Tune Up: Building a Playlist for Productivity

June 26, 2015

productivity playlist


There’s no place like my coveted headphones and playlists. It’s a combination of many things that I find so captivating: energizing beats, the structure of instrumental sounds, passionate and spirited lyrics, unique and animated vocals, and the art of traveling on a melodious journey.


Music enthralls emotions allowing you to feel something. And that something can be anything from happiness, dancing, laughing or pure distraction. For me it’s my secret weapon for escaping and truly tuning into any project I am working on. With music, I am able to adopt the persona and energy I want to project with my end product. Confidence. Boldness. Creativity. There are hundreds of studies on the behavioral effects of listening to music. I won’t bore you with stats, but instead will focus on why it works for me for time management and maximizing my productivity.


Growing up my dad frequently woke us up on Saturday mornings to the sound of his bellowing voice harmonizing ragtime songs. And once up, he would continue his performance around the home while my brothers and I went through our morning routines. For some reason it never got old, and in fact, it always lifted our spirits. Secretly, his routine of five to six songs ingrained in me a very valuable lesson and bestowed me with a lifetime tool. As competitive kids (and me being the runt of three), we always scurried to be ready before dad started repeating songs. Trust me, one time was plenty for the “Mr. Zip Zip” song. I was always last: a.k.a. slow. So, I started counting rhythm, tempo and words while readying to get ahead of my brothers. After a while, it never mattered who was ready first, but it hooked me on music as the key to keeping time with each activity of the day.


I have certainly evolved my routine and musical taste beyond ragtime and campfire tunes, thanks to my dad’s vast collection of albums, tape swapping with friends, my spending allowance on shiny new CDs to now the number of streaming services like Spotify, Pandora, Songza, etc. My formula for building a playlist that inspires productivity and balances time is unique to me. But, here’s what I recommend to hustle through your day.



  • Precompiled Playlists vs. Your Own: Streaming services are convenient and easy to become loyal to (I am a fan). However, I like creating and listening to my own playlists especially for time management purposes. By creating your own list you have the freedom to time your day to tasks and tunes you will enjoy. Aiming for a 120-minute playlist max works best for me. I am able to prioritize my day into groups of times, and am a fan of splitting my day up into four quarters. It doesn’t always work out so nice and tidy, but by looking back at my playlists and how far I did or did not get down the list is an indicator of the type of day I had. It allows me to reflect on how spent my day and to plan ahead for the next.
  • Soundtracks & Full Albums: There are currently very few albums I can listen to all the way through (not to snub, but some eras of music are just better). However, I truly adore Prince (see what I did there?). But, for tasks deserving uninterrupted, absolute attention and focus, favorite albums and soundtracks are a good choice. Listening all the way through to a narrative can help with concentration on your greater task, and can also be very inspiring.
  • Burning the Midnight Oil & Casually Working to a Beat: House and electronic music gets me through sporadic days and later evenings. Working to a beat with simple lyrics and a good tempo can keep spirits high, take you on a drift and help you establish your work flow. Just don’t get too caught up in the beat that you lose focus. Funk is particularly great too, because it can have unusually long solo instrumental runs making it great for shielding out distractions. Hip-hop, old-school bossa nova, and rock are all great here as well.

Music is the lifeblood for my day-to-day. It helps me get the most out of my day by enjoying my work to sounds I love. It also helps me block out the constant noise that comes from living in the city, and working in an open office. Sometimes though, it is ideal to just have silence or allow your surroundings to be soundtrack. You learn from listening to others and it helps with mindfulness. But, everyone’s musical journey and preference is different. The above are just some suggestions. Most importantly, listen to what you love. After all, they are your ears.


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