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It’s September! According to that one Staples campaign, it’s the most wonderful time of the year! I haven’t been inside a classroom since 2010, and I don’t plan on being inside one anytime soon, but I always feel a hankerin’ for a boost of organization and productivity during ye olde #BACKTOSCHOOL season. (Powerful conditioning!) I find myself compelled to sit down (even on weekends!) and just GET. SHIT. DONE., but I do like some background noise to fuel these bursts of motivation. 

A lot of you might opt for podcasts while you work, but guess what? I find it IMPOSSIBLE to multitask while listening to a podcast. Seriously, it’s in one ear and out the other. It’s gotta be straight-up tunes (preferably ambient, with minimal lyrics) for me to function at an optimal level, so here are a couple of my favorite things to put on!

For starters, Khruangbin’s 2018 record, Con Todo El Mundo, is pretty great for tackling some of the more mundane-yet-daunting tasks since it’s so chilled out, and I like to listen to it in the morning when I’m trying to conquer the bear that is my inbox:

Pretty much any Tycho record will do when it comes to optimistic, relaxing focus tunes, but I’m especially into Dive for when I’m working on anything that requires self-reflection, whether it’s drafting up some bigger-picture ideas and goals, or just coming up with a list of things I want to talk to my therapist about that week:

Boards of Canada is similarly good for self-reflective projects and brainstorming, though with a slightly (IMO) harder edge:

Same deal with Aphex Twin // v. good for brow-furrowing projects:

If I’m sitting down to grind out a bunch of low-stress things I’ve been putting off, or just want to get ahead for the week to come, I find Mulatu Astatke is v. helpful for that:

And one of my favorite things to put on while reading, specifically, is The Dead Texan:

Same goes for Sufjan’s Untitled (All Delighted People Side D), though it’s a quickie, so tends to be best if I’m just trying to do a brief bit of morning coffee reading before I dive into everything else:

If you want to feel majorly good, inspirational vibes, clearly it’s gotta be the Planet Earth II soundtrack; I find this best for when I’m feeling ultra-stressed out by a specific task or to-do list, because it reminds me of the time I was given a children’s encyclopedia set from the 1960s as a kid, and in it was written: “We are small animals on a minor planet circling an ordinary star lost in the outer fringes of one galaxy among millions.” In other words, CALM THE FUCK DOWN, THERE ARE BIGGER THINGS THAN THE GODDAMN QUARTERLY REPORT AND EVERYTHING IS GONNA BE FINE:


But sometimes if a wave of inspiration/motivation hits me, I’m not trying to pinpoint what would be the exact right record or playlist. (I am frequently crippled by indecision, especially when it comes to music.) Instead, I’m a big fan of YouTube’s work/study “radio” stations, which are full of continuous lo-fi, ambient, calming tunes that require very little (if any) attention span, and zero decision-making. This leaves me fully focused on demolishing emails, banging out writing projects, reading, etc.

Here are some of my go-to’s (no I am not ashamed that tropihouse gets my motor running from time to time):

These are all just my personal preferences! What are YOUR feelings here? Do you have a go-to focus playlist? TELL ME ALL ABOUT IT, OBVIOUSLY!