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First blog post (Re: productivity music I like) watch

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    Not asking anyone to edit it. You don't need to read all of it, just let me know which bit you read. Just wanted to know if anything I've said makes sense!

    Have you ever watched a movie and felt motivated or inspired by the achievements and transformational progress of the heroes and characters we see on screen? Have you ever noticed that that motivation leaves you about five minutes into whatever it was that you proceeded to then go and do? You are not alone (if you answered no you should skip this post!).

    What is it?

    I'm talking about an 'epic' orchestral and cinematic style of music. One that has revolutionised my productivity with work and my ability to tackle the mundane parts of daily life that I simply would otherwise not bother with. The same can be said for others that have also discovered how motivational this kind of music can be and perhaps you will be able to appreciate it too.

    Why I think it helps

    Thanks to a lifetime of consuming film and television media, listening to this kind of music quickly and surprisingly creates a sense of urgency and excitement in tackling ordinary, everyday tasks. There are no lyrics and so the brain is allowed to continue to focus on reading, writing, coding or calculating. The sense of emotional context that is added to whatever it is you are doing creates enough tension to motivate, but thanks to intermittent climaxes it provides respites of relief and reward. Because this music, in films, is often associated with scenes of change, training and transformational montages there is a definite feeling that whatever it is you are doing is a part of that and an urgency to complete tasks is invoked.

    It can also be compared to that of video game music, the kind which is associated with driving the player to continue on to complete a mission, step by step. In video games, the player works to complete a main objective but on the way, games designers implement a variety of devices such as powerups, items and progress indicators (levelling up, learning spells, etc) to provide a segway to play the game until the end and stop us getting bored. The relevance to the 'epic' music style that I'm referring to is that its function is to convey purpose and the sensation of building tension then releasing it. Working towards our work/school main objectives becomes like a videogame when listening to this music and our minor achievements have a similar effect to learning new spells or reaching new levels. It is also revealing to note that much of the music used in video games can be labelled under the same epic category.

    For me, the ability to complete work in a productive manner that is sustainable over an extended period of time has been ever elusive because I would simply become distracted and bored. I'd identify this as a cure for perpetually bored people, perhaps even those with attention disorders. Why? Firstly listening to a mix keeps the content fresh and unpredictable. Secondly, attention deficient people are often attracted by that which gives short term satisfaction and the time-reward profile for doing something incremental such as writing an essay or completing a work set offers little reward in comparison to the time spent. A music type which tweaks the emotions of progress and change makes us feel like we're reaching our goals faster and every small step of progress becomes that much more rewarding. It had been restricted to glorious and short lived moments which would only arise at 4 in the morning, or when desperation had kicked in. But no more.

    Comparisons and conclusions

    My range of musical knowledge may not be as broad or developed as others, but I can tell you why certain styles that come close to helping productivity do not quite work for me.

    Chillstep is something that I have been using most recently. The problem with this genre is that although it is calming, there is a lack of emotional peaks which you can build towards in the short run. My best emotional description of chillstep is that of being seated in a dark, damp cave. Although it creates a feeling of cool which helps prevent you getting too excitable to distract yourself with other things, it simply is too flat to generate vigour in chasing our goals (in the short run, minute by minute). Also, I find that the beat based intonations are too sharp and relentless to focus on something for too long.

    The appeal of dubstep is that it is a style of music that I would say relies on a series of emotional highs to create enjoyment. Perhaps there is something animalistic going on here, but for productivity sake it simply creates too much excitement. Although this has the tension and reward elements that I believe are important for motivation, the music is just too fast and disruptive to allow someone to actually concentrate long enough to get something done.

    Aside from that, anything involving singing engages the communicative part of the brain, making it difficult to read or write. Although much of the 'epic' style of music is classical, it is the most useful category in a diverse realm of music. At times classical music will send you to sleep or very dramatically take over the room. The likes of Dream Theatre come close and, minus the tracks of a lyrical nature, could be a worthy addition to your productivity playlist.

    Perhaps it's that feeling of being in a cinematic montage, perhaps it's the emotional pull and release carrot on the stick style of the music. Perhaps it's just a coincidentally effective rhythmic and emotional level. Perhaps it's something else, but whatever it is, it works. This style of music has truly made doing work more fun and bearable for me, and I hope it does the same for you.

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