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Focusing with a single song on repeat

When I first heard of Matt’s practice of listening to a single song on repeat in order to focus, I truly thought he was mad. The idea of listening to the same song over and over again seemed like a modern version of Chinese water torture.

Then I tried it.

I don’t recall what song in particular I was listening to, but it was on in the background as I hit a particular mental stride with a problem I was solving, so I restarted the song to maintain the beat. Then I did so again. And again. And again. Eventually, I hit the “repeat” button in Google Music until it was set to “Repeating Current Song.”

I’ve been rather shocked by the effect this practice has. Many of the posts I published in January, and the contributions I made to work-related projects, benefited. In fact, I’m currently listening to Billy Joel’s “C’Etait Toi (You Were the One)” as I compose this post.

Matt talked about this behaviour when he appeared on Tim Ferris’s podcast and his post about the same inspired Joseph Mosby to write about the related psychology.

I never thought I’d adopt this practice, but I now have playlists named “Strong beats for coding,” “Classical for writing,” and so on, and my Google Music player is almost always on repeat.

4 thoughts on “Focusing with a single song on repeat”

  1. I’m surprised when I hear that people don’t do this. Ive actively done this with movies, albums, and single songs since I was 5 years old.

    First it was The Muppet Movie on repeat, then it was cartoons, reruns, shows in syndication. Then it was stealing my big sister’s cassette tapes and wearing them out by listening to them over and over on the bus to and from school and before falling asleep.

    Then it was studying tracks for mixing, sampling, and scratching purposes.

    Then it was really enjoying specific movies, actors, plots, and storylines.

    Now I do it almost only with my favorites. The Foo Fighters. Bloc Party. Egyptian Lover. Mann Parrish. In fact, various psychological studies have all separately confirmed the audio and visual stimuli teenagers are exposed to between the ages of 13 and 15 is the most influential for the rest of that person’s life. Naturally I’m in agreement.

    While you’re testing background noise and such, try putting on video games, long-plays, etc… There’s similar proof that the uplifting and rewarding sounds of video-game music and effects have similarly uplifting influence on our moods and output, and I think that’s been true for me as well.

    Also, I really love that you’re blogging again. ❤️

    1. While you’re testing background noise and such, try putting on video games, long-plays, etc…

      Oh, I hadn’t thought of that. I can put The West Wing on as background noise, but I’ve never tried with anything else visual, as I ultimately end up watching it instead of focusing. I’ll get Chris to play something appropriate. 😂

      Also, I really love that you’re blogging again.

      Thanks, glad you’re appreciating it! I’m happy to finally be back to a place where I have the time. I’ve certainly missed it.

  2. That’s the only way I work 🙂

    I now have playlists named “Strong beats for coding,” “Classical for writing,” and so on

    Too bad Google Music doesn’t allow you to share playlists, I’d have been interested!

    I should probably start adding new posts to my old “On Repeat Today” blog series 🙂

    1. Too bad Google Music doesn’t allow you to share playlists, I’d have been interested!

      Google may have saved me some (or considerable) embarrassment there. 😛

      I should probably start adding new posts to my old “On Repeat Today” blog series 🙂

      Please do! I would subscribe to that. I’m terrible at discovering new music, I basically just wait for Chris to give me something new to listen to.

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