Music is probably only second to coffee as the best tool available to get you to buckle down, stop procrastinating and finally get some work done. Thankfully the days of sitting in your cubicle and waiting for the radio to play a good song are long gone. There are now plenty of tools available to find the perfect music for what you’re doing. Music the influences moods and activities, such as being energetic and productive, are easily accessible.
However, having nearly every recorded tune in the history of civilization at your fingertips can be a bit intimidating and might actually be a task that leads to more procrastinating. So, to stop you from spending more time searching for songs than listening to them, here are ten songs to help increase productivity and help you work more efficiently.
Some of the tracks below may include explicit content/language. If you’re in a work environment where this may effect others, please use your best judgement.
1. Ocean (Live at Federation Square) John Butler Trio
John Butler’s mastery of acoustic guitar – from the harmonics to the slaps – has generated one of the most invigorating songs, especially when it’s heard live. “Ocean” is a song that, much like a rising tide, starts off with a slow yet colorful pattern, waxing and waning in and out of energy. Around 3:45 things start picking up and you’ll notice your own work pace starts increasing too! The energy starts flowing into your typing speed, your mental processes, ultimately improving your overall efficiency. By 6:00 you’ll feel invigoration that should be the perfect jumpstart to any slow-moving morning.
2. “Mad Rush” Philip Glass
This is a relaxing piano arrangement by Philip Glass. It’s just exciting enough not to be total background noise, but it isn’t so much that you’ll get distracted. It’s also long enough for you not to have to worry about what you’re going to play next for a while. Did you know Philip Glass is a cousin of “This American Life” host Ira Glass? That’s one family that’s doing big things.
3. “Cigarettes and Coffee” Otis Redding
This soulful tune is the perfect accompaniment to late nights spent working, and not just because it opens with Otis crooning, “It’s early in the morning…about a quarter til three.” The song will have you grooving but is still soft enough that it won’t make you lose focus. It might be a little distracting if you’re going through a break up though, so stay away if you’ve experienced recent heartache.
4. “Flamenco Sketches” Miles Davis
Really every single track on Kind of Blue could make this list. In a time where jazz has been relegated to elevators and background music, it still holds its own in providing the soundtrack to the creation your next TPS report. Kind of Blue is the one jazz album that even non-jazz fans, (the musical genre, not the inexplicably named Salt Lake City NBA team) like, so you should give it a try. This another track that is of a decent length, so you can hit play and forget about worrying about the playlist for a while.
5. “Pyramids” Frank Ocean
This song stretches from the time of Cleopatra to a time of strip clubs and motels, but the instrumentals and sound of Frank’s voice are smooth enough that you’ll enjoy it just fine even if you don’t have the attention to spare for the lyrical content. Rumors of a new album from Frank Ocean continue to swirl, so keep an eye, or rather an ear, out. It might not be long for another one of his new hits to make a list like this.
6. “Life (Instrumental)” J Dilla
This is one of the best, most relaxing beats from one of hip-hop’s greatest producers ever. J Dilla, a Detroit native, had his life cut tragically short by a rare blood disease. However, the man was so dedicated to his craft that he continued making beats from his hospital bed right up until his death. He died just three days after the release of Donuts, an album of instrumentals that would be a fantastic work playlist all on its own.
7. “Mango Rubicon” Kona Triangle
Combining the forces of Lone and Keaver & Brause, Kona Triangle is a unique beat-making, experimental soundscape creator. Wrapped up in all this percussive firepower are dense soundscapes of synthetic, sampled and field-recorded sounds, all buckling under the immense pressure of the low-end punch of those bass drums. ‘Mango Rubicon’ is a particularly good example of this sort of behaviour; weaving together Boards-style chord intervals, tropical ephemera and blurry rainforest noise, the track opens up with a luscious, panoramic serenity before the disproportionately loud, booming beats crash through the mix like a tyrannical logging company. Ace.
Mango Rubicon is the perfect track to help you be productive and work through tasks – especially monotonous ones. Smashing your head while entering thousands of data points into an Excel sheet? Mango Rubicon will ease some of the suffering.
8. “The Rain Song” Led Zeppelin
“Stairway to Heaven” gets all of the attention as far as rock ballads go, but I really think “The Rain Song” should be in the conversation whenever “Stairway” is. I’m sure it’s because “Stairway” has been overplayed, and I wasn’t even alive when it first came out and got played into the ground. For my money, I’d rather listen to “The Rain Song” every time. This is an appropriately named, relaxing tune that won’t put you to sleep. Here’s a comment about how this songs fits into someone’s workday like a fitting puzzle piece:
9. “Helplessness Blues” Fleet Foxes
The soaring instrumentals on this song should put your spirit somewhere far away from the office, but it isn’t so overpowering that your mind will feel like drifting away as well. Listen to the end though and you might be tempted to quit your job and start working in an orchard.
10. “Act 1: Eternal Sunshine (The Pledge)” Jay Electronica
This fifteen minute song is almost more like a mix tape. It’s made entirely from the sound track to the film The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and it features some clips from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory along with some pretty impressive word play from Jay Electronica. The beats, and there are several, are so good that I even love listening to Just Blaze and Erykah Badu talk about how cool Jay Electronica is for six minutes at the beginning.