March 18, 2020
Everybody works a little differently.
Some people need constant, unbroken silence to bang out their spreadsheets, emails, and other workday what-have-yous. Some put on Metallica and rock the eff out.
On a regular week, MONEY keeps a playlist of ~lofi beats~ on a quiet simmer (th e no-vocal instrumentals make for great, distraction-free white noise, and reminds us that we’re very, very cool). But this is not a regular week.
Like many U.S. employees fortunate enough to “self-quarantine” from the coronavirus, the MONEY staff is telecommuting for the foreseeable future and facing an unprecedented amount of kid, roommate, and German shepherd puppy-shaped distractions.
Since pretty much everyone reading this sentence is in the same boat—and could probably use some input on how to keep the existential dread at bay—I reached out to a bunch of Really Busy People for some “productivity playlist” inspiration.
As you wade through the new 9 to 5 from the comfort (and torment) of your own home, here are some songs and inspiration to help you keep on truckin.
“Productivity during this time is tough for many people,” Jessica Walsh, art director and founder of &Walsh tells me. “Restlessness, general anxiety, powerlessness. Music has the power to change your mood and your mindset.”
Start with some zen
Marcus Moretti is the guy behind Flow State, an extremely good newsletter that shoots subscribers two hours worth of music “perfect for working” every weekday morning. I asked him for a couple killer recs, and he crushed it — with three of what he calls “go-to focus soundtracks.”
Two are ambient masterpieces — Brian Eno’s hour-long “Thursday Afternoon,” and Joanna Brouk’s “The Space Between. ” Moretti’s third recommendation, “ Con Todo El Mundo ,” a full album from the Texas band Khruangbin, is good enough to listen to by itself, on repeat, all day long.
For something a little more … epic …. Anh Trinh, managing editor of the review website “GeekWithLaptop,” recommends songs from the film score composer Hans Zimmer. “His music is so atmospheric that it blocks out noise,” Trinh says. “Barking dogs, noisy neighbors, and even car sirens.”
Julie Kratz, a career consultant and author of Lead Like an Ally, is of a similar mindset.
She recommends throwing on a classical playlist from YouTube, which is particularly helpful “if you have children at home,” she says.
Pump up mid-day
Hip hop is a favorite among people who need a little more edge to get their pistons firing.
Paul Kalousek, founder and designer at Heir, recommends “Blue Notes” by Meek Mill (“This song is my go-to for starting a new task,” he says.) Marketer Kymberly Byrnes recommends “Superstar” by Lupe Fiasco. (“I belt out the entire chorus,” she says).
Other genres had a strong showing, too.
Jonathan Wasserstrum, the CEO of Squarefoot, gets pumped by playing AC/DC’s “For Those About to Rock.” And marketing consultant Sarah Remesch likes to throw on some Yeah Yeah Yeahs.
“[Lead singer] Karen O encompasses everything I envision as a female powerhouse,” Remesch says. “When I need to dial-in to get through anything from a pitch deck to a brief for production, this song keeps my energy up.”
Cannabis entrepreneur Allison Krongard, for her part, recommends “Let Yourself Get Down,” by Luscious Jackson.
“Hearing this funky throwback makes me super happy,” she says. “The beat is light enough to concentrate while steady enough to help set a rhythmic pace. I can think and write while enjoying the energy and joy I get when it comes up on my playlist.”
Finish With a Bang/Beyonce
Bey got many a shot out — particularly for “Formation” and “Run the World (Girls)” — for when the 4 o’clock hour rolls around.
So did “Work B*tch,” a beloved Britney club joint.
“It’s upbeat and it always helps me to wake up and brightens up my mood,” says PR specialist Plamen Beshkov. “ You want a Bugatti? You want a Maserati? To party in France while sippin’ martinis? Well, you’d better work for them.”
About to call it a day? I’ll leave you with a handful of songs recommended by Jessica Walsh: “Clean up Woman,” by Betty Wright, “Hands to Myself,” by Selena Gomez, and “U Can’t Touch This,” by MC Hammer.
“Over the next few weeks, these songs add an edge of humor to our new lifestyle while keeping our heads in the game,” she says.