Staying Focused in a Distracting World

August 10, 2015

We’ve all had big projects come up that need attention right away. The clock is ticking, clients are waiting, and you need to get down to business. If you’re like me, one of the first things you do after getting situated is put your headphones on.

It’s time to focus.

It may not come as a surprise to many, but music is proven to increase productivity and spark creativity. According to a UK study by MusicWorks, one-third of employees were less likely to take time off from work if background music is being played in the workplace. But what type of music exactly? Researchers have found that there are certain key elements to "good" productive music. In order for music to help you perform at your best when hard at work, the music you are listening to should:

  • Be ambient or contain ambient sounds
  • Be consistent and repetitive
  • Be moderate in speed
  • Not contain vocals or lyrics
  • Be somewhat familiar


You may be wondering why the music should be instrumental. Researchers found that music with vocals tend to distract your thought process. When you hear vocals or lyrics in a song, the language center of your brain is activated, which can make other tasks, like writing, difficult. It’s like trying to carry on a conversation as I’m typing this paragraph – for me, that can be pretty difficult.

Why should music be familiar? It doesn’t have to be, but with familiar songs, there is no anticipation or wonder about what’s coming next. There are no unexpected changes in tempo, and the sound isn’t really the focus- your work is. I’ve found this to be true to an extent. There are a lot of great albums and playlists out there that are great for productivity- and I wasn’t always familiar with them. My advice- try something new here and there, but stick with your usual lineup to play it safe.

My recommendations:

I have a few go-to albums when I have a project that I need to work on. These albums just happen to be instrumental and ambient, with repetitive melodies and tempos. It doesn’t hurt that they have some very catchy and addicting beats either.

So, here are my 5 go-to albums when I need to focus:

 1. Tycho – “Awake”

 2. Slow Magic – “How To Run Away”

 3. Tycho – “Dive”

 4. Quantic – “The 5th Exotic”

 5. Castlebed – “New Era”

Streaming music service Spotify has some great playlists they’ve created to help keep you in “the zone”.  Just do a search for “Focus” in Spotify, and you’ll see what I mean. From new age to indie rock- there are a lot of options for everyone. I’m actually listening to their Deep Focus playlist right now and it’s working wonders. I've even started to compile my own playlists in Spotify specifically for getting work done. Music on. Task completed.

Do you have certain types of music that keep you focused and engaged? What are your go-to albums for “getting in the zone”? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Send me an e-mail with your suggestions.

Dan Dellecese

Posted By: Dan Dellecese

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