When there's no time to waste, you need a good selection of songs to help you focus.
I guess we’ve all been in the type of situation where we have a strict deadline to hand in something or we have a test to study for, and we need to focus all of our energy on that. However, life is full of distractions, not to mention the many ways we can end up wasting time scrolling down on social media. In those moments, it’s best to disconnect from the outside world for a few hours and devote our concentration to the things we have to do. Nonetheless, most of the time being alone isn’t enough. Sometimes we need a push or some extra element to really boost our concentration or fill the silence that some might find as distracting as watching the TV or chatting with a classmate.
There’s nothing better than music to do that. However, you can't just listen to the first song that pops up on your playlist. For instance, playing your favorite song can be distracting because you might start singing the lyrics, and of course, fast-paced, energetic songs can make you want to dance instead of study. But according to Dr. Hauke Egermann from the University of York, there isn’t an “optimal” list of songs to focus because we all have different tastes and moods. Nonetheless, the key to turn music into the boost you need to focus is to choose songs that block external noise, with lyrics that aren't too catchy, or with a relaxing rhythm, especially because focus requires a clear mind. So, while everyone knows their own tastes and has their personal focus playlist, here is my personal recommendation of albums from different genres that, I believe, are an excellent choice when you need to focus, because no matter which song you pick, or if you decide to listen to the entire album, it’ll help you disconnect and get your stuff done as soon as possible.
Dead Can Dance – Spiritchaser
If you’ve ever heard Gladiator's hauntingly beautiful soundtrack, you might have heard the otherworldly voice of Lisa Gerrard in the song “We Are Free.” Well, in case you didn’t know, she is the main vocalist of the Australian musical project Dead Can Dance. While almost all of this group's songs have a magical quality, their seventh album, Spiritchaser, is an excellent choice for when you just want to relax with all the wondrous sounds of the world and enjoy a really beautiful voice.
Faun – Eden
If you’re into folk or medieval music and don’t mind listening to songs that aren’t in English, you can't miss Faun. This particular album is characterized by mythical figures, such as the god Pan, the ancient Roman tradition of Lupercalia, and their adaptation of old folkloric songs from Ireland and Celtic tribes. It's like traveling in time from the past to the present through music, exploring humanity’s relationship with nature to the sound of guitars, flutes, drums, and the serenading voices of the singers.
Daft Punk – Human After All
Now, if traditional music isn't really your thing and you're more into electronic beats, there’s no better choice than Daft Punk. Although most of their albums have nice beats that can help disconnect you from the distractions of the world, I chose this one in particular because of songs such as “Technologic” and “Human After All,” which induce the electro trance you need to get stuff done. Besides, the lyrics of the first song, instead of distracting you, can trick your brain into doing everything you need in an automatic yet effective way.
The Doors – The Doors
Sometimes chill songs or electro beats aren’t necessarily what you need to block the rest of the world, and what you really want is classic rock with psychedelic lyrics and melodies. In this case, there’s no better option than the mind-bending music of The Doors. Their unique use of the organ, together with the masterful use of guitars, the lyrics, and the exceptional voice of Jim Morrison can easily silence any unwelcome distractions. I particularly recommend “The End,” a song so inspiring it makes this necessary moment of solitude a blissful musical journey.
Sufi Music Ensemble – Himma
Perhaps this choice might surprise you because sufi music isn’t something you hear every day. However, I really do recommend not only this album, but also this kind of music in general, if you truly want to focus. If you’ve ever seen sufi meditation, you know that they spin on the same spot for several minutes or even hours. To achieve that, besides practicing a lot, they also need a special type of music whose rhythmic beats and cadence help them enter in a trance-like state that allows them to keep spinning, focus, and be mindful of the present. This effect is what you need the most when there’s a deadline and you have to get everything done.
Petite Noir – La Vie est Belle / Life is Beautiful
South African singer Yannick Ilunga, best known as Petite Noir, coined the term “noirwave” to describe the music he makes, and this particular album is the best example of it. This music genre is a fusion of New Wave sounds, jazz, and folkloric African instrumentation. This unique combination creates chill melodies that work as the best background you can have while studying. For instance, the beats and soulful vocals of songs like “Chess” or “Down” will soothe you and give you the necessary amount of energy you need to get things done.
The 1975 – The 1975
Now, let’s round up this list with a little indie music. The fresh intertwining of vocals and instruments in the debut album of The 1975 is an excellent choice to lose yourself in the music without getting distracted from the tasks you have to complete. What I like about this group in particular is that their melodies can go from calm to cheerful without creating a distracting imbalance that would totally mess up with your concentration. On the contrary, in their case, their varied tunes only add the color you need to make study or work time an enjoyable moment.
These are just a few recommendations for those moments you need to be by yourself and work for a bit. While deadlines and tasks can be quite annoying, a good selection of music will make even the lamest assignments pretty enjoyable.
Here are other music lists you should check out: