You know those songs that just hit you where it hurts? Of course you do. We all have ’em. Those songs that punch us in the gut, send us soaring to stellar heights, or sink us into a cosmic torpor, an abyss of loneliness, nostalgia, or the memories of a lost love (oh, how they hurt us).
We love that stuff, don’t we? We love to be touched. Music has the ability to penetrate us perhaps as no other sensory input (except maybe smell) can. Certain songs can reach in and manhandle our very soul. What a blessing, right? What an amazing invention! Except for Creed. Creed sucks. JK. (But no).
Emotional resonance could be the whole reason our species started making music in the first place. The immediacy of it. The interconnectedness with the rhythms and harmonies of the universe. “Here,” it says, banging on a drum made of cow parts, and twanging on strings made of tiger sinew. “Dance with me. Sway. Sing. Feel.”
All that’s wonderful. We’re all for it. Focus@Will’s full of musicians, music lovers, music hoarders, music innovators. We might even have a Creed fan or two. We could all rattle off our top 50 Desert Island Discs on a dime. We love the music we love. It defines us as individuals. We couldn’t live without our favorite music.
But not when we’re trying to work.
We’ve learned that when you need to focus on some task at hand, you’ve got to pick the right kind of music, at the right time, in the right sequence. A major variable in that calculus is your emotional response to the particular music you’re playing.
Are you putting songs on your workout playlist that will make you zone out after five reps, distractedly mooning over your ex’s eyes? Oh, how they loved them some Portishead, Dido, and Björk Guðmundsdóttir!
Are you trying to write or edit or code or whatever you do while your heart and lungs and liver are all crooning to your idol/guru/god Celine Dion or T-Pain or Dvorak?
Not gonna work. Not at this juncture.
“Music is unique in that it activates a broad array of neurons across the corpus callosum,” writes David Jockers DNM, DC, MS, a doctor of natural medicine and founder of the SuperBrain Program. “This creates a state of harmony between the two hemispheres.”
Yes, music’s good, music’s helpful for focus. But not music you react to in any way emotionally, either positive or negative. (Or both: While Smashmouth’s “All-Star” might be an otherwise bouncy, upbeat romp in the repertoire, it’s probably gonna be a downer if it was playing when you got your ass handed to you last week by that ex with the lovely eyes.)
You need music your brain interprets neutrally.
Neutral as in Muzak? Those insipid versions of Air Supply and “Afternoon Delight” you hear on elevators and on line at the bank? God, no. Those are even worse. They’re specifically designed as earworms to burrow in your brain. That either works wonderfully and you find yourself humming along to the all-too familiar tunes. Or you mark them because you loathe them with the white-hot intensity of a thousand burning suns. C’mon! “Stairway to Heaven” with pan flutes and zither? No.
Though one thing elevator music gets right in terms of keeping you focused is that there are no lyrics. “The non-verbal melodies of music stimulate the right brain …” Right, Dr. Jockers. But familiar music can become just as much of a distraction as lyrics.
We can say with a good measure of certainty that you probably haven’t heard most of the instrumental music on our playlists. There’s a reason for that—with tons of science backing it up.
Our music will work on your nonconscious brain, to get you and keep you in a maximum flow state. You’ve got important things to do. You’ve got enough distractions. Don’t let your favorite tracks – nor those you despise – knock you off track.
Focus@Will: None of our music will make you moon over your ex.(™)