Working and music

This is one of the “tips” series.
The purpose is to share little pieces of helpful practices and tricks that will make your work better and more pleasant.

Take a look at some other tyny tips like: Automate your environment and Use cheat sheets.

Do you prefer listening to music while working?
If so – what kind of music?

Let me share my preferences on that topic.

Mood types

I’ve felt that there are two working mood types.

1. The first one

is when we have to come up with a solution for some complex problem, or when we have to think of a design problem, or we need to decide on the correct architectural approach, or solve a tricky puzzle, or find out an appropriate algorithm.
Basically – we have to involve a high level of concentration and a fair amount of thinking.

Let’s call that mood type – Le Penseur (in French),

or The Thinker.

2. The other one

is when we know what needs to be done, the approach has been discovered, we’ve already done the thinking work and now we need to implement it.

Let’s call that – The Worker mood type.

Choosing the music

I pick my music based on the mood type I am currently at.

1. The Thinker

The most productive I am in The Thinker mood while I listen to more calm and gentle music pieces. Classical music works best for me as it seems to improve my focus and concentration.
During this mood, I prefer to keep the volume at lower levels!

2. The Worker

On the other hand, when I am in The Worker area I find it most appropriate and boosting my velocity when I play more dynamic, more… fast, and sometimes kind of aggressive music, which energizes me and pushes me to do the work and to enjoy it!
In those moments I play some metal songs with a fast rhythm, for example, “Pantera“, “Sepultura“, “Soulfly“, often I listen to death metal bands like “In Flames“, “Edge Of Sanity“, etc.
I also often play something more electronic like “The Prodigy” or even some psytrance – my favorite here is “Infected Mushroom“.
And on some occasions, the classical music helps here as well – like Vagner or Beethoven, or even something more modern like Yann Tiersen.
Often the volume is in higher levels on that mood.

Here is actual research on the topic, which kind of syncs with my feelings and conclusions:

“Kellogg reviews a vast body of research to extract a few notable findings. Among them is the role of background noise, which seems to fall on a bell curve of fecundity: High-intensity noise that exceeds 95 decibels disrupts performance on complex tasks but improves it on simple, boring tasks — noise tends to raise arousal level, which can be useful when trying to stay alert during mindless and monotonous work, but can agitate you out of creative flow when immersed in the kind of work that requires deliberate, reflective thought.”

Of course, the music picks depend on your personal preferences, but the main connection is that:

The Thinker needs something calm and harmonious.
The Worker wants dynamics and energy.

2 thoughts on “Working and music

  1. I found that I definitely have an issue with getting into the zone.
    Once I am there I don’t have any special preferences as long as the music is well listen by me.
    If I listen something new I pay much attention on the music than the code.
    Recently LTJ Bukem, Tinariwen and Greg Foat make me more productive.
    Amelie ost is quite good for codding too.
    So far I haven’t distinguished music for both moods.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yeah, I agree that the new music is kind of distracting.
    For getting into the zone, maybe the next time you feel you are into it pay attention to different things like – what time is it for example. I find myself most productive in the afternoon/evening. Also, an afternoon short nap can boost your velocity, they say. 🙂


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