Whether it’s working up the motivation to start typing up a blog post or to do some farming in one of the games I play, listening to music has always managed to help me with a lot more than I ever really expected it to. The right background music can psych me up and keep me focused on whatever it is I’m doing. Even as I type this post up, I have one of my playlists specifically curated to help keep me focused playing in the background.
One might think that having music playing could be a distraction, but this is actually the furthest thing from the truth. In fact, a variety of research studies have pointed to the benefits of using music while studying to increase motivation and focus while decreasing stress. However, there are some detriments, too, such as making it difficult to retain information and distracting you if you have the wrong sort of music playing.
I’ve seen people suggest that you could play nature sounds instead of music, but I’ve personally found this to be infinitely more distracting, especially if chirping birds are involved. (Maybe I’m part cat.)
Naturally, this all comes down to personal preference and what actually is actually going to work best for you. Background noise while trying to do anything isn’t exactly a universal experience. Different people have different tolerance levels for certain things, after all, and you will need to play around a bit to figure out what’s going to work best for you and your specific situation.
I can, however, provide a few tips when it comes to choosing music that will work best whether you’re studying, trying to get work done, or just trying to psyche yourself up.
Tips for Musical Motivation
Make sure whatever you’re choosing to listen to doesn’t have lyrics. In my personal experience, music with lyrics is fine when you’re working up the energy to get started on whatever it is you’re going to be doing, but lyrics provide a distraction when you’re actually trying to do the task, especially if you’re studying. I’ve found that when a song has lyrics, I tend to hyperfocus on the lyrics and not whatever it is I’m supposed to be doing.
The only exception I’ve found to this is if the lyrics are in a language other than one I actually speak. If I can’t understand it, then I don’t have to worry about focusing on it. But, again, your mileage may vary.
Instrumentals, I’ve found, work best, especially slower instrumental pieces. Existing research does point towards classical music for this, but if that’s not your taste, there’s a wide variety of musical genres out there for you to look into and choose from!
In fact, might I actually recommend the soundtracks from your favorite video games? After all, video game soundtracks are composed with a purpose: helping you focus on your task without being distracted by too many sounds or lyrics. My personal favorite while working is actually the soundtrack from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, but, again, maybe you think you’d work better listening to the soundtracks from the Metal Gear series or even Kirby!
Regardless of what you listen to, don’t listen to it at max volume. Keep it loud enough so you can hear it, but low enough where it’s not going to be a distraction. Again, the goal is not to get distracted, by staying focused and motivated. If the music is too loud, it may distract your thinking process.
And perhaps most important of all, make sure the music is commercial-free if at all possible. There’s nothing worse than getting into a zone for a track or two and then abruptly being shaken out of it by a chipper voice going on about cleaning supplies or toilet paper. If you can justify going ad-free on your music platform of choice, I would heartily recommend doing it.
If you can’t, there is an assortment of soundscapes people have created and posted onto YouTube that might also help you out that play for an hour or more uninterrupted. There are even some that are themed for popular fictional locations (various forests in the Elder Scrolls universe, The Shire, etc.), so you can pick and choose ones that would work best for you.
And with that in mind, go forth, friends, and find that background music to help keep you focused and motivated!