There’s nothing quite like that feeling of being in the zone; that place of flow and focus where you do your best work. If you’ve watched Disney Pixar’s Soul, it shows “the zone” as this generally joyful place between the conscious and unconscious world where you find yourself when you’re completely focused on your craft or work.
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One of the ways I’m able to find this focus and enter ‘the zone’ is by listening to music. When you’ve got a good pair of headphones on and the right music playing, it’s amazing how much more focussed you can be.
With that in mind, I’d like to share the music I like to listen to when doing my work. Most of the music I like to listen to is instrumental. If there are lyrics, I find it harder to concentrate when you have another voice in your head. And I use Apple Music as my player of choice but I’ve included links to Spotify alternatives where possible.
My favourite music to listen to while working is chilled lofi (low fidelity) music. I find this type of music very calming and it fits perfectly into the background while I work.
In particular, I really enjoy the playlists curated by Chillhop and Lofi Girl. You can listen to either of these curators as a 24/7 YouTube stream and they each have a number of playlists available across various platforms. What’s funny is the Lofi Girl stream shows an anime girl reading a book, studying. I don’t know what it is, but when you have the stream on, it just boosts your motivation. Lofi Girl has developed a passionate follower base and a lot of students now really like to stream the Lofi Girl channel while they read or study, essentially mimicking the girl in the stream.
I prefer the Chillhop music but often rotate between both. As well as study/work music, each of them has some really nice sleep playlists as well. Here are a few links to their stuff:
- CHILLHOP MUSIC – Listen on Apple Music, Spotify and their 24/7 streams.
- LOFI GIRL – Listen on Apple Music, Spotify and their 24/7 stream.
Sometimes when I’m working, the mood will call for a movie soundtrack. Here are a few that I really like:
- THE SOCIAL NETWORK – The movie tells the story of Mark Zuckerburg building Facebook in his college dorm room and when I put on the album, I can’t help but feel motivated to work. Listen on Apple Music and Spotify.
- SOUL – As well as containing a few really nice jazz songs, I love the slow melodic songs in this album. There are even a few tracks depicting ‘the zone’ as mentioned above. Interestingly, this soundtrack and The Social Network were both scored by Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Listen on Apple Music and Spotify.
- LORD OF THE RINGS SYMPHONY – It might just be because I’m a fan of the movies but I really enjoy the journey you go on when you listen to these long 10-30 minute tracks. The album really helps you get into the zone on a big project or piece of work. Listen on Apple Music and Spotify.
- AVATAR – I really enjoy the somewhat alien sounds and uplifting tracks in this album. Again, being a fan of the movie, the soundtrack is great for taking you out of your environment and into another world. Listen on Apple Music and Spotify.
Favourite albums and artists
I’m a real sucker for synthy electronic music. Here are a few artists that I really like.
- PETIT BISCUIT – I love the dreamy electronic music by this French DJ. Chances are, you’ve already heard his most popular song, Sunset Lover. Listen on Apple Music and Spotify.
- SLOW MAGIC – I particularly like the album How to Run Away. Listen on Apple Music and Spotify.
- TYCHO – A few people I know really enjoy listening to Tycho while they work. The San Francisco based producer Scott Hansen creates these dreamy tracks perfect for working or relaxing to. Listen on Apple Music and Spotify.
- HERMITUDE – This is an Australian electronic duo. The music is a bit more upbeat but still nice to work to. Listen on Apple Music and Spotify.
- TIM HECKER – This Montreal producer creates some interesting ambient tracks that my wife would describe as ‘just noise’. All I’ll say is it’s great for getting me in the zone. Listen on Apple Music and Spotify.
- APPLE MUSIC PLAYLISTS – Aside from these artists, Apple Music has a few great work and study playlists that I really like. Apple Music updates its playlists regularly which means I’m always coming across new artists and tracks. In particular, I really like Pure Ambient, Pure Focus, Tune Out Your Boss and Living in the Library.
- HEADSPACE – Last but not least, I recently started listening to the focus playlists in the Headspace app. Now that you can download iPhone apps on the Mac, I’ve been using the app to listen to playlists curated by top artists from around the world.
As you can probably tell, I have a particular sound and style of music that I like. The suggestions above aren’t for everyone. But if you have any of your own favourite playlists or artists to share, I’d love to hear them!