Now that I’m working full-time, I’m getting used to spending significantly more time focusing consistently than when I was in school. Back in college, I could break up my work as I saw fit, take rests and roam around, or just slack off a bit any given day. That does not go over particularly well in an actual working environment.
For my entire life I have not listened to music while working. In college, during particularly long stretches of time while working on take-home exams, I was known to lock myself away and play some thunder sounds or other atmospheric noise. This had a calming effect without distracting my brain. The issue has always been a musical background. Any music that has any pattern to it (as most music does) is immediately locked onto by my brain. I cannot zone it out and focus on something else. Music with lyrics is significantly worse. Something like podcasts is unimaginable. So, I went through most of school completely baffled by seeing people with earbuds on while working intensely on their projects.
Then, I went into the adult world, where I have to focus eight hours a day, five days a week, at a mostly pre-determined timeframe. This itself was not the cause of me finally listening to music while working. Rather, it was the nature of the work. When I was in school, I don’t recall ever having work that was mindless to the point of being almost administrative or programmable. When doing math homework, there was significant thought put in during the entire process, including how to write it up in the best way. Now, while my work has these heavily thoughtful aspects, often times I am writing a collection of problems (say, a few sets of subtraction problems for 2nd graders), and once the numbers have been selected to emphasize the skill they are working on, I am left with creating and copying a rather formulaic problem statement and solution. It takes a good chunk of time to input these; but other than making sure I’m not making typos or forgetting to change any relevant metadata in a new problem, I’m going on autopilot. And finally, I found this space in which I can listen to music.
It goes beyond the music that I often have at the ready when driving with other people. I select that music because I enjoy it, but also because a majority of people also do. Now I’ve been loading up my phone with various pieces of percussion music, and artists that I hadn’t really explored but knew about. One of the best albums I’ve had on repeat for quite a while is The Hands That Thieve by Streetlight Manifesto. This was a band a friend of mine introduced me to in high school, but that just never took off because I didn’t listen to music. I gave it a chance, and it really pumps me through the day.
I’m sure to many people reading this, listening to music while working is nothing new. But it is a piece of excitement I’ve had that lets me enjoy my day a bit more, explore something new in my life, and have a bit of fun along with it all. It has also been interesting to me to think about how my musical taste has changed (and how it hasn’t!) over the years. What do I still listen to, what do I sing along to, and now what can I play while working that still keeps me on task? Beyond that, it is interesting to hear what other people listen to during similar situations. While I’m not necessarily looking for suggestions, I think musical taste says a fair amount about most people, or at least provides a bit of insight into their routine.
Of course, as I mentioned before, this is still a very compartmentalized aspect of my life. I am certainly not listening to anything as I write this — that would be awful. In fact, I have been trying to reduce the number of inputs in my life. I’m not going as far as C.G.P. Grey has recently, but I understand what he says about losing focus, and it resonates with me. That will be another post at some point.
I’m just excited to be back with music. My new adult life has allowed me to play music at a church, join a community band, and have some time to practice on my own. It has been a lot of fun, and implementing it into a few more parts of my life has been very enjoyable.