Flow and the Importance of Music to Knowledge Work

This morning I queued up one of my favorites in my “Chill Coding Flow” YouTube Playlist. As I settled into the comforting familiarity of “ADHD Relief, Deep Focus Music with Pulsation, ADD Music for Concentration, ADHD Music,” coming through my noise-canceling headphones, I took a moment to look at some of the comments on the video:

“It is so unbelievable how sounds affect your brain. This is one of my favorites. I work with headphones on and it just puts me on track with whatever I’m working on. I can finish projects without bouncing around. It’s like a you-can-do-it security blanket for your brain.”

“It took me 2 hours to write 2 paragraphs because I kept getting distracted. Just 20 minutes into this video and I have 3 pages finished and getting ready to wrap it up. These don’t always work for me, but this one certainly does.”

I’ve felt every bit of both comments. There’s something about a soothing track that keeps me on task and focused. I remember writing my undergraduate thesis to Rob Dougan – Clubbed To Death on repeat for a week straight. I’m sure there’s some interesting psychology at work here, but I’m not going to sweat it. It works for me and has for years now.

During the pandemic, I saw others in my circles reporting improved productivity while working from home. Working from my home office, I was more productive than I had been in…years. Hard to admit that, but it’s true, and I even had the metrics to prove it.

I believe a major contributor to the improved productivity was the ability to put on concentration music and get into a flow state without the distractions and interruptions common in an office environment. Returning to the office after more than a year of working in a safe, comfortable environment that favored concentration proved to be jarring. So much so, I decided to make a change and seek out more work-from-home opportunities. The office just seemed too distracting. Sometimes, headphones and concentration music can be a deal-breaker, especially for knowledge workers.

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