When it’s time to buckle down and work, everything in my office needs to be just right. In winter, I need a blazing fire in the fireplace. In summer, it’s a cool mist aromatherapy diffuser. The plants need to be watered, lip balm applied and my coffee hot. The email inbox has to be empty, and my phone’s ringer must be off. Most importantly, the perfect music needs to be playing.
Throughout history, creatives have used music to improve concentration. The brain performs differently when enjoying certain tunes, as noted by researchers at Pennsylvania State University. We’re talking enhanced dopamine output, synaptic function, learning and memorization. As a freelancer wearing the many hats of business ownership, it helps to have a good playlist for each task. Borrow my mood music for inspiration, and who knows — you may land a better client, keep more organized records, crank out smarter pitches or simply relish your craft. Here are my top four playlists to get you started.
Focus, Focus, Focus
Brain Food is the most predictable mood music to improve concentration for freelancers. It’s a collection of hip, electronic beats for deep focus, without morphing into the distracting weirdness that often accompanies the electro-pop genre. The set features artists like deadmau5, Bassnectar and PrototypeRaptor, which explains why more than 1.5 million listeners follow it. I crank up “Brain Food” when it’s time to dig deep into an assignment, solve client pain points and deliver solutions.
A gem indeed, I found this next playlist by accident. It’s called Songs to Test Headphones With, which if you’ve ever tested headphones, you can appreciate. It runs the gamut, tickling the ears with today’s most interesting audio ephemera. For example, the first track sounds like a jam band and DJ playing improvisationally, while ping-pong balls bounce down a flight of stairs. Not long after, however, you’re enjoying smoky, Creole vocal jazz. It’s so diverse, it’s impossible to turn off.
It’s a mix that won’t mix you up. As soon as one track starts turning too noisy, the next one starts, and again, the preceding song is so different you can’t help but explore it as you create. I’ve found it boosts my mood, particularly before client phone calls and proposal ideation.
If It Ain’t Baroque
By far my fave is the Baroque 50: Spotify Picks. On the one hand, some classical composers (Beethoven, anyone?) just make me feel like I’m running from disaster, and that’s not a feeling I want to foster during a work session. This playlist, on the other hand, is a lighthearted source of lilting elevation for my mind.
While I usually prefer strictly instrumental music (no vocals), the “If It Ain’t Baroque” station does include a few chorale pieces. That said, vocalists at the time used their voices as instruments, and since the words are in Latin, German or Italian, I find myself enjoying the madrigals just as much as the cellos. Honestly, this playlist is perfect for everything on your list. It relieves pressure when you’re doing taxes, it motivates you when you’re dragging and it transports you when you need fresh inspiration for your creative work. As you can tell, I’m a total fan.
An Instrumental Sunday
Take a deep breath. An Instrumental Sunday is a stress-relieving, relaxing playlist in acoustic and (mostly) major keys. Percussion is understated, so when you hit play, it feels like you’re the one controlling the atmosphere, not your music. This set is perfect for editing your work or scheduling out your social media posts for the rest of the month. It’s a low-pressure, enjoyable mix that helps you let yourself off the hook after a solid day of productive output.
I’ve never experienced the famous Mozart effect, where if you study or work while consuming classical tunes, you somehow turn into today’s equivalent of Albert Einstein. However, I wholeheartedly agree that freelancers who pick smart music feel better. And according to the psychologists at Northwestern University, feeling good equates to improved work performance.
Try one or all of these sets today while you work — lip balm and hot coffee optional.