I have a genuinely difficult time focusing. Almost everything is a distraction to me: people talking, general city sounds, certain smells or visual changes around me, my own revolving door of thoughts. I can set out to complete a work-related task and instead end up reading the label of a product that’s been on my desk, right in front of me, for months. Knowing this about myself makes me better able to address it when it happens, but it never gets any less frustrating to try to hunker down to get shit done and find that my overactive brain won’t let me.
I’ve never liked to wear headphones at work, since it does limit me from interacting with my coworkers, whom I very much enjoy. Listening to music hasn’t even helped me all that much in the past; I get distracted by lyrics, by anything that’s too catchy or noisy, and even by my constant compulsion to change up what I’m listening to.
But lately I discovered a new—to me—way to listen to music that has really made a positive impact on my ability to get, and stay, in the zone. It’s so simple, and honestly, I wouldn’t have even discovered it were I not so prone to playing around on my phone when I’m supposed to be doing literally anything else.
Here is my secret to achieving a state of not-quite-zen but definitely an improvement upon my usual chatty, frantic disposition: Spotify mood playlists. If you have a Premium account, you just hit Browse, scroll down to Genres & Moods, and find the Focus category. There’s something for everyone in there, whether you prefer to listen to chilled-out electronica or classical violin. I’m fond of Deep Focus, Perfect Concentration, Atmospheric Calm, and Musical Therapy, which are not nearly as lame as they sound (come on, guys, I wouldn’t listen to them if they were).
I’m always on the lookout for new, easy ways to reduce stress, quell my nervous energy, stay seated, and overall just calm the eff down and do what I need to do. So don’t take it personally when you see me putting on my massive poor man’s noise-canceling headphones ($17.99 on Amazon!)—it’s the only thing standing in between me and hours spent staring at a completely blank Word document. Try it!