Playlists for Your 9–5

Cultivating playlists is kind of a weird and super satisfying hobby for me…especially when the music helps me be productive.

Photo by Wenni Zhou on Unsplash

I worked at a digital marketing agency for four years, and over that time cultivated several Spotify playlists for my levels of needed focus at work (especially at a creative desk job). So just in case you’re in need of the perfect tunes….I gotchu. I have one for most typical workday brain stages.

Intense, mind-aching focus

making contracts, figuring out roadmaps, specifying strategic, etc

I actually plug in my headphones and don’t listen to anything at all. Surprise! But it’s like a Pavlov’s dog sort of thing — when I’m tethered to my computer, my earphones are my bell and it’s focus time.

When I have to focus but my brain isn’t hurting to do it

i.e., responding to client emails, learning a client’s brand or researching their competitors, reading articles

I typically listen to ambient post-rock music. Spotify’s Atmospheric Calm playlist and Deep Focus playlists are pretty great for intense focus, and I’ve cultivated some of my faves in my anti-distract playlist. Bands like Hammock, Sleeping at Last, Ólafur Arnalds are some great sounds for tranquility.

More of a medium level of non-distraction

i.e., when I have a loose strategy in mind but I start to implement my hypotheses

This brings me to my to think by playlist. This mode consists of some of the above genres, but also includes some more fast-paced or up-beat — it’s like tranquil meets pulsing energy. Explosions in the Sky and This Will Destroy You are good options here.

My go-to for cranking stuff out, or when I need to focus but I’m pretty sleepy

is beats. Not a ton of lyrics, but some really fun, uh…beats. Bands like Little People, The Glitch Mob, and Ratatat are my jam here and it’s hard to fall asleep but easy to fall into a good zone.

When I’m in the zone making stuff

My playlist [+] creative is my fave in my “think” category. I listen to this after I have a pretty good game-plan and now I’m executing on it, usually for design stuff. Lyrics are introduced here and it puts me in a pretty happy and creativity-inducing headspace. Telepathic Teddy Bear, Tycho, alt-J, Woodkid, The Shanghai Restoration Project make their place here.

Snoozy-feeling, post-lunch can’t-take-a-nap times

Last but definitely not least: un-tired is my go-to for that afternoon drift. You know the one. It’s like 2pm but you feel like it’s bedtime. Bands like The Killers, MIKA, Lucius, and Bastille get me dancing at my desk…which can be potentially awkward…but surprisingly effective.

So am I the only one who does this? Surely not! Rally with me here, people. What are your productivity tune go-to’s?