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TLO Recommends: Songs To Focus To    

TLO Recommends: Songs To Focus To

Art by FISK

When it comes to focus, our Word of the Month, we can all use a little help. When we’re in the zone, and have found our flow, everything’s groovy. But getting to that place can be a challenge. 

Oftentimes, it comes down to mood. If our minds are racing a million miles an hour trying to do two million things at once, focus can be hard to come by. The same thing can happen if we’re in a disorganized space with multiple devices pinging notifications like a pinball machine. 

One thing that has tremendous power to cut through all those distractions is music. Dr. Masha Godkin, a professor at Northcentral University has said, “Music activates both the left and right brain at the same time, and the activation of both hemispheres can maximize learning and improve memory.”

Music can transport you to a different headspace where you feel a greater ability to focus on the task at hand. If you’re looking for some inspiration, we asked The Local Optimist team to share their picks when they need to focus. If you have other tracks that are helpful to you, be sure to let us know in the comments below.

“Awake” by Tycho 

Growing up with self-esteem issues and an ADHD diagnosis, focusing has always been a challenge for me. It wasn’t until my early 20’s that I was really able to give myself permission to be me and, in turn, learn to focus. Before hearing this Tycho record, the only ambient artists I had known were Brian Eno and Aphex Twin, who, in my mind, were on two opposite ends of the ambient spectrum. This album showed me that something can exist in the middle of that. Chill enough to drift but emphatic enough to remain engaged. This music helps me effortlessly flow and be as productive as I let myself be. — Mason Spector, Co-Founder

“Focus - Finding Center,” by Murray Hidary

When I need to focus, I tend to stay away from songs with lyrics where I might end up singing along. Instead, I lean into comforting background noise. Murray does this series called MindTravel where he performs real-time compositions to prompt meditation and they are wonderful! Think meditation meets classical music. I listen to his Sleep album when my chatty brain won't turn off at night too! — Meadow Monaghan, Mental Health Lead

“Doin It Right” by Daft Punk (feat. Panda Bear) 

Every once in a while, I need to sit down and really get into the zone for a project or an assignment, and I always come back to “Doin It Right” for a few reasons. First, the repetitive nature of the song means that I don’t tune into the lyrics, so I can write while I listen. Second, the tempo and chanting vocal style have a great, uplifting feel without being overpowering like other dance tracks can be. Plus, I love the message: “If you lose your way tonight, that’s how you know the magic’s right.” In other words, do the task well but open yourself up to creativity along the way. — Alex Brands, Head of Brand Marketing

“A Love Supreme, pt. 1 - Acknowledgement” by John Coltrane 

I am one of those people who tends to prefer silence during a lot of activities that require focus, such as working or exercising. The main exception is cooking. When I’m cheffin’ it up, I love to listen to Coltrane’s “A Love Supreme.” It has a rhythm and pacing that helps me find a flow when I’m trying to get my mise in its place and just feels like the secret ingredient to the whole cooking experience (*chef’s kiss*). And if the dish I’m making doesn’t turn out quite as intended, I can always fall back and say the reason was because I was doing what all jazz greats do—improvising. — Justin Tejada, Editor

”Both Of Us Edit” by Jayda G

Whenever I listen to this song, I imagine myself in a charming little boho café, which would be my ideal environment to get work done if it weren't for Covid!  I know many people prefer slower-paced music when trying to focus, but that tends to make me sleepier and less engaged. "Both Of Us" is upbeat but not to the point that it becomes distracting. I love the lively pace and vibe of this song. It inspires me to get shit done and always brightens my mood. — Hallie Sheinbaum, Project Manager  

”Don’t Mean A Thing” by Lapalux

This song helps me completely filter out everything going on around me. It is just the right amount of an atmospheric energy while having high and low points with female vocals coming in and out. Lapalux is an amazing producer who focuses a lot on the soundscape and energy of his songs. Perfect for focusing and not getting distracted by too much energy. — Andrew Wetmore, Graphic Designer

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414.