Let’s face it — sometimes life can feel like a drag. Maybe a work project has got you down, or it’s hard to bring yourself to do mundane tasks like cleaning. Whatever the case may be, finding ways to help yourself stay focused and on-task is essential to staying productive.

This may or may not come as a surprise, but music is actually proven to increase productivity. Whether it’s background music while you write a paper or energetic tunes while you go on a run, there’s a positive effect on your brain. This will help you feel better while you work, or maybe even look forward to doing more. Using music to improve your focus is a great way to stay on-task.

However, you might not know when the best time is to listen to music to help with your productivity. Sometimes, music can be a distraction. Knowing when to use it and what kind can make all the difference. Here are some scenarios of when and what type of music is helpful.

1. While Waking Up

It’s probably not surprising that how you wake up can affect your mood that day. Ever felt angry when waking up to a particularly annoying alarm clock? Or, felt happy when waking to the sound of birds chirping? There’s a scientific reason for this, of course. It all has to do with the psychological effects of the noise that wakes you up.

Music can be a helpful tool for waking up in a relaxed, easy way that won’t make you dread the day ahead. Starting off the day right means beginning with a good mood. Try waking up to calming music or maybe your favorite song. See if a musical start to your day improves your focus and willingness to be productive.

Top 5 songs to wake up to:

  • Coldplay – Viva La Vida
  • St. Lucia – Elevate
  • Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – Downtown
  • Bill Withers – Lovely Day
  • Avicii – Wake Me Up

2. While Studying or Working

Sometimes it can be so hard to focus when you’ve got a lot of work to do. Studying is usually never fun, and from time to time, work can seem dull. Or, maybe you just feel so overwhelmed by your workload that it’s difficult to stay on task. Whatever the reason, it’s hard to be productive when you’re not feeling inspired or excited by the work you’re doing.

Try playing some music on a low volume for some background tunes. Classical or ‘lo-fi’ music can set a nice ambiance that helps clear your cluttered brain. Playing songs with no lyrics is best for productivity, but if you can still focus while listening to music with words, go right ahead. The soothing tempo of slow music can also help inspire you while you work. It can make you feel like you’re in a movie or music video, and that can really set the mood. Try this method out, and see how it works for you and your work.

5 songs for background music:

  • Clair de Lune – Claude Debussy
  • Thaïs: Méditation – Jules Massenet
  • Glacier Bay – Rhonda Mackert
  • Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, No. 2, BWV 645 – Johann Sebastian Bach
  • The Carnival of the Animals, R. 125: XIII. The Swan – Camille Saint-Saëns

3. While Working Out

There’s nothing like an upbeat song to get you feeling ready to conquer the world. The Rocky training montage wouldn’t be the same without “Eye of the Tiger,” now would it? The psychological effects of groovy music can help one feel more inspired to work out. With a hard-hitting song, you might feel more willing to go on that jog. It’s also probably less motivating when all you listen to is your heavy breathing while you exercise.

Using the beat of music can act as a workout, too. Why else do Zumba and other dance workout classes exist? Some songs just have an infectious beat that makes you feel like jumping up and moving to the groove. You don’t need to be a professional dancer to pump out some cardio to your favorite song. So use this to your advantage the next time you work out. See if it helps make a difference in your exercise regimen.

5 songs to work out to:

  • Till I Collapse – Eminem, Nate Dogg
  • Motivation – Normani
  • Eye of the Tiger – Survivor
  • Con Altura – Rosalía, J Balvin, El Guincho
  • Don’t Start Now – Dua Lipa

4. While Winding Down

So, it’s been established at this point that music can help shift your mood. Now it’s time to master its benefits for other activities. While getting yourself wound down might not seem like part of increasing your productivity, it helps more than you think. Getting enough rest, which includes mental breaks, is essential to maximizing efficiency. In other words, your brain needs some quality R&R to function.

For some people, this step in a productive lifestyle can be challenging. Maybe you’re not feeling quite tired enough for sleep, although it’s bedtime. Or, you need to help calm yourself down after a stressful day at work. Finding some soothing music can help you with this.

Have you ever seen those 10-hour videos of ‘background music’ advertised on Youtube? That’s the niche you need to look for. Some calming tunes can help ease your brain into a more relaxed state. This can help create a cozy ambiance to lay on the couch under a warm blanket with a cup of coffee. Doesn’t that sound relaxing? Why not give it a try? It’s a great, quick way to cut down on stress that requires minimal effort.

5 songs to wind down to:

  • Green Arrow – Yo La Tengo
  • Return to Innocence – Enigma
  • Banana Pancakes – Jack Johnson
  • The Scientist – Coldplay
  • View from my Window – Hiroshi Yoshimura

5. While Cleaning

Ugh, just the thought of getting out of a bucket and mopping the floor can be a mood killer. Most people can easily say they don’t enjoy cleaning. It’s a common complaint of property owners — it’s just not that fun to clean. Unfortunately, it’s a necessary chore for health and safety reasons. So, why not spruce the task up a little with some jamming tunes?

Putting on a fun, upbeat playlist of songs can help you have fun while you clean. You heard that right — you can have fun while cleaning! Sometimes all it takes is a karaoke session with your favorite song to take scrubbing a toilet to the next level. Put together some of your favorite music and get to cleaning!

5 songs for cleaning:

  • Livin’ on a Prayer – Bon Jovi
  • Rock Your Body – Justin Timberlake
  • Whatta Man – Salt-N-Pepa
  • Just Dance – Lady Gaga
  • Billy Jean – Michael Jackson

6. While Driving

Another type of semi-downtime would be your daily commute. Driving might be stressful, or maybe it’s simply boring. However you feel about operating a vehicle, this is another prime scenario to get your brain moving.

You shouldn’t listen to the kind of music that gets you too distracted. It’s important to maintain safe driving habits behind the wheel, and that includes what you listen to. Those upbeat tunes that make you want to dance aren’t a good idea for this situation. You need something a bit more chill for driving.

Ever tried out a podcast? While technically not music, listening to podcasts engages your brain. Podcasts can range from educational to just-for-fun genres, meaning you have a lot of options. This period of downtime that driving provides is the perfect time to listen to a podcast. Your brain will still be moving, so you don’t lose that productive streak in the car. By the time you get home, you might even feel ready to pump out some more work if your schedule requires it.

5 podcasts for driving:

  • The Atlas Obscura Podcast
  • Ear Hustle
  • Travel Tales by AFAR
  • Outside Podcast
  • Welcome to Night Vale

Make It Your Own

Remember that what kind of music helps someone else focus might not be what helps you. Everyone is unique, and everyone has their own difficulties with productivity that they need to overcome. Spending the time to test out ways to help improve with efficiency is worth the effort. And when music is involved, this can be a fun experiment.

Don’t be too harsh on yourself when giving this method a go. Try out different types of music for each different scenario until you find what fits you best. Music without words might be the best for studying. Classical music might put you to sleep. And upbeat tempos might make you feel better about championing a workout. It’s all in your attitude, which is greatly affected by the music. So, improve your attitude, and thus your productivity, by giving some of these musical situations a try.

Featured Image Credit: Burst; Pexels; Thank you!