Give up social media for rock and roll

Using music to increase your productivity, creativity, and focus.
Background
I recently taught something of a productivity workshop at Underbelly Creative. The workshop was a crash course in traditional productivity practices and the newest science on focus and the human brain. We discussed how to determine your own core values and define your actual job responsibilities, how to leverage old school processes for prioritizing your task list using tried and true methods straight out of The Seven Habits for Highly Effective People, and we discussed how to deal with the pains of a modern office where there are endless distractions seeking to derail us from every angle.
The process I use to prioritize my day
One topic we discussed, that I feel particularly passionate about, is how to stay encouraged and inspired in an age that’s full of so many discouraging and uninspiring experiences. I can’t scroll through Twitter or the daily news without feeling like the world is just a massive cluster of negativity, pain, and anger. It’s easy to feel paralyzed with each new story about another shooting of an unarmed black citizen, or mistreatment of person seeking asylum at the border. What a great way to start each day!“It’s easy to feel paralyzed with each new story about another shooting of an unarmed black citizen, or mistreatment of person seeking asylum at the border.”

I took a class years ago, while working as a manager at Starbucks, called “Increasing Human Effectiveness.” At first I was wildly skeptical because the format was straight out of a cheesy 90s business video — just not my style. The content was legit though, and it turned out to be one of the most important classes I’ve ever taken.

Starbucks offered a course on Increasing Human Effectiveness that changed my life.

A key takeaway from this class was to start each day avoiding influences that drain you of creative energy and motivation. The point is to wake up and get pumped and inspired, then organized, and finally move on to kicking ass. For me, and for many of us I think, this means avoiding the impulse to check social media and the news altogether before you even get out of bed. The class’s proposed solution is simple — ditch the newsfeed for music. Spend every morning listening to songs that spark motivation and creativity.“Ditch the newsfeed for music. Spend every morning listening to songs that spark motivation and creativity.”

I’ve taken this practice to heart over the last two years. Starting the day this way doesn’t mean we become uninformed and disconnected. I still scroll through various feeds and stay on top of current events, and I still walk away feeling generally discouraged about the state of the world, but I don’t kick-off my day this way anymore. The result is that I feel generally more pumped about my work, and the solutions I come up with for the problems I’m faced with are more creative because I have the motivation and inspiration to do so. I don’t sacrifice those things to the gods of a 24-hour news-cycle during breakfast.

Which brings me to the playlist. I asked my Underbelly team members to pool together songs that make each person excited about the day and then built a diverse selection of music, using those suggestions, to share with you. The result is a 50-track-long exposé on creatively kicking ass and taking names. The range of styles present here represents the wide range of personalities and tastes we have in the office — everything from rigatone to hardcore. As I’ve been listening to this playlist for the last month or so, I’ve discovered creative revelations in melodic nooks and crannies I would never have listened to otherwise. And I’ve never once felt bummed about the world while listening to the songs my fellow Bellyans contributed to this list. Mission accomplished.

You can check out the playlist here or on various streaming services below. I challenge you to ditch your phone’s screen in favor of some headphones at the start of each day for a week and see what happens. I’d also love to see what music gets you inspired and motivated. Shoot me your tracks in the comments, and we’ll keep adding to this playlist until we’ve compiled the most inspirational group of songs ever created. And who knows, maybe we’ll all be enthusiastic and creative enough to solve the world’s hardest problems as a result.

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