Have you ever really needed to concentrate at work so you turned on music, only to find yourself moving to the groove or looking up the lyrics to songs instead of working? No? It must just be me.
I typically listen to Pandora or Spotify while writing, but sometimes (often) the music distracts me instead of getting me into the mood of the scene or helping me focus. A commenter on a post about music at Writer Unboxed (a great website to follow for you writers out there. Thanks, Katie French, for turning me on to it) said they were beta testing a new music website called Focus@Will (firstname.lastname@example.org). It’s a free service that plays only music specifically chosen to help those of us, like writers, journalists, lawyers, students, and coders, who spend long, uninterrupted hours at the computer doing work that takes concentration and focus.
A self described “cognitive enhancement company,” Focus@Will uses “artificial intelligence to deliver you the perfect playlist that gets you and keeps you in the concentration sweet spot, based on what you are doing.” According to their website, the service was designed with brain science in mind (so to speak) to play “certain music tracks in specific sequences that are proven to soothe the limbic system (the fight or flight survival mechanism in the brain) . . . allowing you to concentrate more fully on what you are trying to do.” They claim their curated music lists can help you concentrate for up to 100 minutes before you need a break.
I’ve been beta testing Focus@Will for about two weeks now. It was easy to sign up, and very easy to start using. There are several musical “genres” you can choose from and change at any time, like classical, ambient, up tempo (which is still pretty mellow), or cinematic (my fav for writing.) They each play a bit different sequence of music, but one thing is constant. No singing or talking. Instrumental only. And I have to say I think the idea works as advertised. I concentrate better while writing with Focus@Will on in the background.
I follow their advice and only turn their music on when I’m ready to work. This supposedly trains my brain that this music = get to work. If I’m going to check email or jump on Twitter or Facebook or anything else, I turn it off. I also try to take breaks whenever I find my concentration drifting or when the laundry needs changing, whichever comes first. In addition, they recommend that you “teach” the system which tracks are not working for you. If you notice a track (that is, it distracts you by catching your attention) then you should click the Skip button. I haven’t done much of that, because I haven’t found many of the tracks very distracting.
If I have one complaint, it’s that the music is not terribly varied. If I notice particular tracks, it’s usually because I’m sick of hearing them repeated. But they apparently use a sequence of music on purpose, so your brain recognizes the sequence and stays on task instead of chasing off into the fields to follow its nose.
A paid service is coming soon, so hop over and check out the free beta now if you’re interested. I don’t know if I’d be willing to pay for it, but for now I’m enjoying focusing@will.
Do you have other suggestions for good writing music services/websites, or other methods you use to stay focused?