Have you had a work station assessment recently? You know the type – make sure you sit up straight, head level with the top of the computer screen, upright posture, and appropriate lighting.
So far, so good. Now, what about the noise where you work? Is it intrusive? If, like me, you work in an open plan office, headphones can be a godsend – especially in central London when the inevitable building work kicks in. Open headphones, which allow you to hear some outside noise, can remove some of that pain, while ensuring you don’t miss the phone or any relevant office conversation.
With these things taken care of we can move on to the next vital element in your working life – music.
In January, Andrew Hunter wrote for Office Politics about how music can beat the blues – and I think that it can take your work to the next level. The power of music can lift your creative writing, your difficult spreadsheets, and your dull documents.
The power of prog rock
When I did a survey on LinkedIn recently about the use of music for work, responses ranged from Bach to Metallica, via film soundtracks and dance anthems.
That’s right – even heavy metal has a place in focusing the mind.
From personal experience, progressive rock, such as Yes, Genesis, Rush, and the like, helps fight spreadsheet formula hell. Inevitably some of my respondents preferred the sound of silence (not the Simon & Garfunkel song) but they were in the minority.
Go back to Bach
My recommendation for you musical workers out there is to consider harnessing the power of classical music.
Don’t run and hide just yet – it is surprisingly accessible, easy to listen to, and breaks down into smaller units, depending on the length of your task.
What to use? If your task is repetitive, Johann Sebastian Bach comes into his own. Choose a piece for solo cello, violin or piano, and your keystrokes and mouse movements will be as inevitable as the composer’s genius writing.
For something more modern, try Electric Counterpoint by Steve Reich – 15 minutes of bliss – or piano pieces by Philip Glass. Add a few electronics if you like, with artists such as the gently intense Nils Frahm.
If you need more flexibility, try the music of Haydn or Mozart. Their symphonies last around half an hour each, with hummable tunes that aren’t too distracting. The music is light enough to keep the spring in your typing, but if you want a bit more energy, move to early Beethoven. Any of his first four symphonies or early instrumental pieces will work a treat.
If you use a streaming service such as Spotify, you can bolt these pieces together, constructing playlists in segments of half an hour.
You can then go a step further, setting yourself manageable goals by the end of each sequence.
What about the radio, I hear you ask? It is useful on occasion, and BBC Radio 2 or 6Music in the morning are good company, but too much talk can break the flow. And yet, some people working in music, as I do, profess to a love of BBC Radio 4 to sort their minds out. You pays your licence fee. . .
Music is an incredibly personal thing, but by taking some of these steps, the boring tasks will go quicker and your creative work will get an extra zip. It could be the difference between meeting targets and exceeding them – and might lead to ideas you never thought possible. So, go on – what have you got to lose? Get Lost In Music like Sister Sledge!