Listening to music while working or writing can help you get really focused on the task at hand. Since we need to have a buzzword for everything, some would call this getting into a state of deep work. We can also just call this non-distracted work.
But anyway, music can help you block out the outside world while you focus. The important thing is that the music needs to fade into the background. Jamming out to music you enjoy is fun, but you’re going to end up focusing on that instead of your work.
This is where ambient music is really great. It’s generally not interesting to listen to but effective at blocking the outside world. But if focusing is your goal, the interest of the music shouldn’t matter.
Finding good ambient music
Truthfully, it’s not hard to find something acceptable on your preferred platform. Spotify, Pandora, YouTube, etc. all have ambient stations/playlists.
Over the years of using ambient music as study/work music, I’ve figured out that personally those stations and playlists don’t work great for me for two main reasons.
- When there is a switch to a new song, you will briefly get distracted.
- When you get bored you may end up skipping songs and that pulls you out of whatever you are working on.
I have found that generative music is a better solution.
Generative music is exactly what it sounds like. Each time you listen, it will be a new “song”. What is nice about this type of music is that it is a continuous flow that lasts forever. If you want to focus for a 2-hour chunk of time, the music will flow for 2-hours.
There are quite a few good options out there for listening to generative music.
- Brain FM – this is a subscription service for generative music. It allows you to set your purpose (e.g. work, study, sleep, etc.) and tunes it to that. Personally I’ve tried it out and it works well. If you need another subscription service in your life, this is certainly one! Personally I’ve opted for other options.
- Generative FM – this is a great free (and open source!) alternative to Brain FM. Alex Bainter built this and it’s honestly pretty great. I’m personally a big fan of
- Brian Eno, the originator of the generative music process, has some cool generative music apps. Definitely worth checking out.
- And many more.
A more fun option
When I was in college, studying for hours on end, the ambient music would get to me. That was probably a sign of procrastination, but I had enough and played around with other options.
One thing I found worked rather well was creating a Spotify playlist with a single song and just put it on loop. After a couple times looped through, the song was faded strongly into the background.
That was my preferred option until I found something even better. The Infinite Jukebox! You plug in a song and it generates a path to play the song continuously. This means you never experience the end/beginning of a song over and over again, it just seamlessly plays forever. It’s essentially generative music based on a source song of your choice.
It seems like the Infinite Jukebox might be a bit long in the tooth, so while trying to find it this morning I found a newer, similar option. The Eternal Jukebox. This one is plugged into Spotify so it has more songs as well.
In fact, I was listening to the Eternal Jukebox as I wrote this post. It’s pretty great.