Rather than a rush to the finish line, some work weeks feel like a slow belly crawl to the weekend. For whatever reason, time and energy are at a premium, and you’re always on the brink of running out of both. Simple tasks take longer than they should, clients are slow to respond, and the next item on your to-do list already feels draining.
Could it be a post-holiday reverie slump? Maybe you’re coming down with something. Might be some other source of stress that’s leaving you feeling stretched to the max. Whatever the case, you can’t tap out and quit. There is work to be done and procrastinating will just lead to panic later. So, what can you do?
Saved by the Beat
Stopped at yet another traffic light — why hit one when you can hit ‘em all? — my arms practically curled around the steering wheel as I watched the windshield wipers battle yet more snow and sleet. With what felt like a mountain of tasks left to conquer, I knew I had to snap out of it. I had been lost in the incessant droning of commercials, punctuated by random weather reports. Breaking news: it’s snowing again in New England.
A quick flip of the station landed me directly on the opening beat of Dire Straits’ “Walk of Life.” Don’t really know why and don’t really care, but this song always makes me smile and feel somewhat lighter about life in general. Sure, it’s summery, a drive-to-the-beach type anthem — but, it always helps when a happy song calls up a happy memory…
Accelerating through the traffic, I was simultaneously transported to a much sunnier afternoon, riding shotgun in videographer, Eddie Frateschi’s, Chevy, on our way back from shooting aerial footage for a client. It’s possible our efforts that day left us a little punchy on the drive back to the office. Whatever it was, when “Walk of Life” came on, we immediately sang along, seat-danced, and snapped our fingers without shame, both of us admitting that this is one catchy tune.
Cool story, Silva. What’s the point?
The point of this post is to remind all of us about the power of music to motivate and re-energize your day, mission, mood, whatever. The best part is, science agrees, offering plenty of studies and research to evidence music’s authentic awesomeness.
Music’s Power to Predict
Accessing the right song or power anthem might actually set the tone for your day, according to scientific studies. In other words, setting a soundtrack ahead of a task, whether your work day or working out, can support your success in that endeavor.
In Psychology Today’s article, “The Neuroscience of Music, Mindset, and Motivation,” Chris Bergland writes, “According to researchers from the Netherlands, listening to a song like Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day” can create a self-fulfilling prophecy.”
What’s more, “Music and mood are inherently linked. Scientists continue to uncover how these influences occur at a neural level. Studies prove that the music we listen to engages a wide range of neurobiological systems that affect our psychology… and has a dramatic effect on explanatory style and perception.”
The trick is knowing which kind of music to listen to relative to the type of task at hand… I can’t imagine, for example, listening to “Walk of Life,” while trying to learn a new skill. The toe-tapping and head bobbing would obstruct pertinent details from making contact with my gray matter.
Be-Bop-A-Lula, Baby What I Say?
So, we know that music with lyrics often proves distracting when we need razor-sharp focus. But that doesn’t mean that silence, no matter how golden, is the answer. In “The Science Backed Ways Music Affects Your Brain and Productivity,” Chad Grills asserts “Research suggests that ambient noise, or ambient music as we may prefer to think about it here, could be the best kind of music for work productivity.”
What is ambient music?
Ambient music, described in 1978 by Brian Eno, is “as ignorable as it is interesting.” Or, as Pitchfork goes on to cite in the same, “The 50 Best Ambient Albums of All Time,” Australian composer Keith Fullerton Whitman recognizes:
Ambient is a great meeting point: not so much at the center of everything, but floating just above, in a perfect geosynchronous orbit, within reach. At its best, it casts enough shade to dampen the extraneous while causing a shift in our perceptions, enough to take us out of time and place, to wherever we need to be.
So, if you need to be in a place focused enough to crunch numbers, run cost-benefit analyses, or evaluate your next marketing strategy, ambient music is your answer.
Feel like you can put your efforts on cruise control and crush through important, but arguably arduous tasks like cleaning out your inbox? Hit shuffle on Spotify on start singing along.
Whatever your rut, Grills maps out your musical exit route pretty nicely:
…when learning new information, music without lyrics is preferable to lyrical music. However, if we complete this task at work and need to switch to a more repetitive, well-known task, we may benefit emotionally and productively from listening to music with lyrics.
The next time you feel caught in the clutches of a creative block or motivational minefield, get your groove back (channel your inner Stella) and crank whatever tunes will do the trick.
At the end of the day, Knopfler said it best,
After all the violence and double talk
There’s just a song in all the trouble and the strife
You do the walk, you do the walk of life