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How to Use Playlists as the Ultimate Productivity Hack

A powerful productivity hack that will program your body to be supernaturally productive.

We’ve all dabbled with playlists before.

This might sound like an odd question, but if you had to rank yourself on a scale of 1-10, how strategically would you say you’re using music playlists right now?

From my experience, I know a handful of people who put together playlists into groupings into either emotional- or genre-based categories. For others, there might be some playlists somewhere, but they’ve long since gathered dust.

I’m going to break down a methodology that will help you leverage playlists into tools to help you achieve supernatural productivity in whatever it is that you do.

But First, a Dash of Science

It’s no secret that science has studied the effect of music on productivity.

According to multiple sources, compiled here, here’s what music does in work settings:

  • Biologically speaking, music helps release dopamine in the brain. These good feeling chemicals help promote positivity, which promotes clearer thinking.
  • People’s minds tend to wander. Music helps bring us back into the present moment.
  • Music can expand the bounds of your thinking.
  • Studies have shown that music can help encourage faster and more focused completion of tasks.

Strategic, Contextual Productivity Playlists

So, what we’re about to do is take this concept of the benefits of music and apply them in a strategic method.

Focus and productivity are dependent on your state of being. So it’s our goal to transport you to a different state of being through music. That no matter what the environment is surrounding your work—emotionally or physically—that you can summon this state with the touch of the play button.

Step 1: Brainstorm the Playlists Based on the Major Activities in Your Work Day (be meticulous)

I’ll share a peek into my playlists to showcase this.

Before we dive in, I’ll mention that I use Spotify to compile and house my playlists. I love it because it’s cloud based and syncs seamlessly across all of my devices.

When I originally brainstormed the major activities in my work day, I came up with the following big groupings:

  • Crisis Communications. Either reactive communications on behalf of clients who are facing a situation or general major conflicts facing our agency in some way.
  • Development. Website design and development activities. Meticulous, line-by-line code writing and architecting.
  • Running. Running is a vital part of my weekly schedule. It helps me clear my mind, but boy, do I require some encouragement to continue pushing myself to run further faster each session.
  • Strategic Thinking. Brainstorming for creative projects, refining research into key findings, developing integrated marketing communications plans or helping a team member or colleague solve an issue.
  • Studying. Reading books, outlines or other materials in professional development senses.
  • Writing. Intensive, focused pieces (like this) of writing. Blog posts, proposals, long-explanatory emails, status updates, reports, etc.

The Keys to Success Here

  • Keep the Number as Low as Possible. You’ll notice that I only have a grand total of six playlists. They represent the major activity areas I actually face on a regular basis. You want to boil it down to major groups. If you create too many playlists, you’ll be less likely to use any of them.
  • Make Sure Each Playlist Diversely Stands Alone. The type of music in my Running playlist is distinctly different than the music in my Studying playlist. The music in my Studying playlist is different than my Crisis Communications playlist. Your playlists should be noticeably diverse in their content.

Step 2: Add the Right Music to the Right Playlists

Before you call me out and say, “This is a no brainer, Ben!” let me just remind you of something. Too often, playlists get filled with songs we end up skipping over. Most playlists only have a handful of songs people actually want to listen to.

That’s not what we want here.

What’s vital to the success of this method is that you feel strongly about each song. You don’t want to build a playlist where you skip just about every other song. Every song should be right for the playlist you’re putting it into.

Yes, this will take time. This might take more time than you thought it would, but it’s important to the overall process. You really have to take your music selections seriously. Be meticulous and be harsh. Only pick those that really strongly activate those feelings inside.

Also, add enough music that your playlists aren’t burned through. 11 songs per playlist isn’t going to cut it. Pack those playlists with 30 or so unique songs.

Step 3: Habitually Use Your Productivity Playlists

Our bodies respond to routine and consistency.

In order for this to actually work, you actually have to use your playlists on an on-going basis. That’s why it’s important to capture the right groupings up in Step 1. When you approach that activity, whatever it is, be sure to have your playlist accompanying you on the journey.

If you’ve done this right, per Step 2, you won’t be skipping every song. You also won’t be distracted trying to find a “better” playlist for the situation. These will be the best playlists for those situations.

By doing this consistently, you’ll notice your body and mind begin to respond. It’s that theory of Classical Conditioning (you know the one with Pavlov’s dog). Your body will have the stimulus (each playlist acts as its own stimulus) and will respond according to the way you’ve trained it.

You’ll most likely notice immediate benefits to these playlists, but it’s the long-term training that is the real magic.

When I turn on my Development playlist, I can literally feel that mode switch on. When I turn on my Running playlist, my heart rate immediately increases in anticipation of the run. These are the rewards of long-term training.

Step 4: Consistently Add to Your Playlists

It’s also important to continue building these playlists over time. If you hear something new that summons the feeling you’re looking for, add it to the top of the playlist.

Here’s to you and your supernatural productivity,

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How to Use Playlists as the Ultimate Productivity Hack