Music notes coming out of a needle

How to Craft Playlists to Induce Flow and Enhance Performance

By James Razko

Music can induce sadness, happiness, excitement, trances, and prepare you for battle. It’s ancient, and it’s powerful. Are you treating music with the respect it deserves?

Visit any good church, retail store, restaurant, party or sporting event, and you will notice a carefully curated playlist to get you in the mood. Preachers, marketers, coaches, and politicians regularly harness the power of music.

Why then, when performing essential tasks like work, would you casually listen to music on shuffle or let an algorithm curate your playlist.

New music, skipping unwanted songs, the wrong kind of songs, and random playlists are all stealing your attention, corrupting your focus and may be inducing inappropriate emotional states. Every time your brain wonders off task, the quality of your work suffers.

Instead, create playlists to optimize the bits of your life that require focus. Working out, working, studying, and meditation are all great places to begin. Use music like the performance enhancing drug it can be. Your music selection should reflect the seriousness of these practices.

Music when thoughtfully chosen can prime your mind, enhance set and setting and increase performance.

Crafting a Playlist

For example, a simple playlist for work:

  • Start with a motivating song, like “We Will Rock You” by Queen for inspiration and energy.
  • Then, move on to a long series of instrumental songs for deep-work.
  • And at the end of the workday, have a relaxing song to unwind.

You can make more elaborate playlists by including songs for breaks and other distinct segments inside your workday.

Importantly, whatever playlist you design, listen to it until it completely wears out. The more it’s repeated, the less it will distract you. Also, using the same playlist over and over will train your mind. For instance, the motivation song cues the start of your workday; the concentration music signals focus and induces flow; and the end of workday song cues relaxation.

Save music discovery and casual listening for times when you can focus on the music itself, or when the stakes are low. Pay music the respect it deserves, and it will be the performance-enhancing drug it can be.

Compliment this read with: Book Summary: Atomic Habits by James Clear