One of the consequences of being in academia is that you constantly feel the pressure: the pressure of finishing a research project or the pressure of publishing a paper. In order to avoid going insane, it’s important to declutter or reduce as many stimulants in your environment as you can so that you can focus on getting things done. Many people go to an isolated place to work, such as their research laboratory, the library, or their office if they have one.
If you don’t have a private place to go to, you might choose to go to a coffee shop or a shared study lounge, but with shared spaces come a lot of environmental stimulants, such as other people talking or music being played. In order to focus on the task at hand, you may listen to music with headphones, but the selected music can either help or hinder your productivity and mental wellbeing. The ideal music selection will keep you focused while also feeling positive about your progress. Here are my go-tos when I need to get a lot of work done and I’m also feeling the pressure.
John Legend: Spotify Sessions
Those who know me won’t be surprised that I found a way to mention John Legend. Ever since Ordinary People, John Legend has been soothing me with his voice and piano playing. Spotify Sessions did a recording with him live from Milan that is good for calming down and being productive. It’s a short album, but contains some of his best work.
A Soft Jazz Backdrop
This playlist created by Spotify is my favorite playlist for when I’m tired of listening to the same music, but still need something to fill my ears. I cycle through it a few times during midterms or finals week. What I like about it is that it’s perfect for someone like me who is interested in listening to Jazz but has no idea where to begin.
Any Motown Playlist
I’m a sucker for Motown. The Happy Days playlist from Spotify has a solid collection of the hits from the 50s and 60s. Lyrics generally live in the domain of love and heartbreak, so they’re easy to digest. An even better collection is the Motown 50 Fanthology. Some of my personal favorites are Ain’t No Mountain High Enough by Diana Ross, My Cherie Amour by Stevie Wonder, and Cruisin’ by Smokey Robinson.
Some rules of thumb regarding music choice here: opt for instrumentals, since lyrics can be distracting and get in the way of crafting even the simplest sentence in an email or a paper. You might even try music in a language that is foreign to you so you can ignore the lyrics. Also try to avoid excessively dance-y/electronic music, because really upbeat music can be too stimulating and disrupt your concentration.
This post is not meant to be a rigid direction on how to maintain positivity and productivity through music. You should test your mood and ability to get work done and what feels right to you. Share what music you like to listen to when you’re working in a comment below and as always follow me on Twitter for some more #Jainsplaining.
This post is not sponsored by Spotify by the way. I just did it for free.