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When faced with a lengthy to-do list, I have found that I have a tendency to procrastinate and push back those tasks requiring the greatest degree of concentration (and I’m sure that I’m not alone on this). Whether it’s trying to get through an involved piece of work or just settling down into a difficult novel, it is all too easy for my mind to begin to wander or become distracted in this age of relentless notifications from emails, social media and apps.
As we become more and more accustomed to the quick dopamine fix offered by passive entertainment like YouTube clips and Facebook memes, it can be difficult to actively focus your attention on the more difficult (and undoubtedly more important) tasks of the day. Where work is involved, office settings have previously set the correct ambience for work to be carried out effectively, by (generally) offering a quiet environment surrounded by other employees getting down to similar tasks. However, as more and more workplaces are starting to shift from office-based working to a primarily home-based or remote working situation, this issue of distraction and procrastination has become ever more pronounced.
Some people will find that silence is their best companion for settling down to high-concentration tasks. I am definitely a fan of a library-type setting for being productive, but in a home environment it is rarely the case that you will be able to enjoy that silence for long. Whether it’s the other occupants of your place, adjoining neighbours or construction noise from the street, it is unlikely for most to be fully insulated from possible noise distractions. The solution I have found to this issue is to listen to music; but not just any kind of music.
Any music involving lyrics is a definite no-no for me, as I always end up tuning into the content of what the singer is saying and becoming distracted from the task in hand. Instrumental music is therefore my preference. However, even with instrumental music I find that certain melodies or chord patterns (those which are particularly moving) also tend to distract me and impact my concentration. This really narrows down the options to a certain type of non-lyrical/instrumental music that assists focus (rather than commandeers it). The intention here is to provide an aid to concentration, not something to get down to.
I have therefore set out a selection of my favourite albums below which have helped me get down to involved tasks and which may also help you in this regard:
Hammock – The Sleepover Series, Vol. 1
A lot of Hammock’s music does not fall within the realm of music which I find beneficial for concentration, but only because it is just too moving and leads to involuntary daydreams. This album, on the other hand, is ideal. It involves gentle instrumental soundscapes that block out your surroundings, but which do not impede your focus; as if your desk has been transported to a vast open coastline at dawn.
Bill Evans – Alone
Here we have some grade-A solo jazz piano. This is perhaps one which falls a little close to being too moving for concentration, but give it a try.
Yo Yo Ma – Six Evolutions, Bach: Cello Suites
Another solo instrumental work. Like Bill Evans, I have found Yo Yo Ma’s solo playing to be a great aid to focus.
Marko Topchii – Guitar Recital
Ukrainian guitarist Marko Topchii’s solo classical guitar work is an excellent aid to involved concentration.
Gene Krupa – Plays Gerry Mulligan Arrangements
This is the most lively of the five, so it could perhaps be beneficial to those in particularly noisy surroundings. There’s not much in the way of outside distractions getting past a big band, yet despite the energy this album provides a surprisingly good concentration aid.
I hope the above selection will be of use to you in blocking out those everyday modern distractions so that you can proceed through your work more efficiently. One point to note – if you’re listening to the above selection via the YouTube links above, you’ll inevitably suffer from intermittent advertising between songs. To avoid this, I would recommend either purchasing the music in physical format (links above) or invest in a streaming platform such as Amazon Music. I have embedded the link to Amazon Music below for convenience:
Amazon Music USA:
Amazon Music UK: