Marathoning music for productivity

I was listening to the Tim Ferris podcast the other day, and he had Matt Mullenwig on. Matt is a very prolific programmer, writer, and business person. He created WordPress and a lot of it’s associated services.

They talk about habits for getting into flow and being productive a lot. Like which tools he uses and where he works. One thing that stuck out in my mind was his use of repeating tracks or albums a lot. This stuck out because he is also a musician, and an appreciator of music. Most people who are prolific and love music listen to a wide variety, but not Matt. I rolled this thought around for a few days.

When I thought about it, I had done this before and it was a productive time. So I gave it a shot again. For the second half of this week I’ve been listening to podcasts while doing clerical tasks or commuting. But when I sit down to really write some code or read documentation and program, it’s been the Skyfall soundtrack. I’ve been listening to Amazon Prime music, because on my phone they allow me to listen to sequential tracks, where Spotify requires an membership for me. I already pay for Amazon Prime so that worked.

While this isn’t a super thorough experiment, here was how I did it. I use pomodoros for estimating things in my head. Generally a pomodoro is about 30 minutes. It’s hard to find things that are smaller than that, that ultimately don’t get tested or batched with others that take that long. I took Wednesday and tried to do a few pomodoros the way I had been doing them, with more intent on tracking the outcome. I was a little more productive than normal.

Thursday morning I came in and said to myself, I will only take my headphones off if I have to. A meeting was called for the first hour I was in the office that put that on hold. After that though I had some new work to estimate and do. So I estimated it to take me about a day and a half. Then I put on my headphones, and got to work. After only a few pomodoros in I felt more productive than I had in a long time. I wasn’t really in a state of flow, but I could see and feel the edges of it for the first time in a while.

If you are having trouble getting into flow and feeling productive. Try either putting a track or an entire album on repeat.

I’m going to be experimenting with other tracks and albums over the next week.

A few links to things I mention but just gloss over.


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