escape the grind of commuting. Whether we’re on our way to the office, a client, to drop the kids off at school, or just to our favourite coffee shop, time in traffic is inevitable. So, for this tedious part of the day, we suggest listening to some great podcasts. The way we see it, podcasts are useful and better than music here for 3 reasons:
a) You’ll be actively learning something instead of wasting time in traffic.
b) You’ll probably have your Concentrating Face on, which discourages unwanted conversation from overly-friendly strangers.
c) You’re less likely to break out into an impromptu and highly embarrassing song or dance routine.
a) The world famous TED talks are now available as highly informative and entertaining podcasts
b) Behavioural economist, Dan Ariely, author of the bestselling ‘Predictably Irrational’ gets chatting with some of the best minds of our generation https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/arming-the-donkeys/id420535283?mt=2
2. Best for getting started
Right. Now that you’re at your workplace, it’s time to get started. That means you want to put the lousy commute, the bills, the current state of your relationship, the glitchy boiler, and everything else out of your mind for now and get into a positive, relaxed, but focused frame of mind. And the best way to do this is to put on some tunes you like. Music has been proven to improve mood and concentration, both very important when you’re starting a new task. There’s conflicting research on exactly what music you should listen to, with the general consensus being ‘it’s up to you, really’. Essentially what you’re looking for is something that puts you in a good mood, and that’s not too distracting.
a) iTunes has quite possibly one of the largest audio collections ever https://www.apple.com/za/itunes/download/
b) Ditto for Spotify (although note that it’s not available in every country) https://www.spotify.com
3. Best for concentrating
When you’re getting right down to it, you’ll want to block out distractions, and focus, problem-solve, and think clearly. And apparently the best thing to help you do that is…silence. Although studies have shown that music is great for productivity, the type of productivity music encourages is more suited to boring or repetitive tasks. For high-level thinking such as strategizing, planning, and complex problem-solving, the biggest favour you can do for yourself is getting some quiet time. And when we say quiet time, we’re not talking about an open plan office or café. These environments are full of ambient sounds (we’ll discuss those next), not the golden silence that’s needed for laser-focused concentration.
a) This review on the best noise cancelling earphones available this year
b) And this article for avoiding the hype
4. Best for creativity
Creative work is very different from logical, rational, or linear thinking. Unlike the orderly process of assimilating information inwards to arrive at a solution, creative work involves expanding your thinking, often to unexpected and seemingly unrelated places. This is where ambient sounds come in useful. Whether white, pink, or brown (the ‘colour’ of a noise is dependent on its frequency and what can be perceived by the human ear, but for our purposes, think anything from ‘sounds of the rainforest’ to ‘coffee shop ambient’ to ‘yoga class music’), these indistinct, rather uninteresting, but still variable ‘background’ noises have been shown to be better than both music and total silence in getting our brains to experiment, connect unconnected concepts, and generally excel at imaginative blue-sky thinking.
a) Youtube has a vast collection of (sometimes 10 hour long) videos. Just search ‘white noise’, ‘pink noise’, or ‘brown noise’.
b) Both Android and iOS also have great apps that you can download for your devices
5. Best for repetitive tasks
What do brain surgery and construction have in common? Lots of drilling apparently (albeit the former involves the more delicate human skull, while the latter is generally practiced on lifeless concrete). For mindless or repetitive tasks, music saves the day again. Compared to working in silence, music seems to boost both productivity and overall mood and wellbeing. But again, the important thing is to choose music you like. Listening to music you don’t like has been shown to be detrimental to work (possibly because you keep getting annoyed?). So, if you’re in an open plan office, check out the links under points 2 and 3 above, and invest in some good earphones and playlists to make boring work go faster.
6. Best for winding down
And so, after a hard day’s (or night’s) work, you’re ready for some chill time. And you can really chill to the max by tapping into the potentials of your own brain waves. As a healthy functioning person, you’ll mostly be generating Beta waves throughout your waking hours. However, by switching your brain over to the slower Alpha waves, you’ll feel more relaxed, happier, and ultimately more zen. Binaural beats can help you calm your mind and sink into this floaty state after a hectic day. Regular practitioners of alpha-state brain functioning liken this practice to meditation or massage for its calming, refreshing benefits.
a) This lovely site is packed with music to help you achieve 100 different states of zen
b) YouTube also has a bunch of binaural beats videos for everything from sleep, to concentration, to lucid dreaming.
So, now that you know the perfect backtracks for getting stuff done, why not match with clients on Kalido, download a few playlists, plug in your earphones, and get to work on some exciting new projects.