Struggling to focus at work? Or just trying to get in the right mood to work from home? A get to work playlist might be just what you need. 

Instead of listening to the radio or random playlists, create one that you relate to work; and work only. Some writers even go as far as listening to the same song on repeat until they complete a chapter.

Why does that help?

Because you’ll start to relate that song or your playlist to work. Moreover, repetitive music or songs on repeat help to find flow. How about this 10-hour version of River Flows in You? Not suggesting you should work 10 hours straight, though.

While you read our tips below, keep in mind that your choices are very personal. There is no correct answer — classical isn’t necessarily better than jazz or the other way around. And although research doesn’t seem to be entirely conclusive, there seem to be different effects for extroverts and introverts.

I hope you enjoyed the build-up, because here comes the drop.

Top 3 tips to create your own work playlist:

Tip 1: Pick songs you like so you’ll look forward to work

Pretty straightforward, right? Choose a couple of songs that you like, make a list and you’re good to go. Oh, but you might want to read the three tips first. 

Research has shown that listening to music causes a positive mood change [1] and dopamine release [2]. A better mood leads to better results, such as higher quality of work and shorter time spent on task. Listening to preferred music will make you even happier and thus bring your performance to the next level. 

Listen to familiar songs rather than new ones. New music can be surprising and distract you from your tasks. 

If you want to get the full potential of your work playlist, don’t listen to the same songs outside of work. Make sure that listening to some of your favourite songs is a reward for being at work. I personally suggest putting the best songs at the end of the playlist. That’ll force you to keep going. 

Make a playlist of your favourite music to relate work to something positive.

Tip 2: Choose instrumental songs or songs in another language

There are many studies on the difference between instrumental and vocal music. Instrumental mostly seems to come out on top because lyrics interfere with our ability to retain new information or process verbal information.[3] The negative effects of vocal music are said to be stronger in introverts than in extroverts. So, if you know you’re in introvert, relocate those sing-alongs from your work to your shower playlist.   

However, I believe you can listen to vocal music, as long as the language is different. If you write a report in English, why not listen to Spanish music? As I’m writing this, I’m listing to my Dutch playlist. Because my thought process is in English, it doesn’t interfere with what I’m writing.

Of course, there are situations where the type of music doesn’t matter much. Your music choice depends on your job or tasks. For creative design work, for example, instrumental isn’t better than vocal. There’s more, lyrics might just give you the little creative boost you need. 

Avoid vocal music (in the same language) when you’re processing new information or language.

Tip 3: Create several work playlists for different moods

As I said, the difference between instrumental and vocal depends on the task at hand. Also in terms of music genres, some might work better for certain tasks. That’s why instead of one work playlist, you might create two or three. It’s about finding the correct balance. However, create too many and you’ll lose the effects of tip 1. 

Besides, we all have mood swings, so a one-size-fits-all playlist doesn’t always work. Moreover, music genres might have a completely different effect on your brain. If I need a creative boost, I’ll tune in to my jazz playlist. If focus is what I need, minimal techno gives me the required vibe. And if I’m a bit blue or nostalgic, my Dutch playlist is first choice. 

Create two or three playlists that go along with different moods and areas of work. 

Benefits of listening to music while working:


A get to work playlist gives you that extra boost to find flow at work. Get to know yourself to select the correct songs. Are you an introvert or extrovert? What genre puts you in a positive mood? What instruments boost your creativity?

Remember that instrumental music works better than vocal when processing language or new information. Vocal music, on the other hand, can facilitate creativity. Make several playlists to tune into different moods or projects. And finally, remember the power of repetition to facilitate flow.

I find it easiest to create my playlists on Youtube because it allows me to add longer mixes to my playlists. Youtube ads, of course, are quite annoying, but since I started using Brave Browser, that problem has been solved.

Good luck creating your work playlist. 

For inspiration, have a look at our selections:

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Original photo by Simon Abrams on Unsplash

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Sources and further reading about creating a work playlist

  1. Lesiuk, Teresa. The effect of music listening on work performance. Psychology of Music —
  2. Salimpoor, Valorie et al. Nature neuroscience —
  3. Avila, C. Furnham, A. McClelland A. The influence of distracting familiar vocal music on cognitive performance of introverts and extraverts. Psychology of Music —

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