Sometimes biscuits aren’t enough to push you out of a (usually) mid-afternoon slump or combat the stealthy advances of imposter syndrome. For me, music is my other weapon against these attacks on my productivity. Specifically, using music to reset my brain and alter my energy so that I can work with maximum efficiency.
This is entirely based on my own experience of learning how to work as a freelance copywriter. Nothing scientifically based, or even consciously investigated. I just realised the other day that I’d pretty much subconsciously developed a strategy to change my energy through my choice of music. Changing worry to calm focus and firing up from an energy dip. Somehow what I feel like listening to directly impacts on productivity. Now I’ve realised this, I can use it to my advantage. I’m sure many of you do the same thing, but with perhaps a different soundtrack.
Learning to work alone
There are so many new things to navigate about how I operate in this newish ‘workstyle’. Without good colleagues to point out things like, “You don’t hate everything, you’re just hangry”, we need to know ourselves quite well. I genuinely love the uninterrupted solitude of being able to concentrate on my own. But when you’re working with other people (in a positive situation) they often provide the little things that keep you going through the day; a good laugh, sympathetic ear, quick chat about something unrelated to work, even a wee hug now and then. You now need to get those tiny energy bumps from another source.
Long-time biscuit lover…and other options
Obviously, my first port of call was biscuits, but they have other, unwanted consequences! I also recently discovered that actual physical movement, like walking the dog, is good for my work. But it’s not always the right time for that. Podcasts, like Emma Cossey’s, are great because I usually learn something and feel like I’m part of a group again. But they often lead my mind off into another direction entirely. I sometimes just need a speedy zap of something…
In the past, I’ve always had music on during study times, so it’s a familiar constant. Not only that, but it taps into school experiences of singing in choirs and playing timpani in orchestras – disciplined practice leading to really joyful collective experiences. Kind of a ‘expend energy to make energy’ thing. Also connects me to slightly more blurry memories of being ‘out out’ in my youth (which I’m starting to think of as ‘the olden days’!). With great mates, on the dancefloor, that sense of just being in the music – still very easy to summon during my desk discos. (I sooooo wish I’d coined that phrase, I saw it on twitter, forgot to screenshot it and now can’t remember who said it. Please let me know if you do.)
DJ Content Copy Writer is born
Worst DJ name ever, I’m aware! I do have some standard ‘go to’ music for specific energy shifts. These stay the same for a good while, and then suddenly change for no apparent reason. Here is the short version of my current standards to calm my mind and to re-energise.
Music to change worry into calm focus
- Norah Jones, any of. It’s like she just makes you take one big deep breath as soon as she starts singing. Only exception is one duet with Dolly on the ‘Feels Like Home’ album. I am bound by the law of the Country Goddesses to stop and singalong with this one. Otherwise, this plays in the background, occupies the part of my brain that would otherwise be fretting and lets the more useful bit of it concentrate on clients’ work.
- sometimes Paolo Nutini has the same effect
- as does The Eagles
Music to re-energise quickly from a slump
There are a few of these and all require work to stop for maximum sing-a-long, dance-a-long and/or pretend am in video for:
- ‘Long Road to Ruin’, Foo Fighters : air drumming critical with this one
- ‘Runaway Baby’ Bruno Mars: incorporating dance moves from his routine
- ’Freedom’, Wham: Maximum 80’s love
- ‘I Am Woman’, Helen Reddy: if also feeling slightly irked by pretty much everything in the news
- ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ Bonnie Tyler: obvs! Other 80s rock ballads also apply.
- ‘Baby I’m Burning’ Dolly Parton: it’s Dolly!
- ‘Titanium’, David Guetta feat. Sia: dance heaven
That’s just the current ones. I dip into country, 80s, 90s, current, whatever hits the spot at the time. A big boost of lovely energy passes through the music into me for a quick kickstart.
Sometime this involves singing and just desk dancing, some days only getting up and really moving is the only answer. Word to the wise: move away from windows/shut curtains to avoid unexpected (and horrified) audience!
If you know me, I apologise for any mental images of me dancing that may have suddenly popped up in your brain. Quick, think about Strictly, or the Thriller routine, or Fred and Ginger.
This time next year Rodney…
When I am a multimillionaire with a secret door to an amazing library (standard), it will lead down a narrow, golden-hued passageway to my Scriptorium (learned that from @HaggardHawks, thanking you). This will include a beautiful desk with a silver lever that, when depressed, initiates full disco accoutrements, including: disco ball that descends from the ceiling, range of lighting effects, dry ice and resounding round of applause at the end of each ‘performance’. Then they all disappear as magically as they arrive! It’s good to have dreams.
Quick note about the illustrations I’ve shared here. I love Rubyetc., found her randomly on Twitter and have been a fan since. I feel that with these dancing women she has really capture the essence of my creative energy whenever I express myself through dance (to reassure you, this is usually done in the privacy of my own home!). Her book ‘It’s All Absolutely Fine’ is a superb read.