Music to enhance productivity – Balancing quantity and quality

May 8th, 2007

As you folks prob mostly know, I’m right under the pump at the moment.

Got about 10 balls in the air and trying to juggle them all at once without dropping any..

What does this mean? Writing – loads of writing.. reams and reams of writing – writing coming out of my ears.

Apart from the fact that I’ve rediscovered that the hardest thing about writing anything is writing the first sentence, I’ve also rediscovered the fact that a little background music can help keep you on task and make the hours slip past more quickly and more productively.

With that said, after a week of qualitative experimentation, my thoughts on ‘working music’ (will probably say more about my horrible taste in music than anything else) :-

  1. 6am – Start the day with something relaxing – I’ve found chill-out albums (depeche mode, coldplay) great for the first hour, then gradually working up – coldplay is another fave.
  2. 9am-12pm – up the ante – a bit of vivaldi, something classical – this is the best time for writing anything academic.
  3. 1pm – dinner – avoid the 2pm sleepiness curse – something faster works for me – I hate to admit it, but I’ve rediscovered Kylie Minogue for this purpose.. Sheer volume of written output increases exponentially relative to the BPM of the music, quality perhaps diminishes in same ratio (caution – if you share your office, use headphones during this phase if you want to avoid being shot) 🙂
  4. After dinner – this is coding time – I find an eclectic mix of low BPM vocal / instrumental is great here – a bit of Dave Matthews / Paul Simon / James Reyne (he’s an Aussie artist folks) early on, followed by something more soothing around 1am to slow down the mind ready for a refreshing 3 hours sleep is great 😉
  5. Special bonus tip – a mate and I used to combine socialising with study by holding ‘pub-write’ nights – kind of a ‘carrot-stick’ arrangement whereby we’d take our laptops to the local pub, and reward ourselves with 1 beer for every 3 pages written. The net result was usually an enormous volume of writing done, but inevitably said writing tended to become ‘creative’ after ~ 30 pages.. at least one of our joint 1000 page assignments was sporadically ‘sketchy’ as a result 😉

Other tips – if you find yourself lacking inspiration or slowing down, either change the record or take an hour off to hit the gym, then come back and proof read what you have already written – the break does the mind good, the proof-reading gets it back in the groove…




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