Working Like A (Busy) Dog

I haven't been able to post as often as I'd like the past couple months, first because I was out of town on a couple vacations, and lately because I've been extremely busy with work, improv, and all the other things I do to fill my days.

However, the work-related busy-ness is what got me thinking about posting today. I am never not listening to music when I work. Usually for me "work" == "computer programming," [Editor's note: that double equals sign is not a typo, it's a programming convention to signify equivalency as opposed to variable assignment. Anyone still awake at the end of that sentence? Great.] but sometimes it can mean doing detective work, i.e. reading through a year's worth of some other programmer's notes (not to be confused with actual documentation) and trying to figure out how the hell this thing that I have to work on A) actually works, and B) is actually supposed to work.

When I'm doing normal, day-to-day programming, I listen to anything and everything. Usually indie rock or hip-hop, but often jazz, classical, folk, etc., bouncing from stuff I've added to my collection lately to old favorites I haven't listened to in forever. It's a great way to familiarize myself with music I don't know all that well because I'm often half-listening to it, picking up different bits each time through. So I end up "familiar" with new stuff, and a sense of whether or not it warrants more attentive listening.

However, when I hit a really tough problem, or I have to do the aforementioned detective work (or if I have to write anything, like a proposal or a technical architecture document), I find that I simply can't afford to give half my brain an excuse to focus on the music. I really need my full attention on what I'm doing, and I need to kick in the old booster rockets. For many people, that would require total silence around them. For me, it requires A) music I know really well, and B) music that is repetitive. Very repetitive.

I love repetitive, droning music anyway (although oddly I typically hate "trance" music - I usually need words in my tunes), but when I'm using music as a tool to help me focus, there are some songs I come back to again and again. The list has changed over the years, but here's a playlist of some songs I've been using lately to help me get the most out of my brain.

Working Man's Blues

What do you listen to when you work? Nothing? Anything? Different stuff?

PS For the record, this time the imeem upload & playlist creation (& playlist editing) process went extremely smoothly. They seem to have worked out their issues.


John Das Binky said...

I've discovered over the years that I am completely unable to work with music playing. The part of my brain that tries to decode everything in music kicks in, and I can't focus on work at all. (I wrote about a similar thing a while back, over here.)

That said, I've found Soul Coughing to be awesome music for yard work.

Unknown said...

30 second previews? WEAK!

Jordan Hirsch said...

@lori: nothing I can do - that's imeem's licensing problem. If you click the link to the playlist on imeem itself, you can hear the whole songs.

Molly Malone said...

music at work is great iff:
1) i'm not interrupted (which i am, constantly)
2) i don't have to think about what i'm doing

i'd prefer to have music going at work, but it's not always conducive to focusing in on something or on the person speaking to you. if i have to concentrate on something and i want music in the background, then i opt for classical, non-lyrical or something in the vein of etta james or billie holiday.

*note: the second "f" was also not a typo. "iff" means "if and only if"