Can music make you more productive? Will it put you in the “zone”? Does it make your work flow, allow you to think more clearly and accomplish tasks faster?
Or does it distract you, cause your mind to wander and waste your precious time?
The answer is—surprise!—it depends.
3 factors that affect music’s power over productivity
As noted in a Life Hacker post, music’s ability to help or hinder your work depends on a number of variables. As a writer, you’ll find the answer depends largely on…
- Where you work. Thin-walled corporate cubicle, buzzing coffee shop and serene home office offer varying levels of distraction and stimulation.
- Your own distractibility and sensitivity to sound. Some people lose focus over a dripping faucet (me). Others feel energized and directed with Daf Punk set at deafening volume. Know thyself.
- Your work’s varying tasks. As a copywriter, you find yourself doing much more than drafting copy: You research, edit, manage communications and more. Each task makes different demands on your attention.
Choose the right music for the right task.
That last point is crucial for me. I break up my copywriting projects into steps that include brainstorming, researching, outlining/mind mapping, drafting, rewriting, and editing.
I find that each step demands varying levels of concentration. When writing my first draft, for instance, I usually need complete silence. But other tasks are made easier when accompanied by music. What’s more, I find certain kinds of music prove beneficial for certain kinds of copywriting tasks.
Use Spotify to make playlists.
Recently I’ve been experimenting with a variety of music, thanks to Spotify, a new digital music service that gives you access to millions of songs.
Using Spotify, I’ve compiled six playlists that help me with my copywriting tasks. Like to listen to my playlists? If you belong to Spotify, I can share them with you. Simply follow the links, below. If you’re not a Spotify member, but would like to join, see details about my Spotify Giveaway, below.
Copywriter’s Productivity Playlists
Please note: The following playlists are works in progress. When you click through to Spotify, likely you’ll see I’ve added, removed and shuffled around some of the following selections.
Copywriting Brooding and Brainstorming Playlist
Before diving into a copywriting project, I enjoy a pleasant but brief honeymoon period: With contract signed and deadline in the distant future (haha!), I have time to ruminate and mull over the project. To encourage right-brain, associative thinking, and yet keep me moving forward, I find the following music helpful:
Goldberg Variations; JS Bach—all variations
Requiem for My Friend; Zbigniew Preisner—the whole album
Carmen; Georges Bizet (with Teresa Berganza and Placido Domingo)—the whole opera
The Best of the Black President; Fela Kuti—the whole album
The End; The Doors
Riders on the Storm; The Doors
Helplessly Hoping; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Birds; Neil Young
Memory of Uday; Ravi Shankar
Raga Mishra Ghara Dhun; Ravi Shankar
The Lamb; John Tavener
Like to listen to this music? Here’s my Spotify Copywriting Brooding and Brainstorming Playlist.
Copywriting Research Playlist
Research makes up a large part of my copywriting work. Learning about my client’s industry, product and competitors helps me position her product and develop a USP. I find the following music keeps me energized while researching, without distracting me:
Requiem for My Friend; Zbigniew Preisner—the whole album
Silence, Night and Dreams; Zbigniew Preisner—the whole album
Brandenberg Concerto; J.S. Bach
Piano Concerto No. 20; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Canticles of Ecstasy; Hildegard von Bingen—the whole album
I Am Weary (Let Me Rest); The Cox Family
Angel Band; The Stanley Brothers
The Masters Bouquet; The Stanley Brothers
One Love; Bob Marley and the Wailers
Trenchtown Rock; Bob Marley and the Wailers
Coming in From The Cold; Bob Marley and the Wailers
Draw Your Breaks; Scotty
Rivers of Babylon; Melodians
Like to listen to this music? Here’s my Spotify Copywriting Research Playlist.
Copywriting Outlining/Mind Mapping Playlist
To structure my copy project I usually sketch out an outline and rough notes for short projects. For longer projects—website content, multi-platform copy, extended feature pieces—I prefer to mind map on a white board. This work requires concentration and, usually, silence; though sometimes the following music, played very softly, also helps:
Hearing Solar Winds; David Hykes (Selected tracks)
The Essential Ravi Shankar; Ravi Shankar—the whole album
Gregorian Chant: The Definitive Collection; Moines de Santa Domingo de Silos—the whole album
Like to listen to this music? Here’s my Spotify Copywriting Outlining/Mind Mapping Playlist.
Copywriting Drafting and Rewriting Playlist
Actually gluing my posterior to the seat and writing is always the hardest part of copywriting for me. Gut rewrites are also tough. I find when I need most to focus, The Resistance—as Steven Pressfield calls the forces of procrastination—hits me hardest. I prefer to work in hear-a-pin-drop silence while drafting and rewriting. But if a leaf blower or my neighbor’s incessantly barking dog makes it impossible, I don earphones and let the following Baroque music—set at low volume—lull my ping-ponging mind.
Goldberg Variations; J.S. Bach—all variations
The Four Seasons; Antonio Vivaldi—the whole album
Concerti Grossi, Op. 6. No 1-6; Arcangelo Corelli
Like to listen to this music? Here’s my Spotify Copywriting Drafting and Rewriting Playlist.
Copywriting Editing and Pruning Playlist
Once my copy has been drafted and major revisions have been made, work gets a lot easier. This is the “exhale” part of copywriting and I find editing benefits from the boost of upbeat lyrics and melody in these rock, indie and jazz favorites:
OK Computer; Radiohead, every song except Fitter Trimmer
In Rainbows; Radiohead—whole album
Déjà Vu; Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young—the whole album
After The Gold Rush; Neil Young—the whole album
The Best of the Doors; The Doors—the whole album
The Future Starts Here: The Essential Doors Hits; The Doors—the whole album
The Very Best of John Coltrane; John Coltrane—the whole album
Kind of Blue; Miles Davis—the whole album
Dela; Johnny Clegg & Savuka
Jenny Was A Friend Of Mine; The Killers
Andy, You’re A Star; The Killers
Midnight Show; The Killers
Snow (Hey Oh); Red Hot Chili Peppers
Strip My Mind; Red Hot Chili Peppers
Stadium Arcadium; Red Hot Chili Peppers
Take ‘Em Away; Old Crow Medicine Show
Wagon Wheel; Old Crow Medicine Show
Soul Meets Body; Death Cab for Cutie
Like to listen to this music? Here’s my Spotify Copywriting Editing Playlist.
Copywriting Exercise Breaks Playlist
Like a lot of writers, I’ve put on weight since I began blogging three years ago. I try to fight the fat—as well as mental fatigue—by forcing myself to take exercise breaks. The elliptical machine and stationary bike are just a tiny bit less loathsome with this fast-paced music:
Drunken Lullabies; Flogging Molly—whole album
Only a Mile From Home; Flogging Molly—whole Album
Welcome To The Jungle; Guns N’ Roses
Nightrain; Guns N’ Roses
Sweet Child O’ Mine; Guns N’ Roses
Pena Penita; Gipsy Kings
Solituda; Gipsy Kings
Papa, No Pega La Mama; Gipsy Kings
Tristessa; Gipsy Kings
Ciento; Gipsy Kings
Viento De Arena; Gipsy Kings
Aven, Aven; Gipsy Kings
Legende; Gipsy Kings
Rhythmic; Gipsy Kings
Where is my Mind; The Pixies
Jolene; The White Stripes
Ready Or Not; Fugees
Nappy Heads; Fugees
Like to listen to this music? Here’s my Spotify Copywriting Exercise Breaks Playlist.
Your turn: Fill in my playlists.
Do you enjoy listening to music while you work? What kind? I would love to hear your musical suggestions. Please share them in the comments below.
Spotify Giveaway: Try my playlists—or make your own.
Currently Spotify, the digital music service, is available by invitation only. Lucky for me I was given an invitation by a kind Twitter pal, UK copywriter Ben Locker. Now I’m pleased to pass on the favor: I have ten Spotify memberships to share. I’ll give them to the first ten people who:
- Leave a comment below
- Contact me and include your email address.
- Live in the U.S., UK, Sweden, Norway, Finland, France, Spain or The Netherlands—sorry, Spotify is only available in these countries.
Spotify Giveaway good through August 31, 2011.