Numerous studies have shown the influence music has on our moods, both eliciting positive and low-mood emotions, as well as triggering the brain response in a number of others ways; from pain relief to stress busting. There’s no surprise then that music can also impact on our productivity levels when it comes to our work. Here, we test out some of the different productivity playlists, identified by Trello.

Coffee shop sounds

In any coffee shop scene, it is a trope that there will be at least one writer. If you’ve ever puzzled on who could work in a coffee shop (or why), it turns out that writers and workers spend a lot of time in coffee shops for a reason; for some, it can provide an environment in which you can be really productive!

I added the Coffee Shop Sounds Playlist to Apple Music and although I initially thought this would be a compilation that would help me to work dynamically, it quickly became a soundtrack that made me irritable and easily frustrated. It wasn’t something I could tolerate for very long.

I feel that my inability to get on with this particular playlist was purely down to a feeling of overwhelm. I felt like it was a playlist trying to distract my attention rather than allowing me to pull my attention to my work. Furthermore, this could point to the evidence observed in studies on this type of ambient music that indicate that the volume of the noise is just as important as the sounds; I did struggle to find the right volume for this particular playlist.

Maybe a real-life coffee shop would offer a different experience; after all, in the few instances I have had to work in a coffee shop, bar being on a conference call, I haven’t found it too difficult to conduct menial tasks, such as checking and responding to emails. Writing and researching features, preparing social schedules, or conducting other business-related tasks in such environments are yet to be determined.  

Ambient music

Ambient is the genre of music that focuses on the atmosphere and mood; a relatively new music form which burst onto the scene in the 1970s, quite by accident.  Often played in galleries, shops and cafes, ambient music is melodic and designed to create a feeling of calm and provide a space for processing and thought. I tried the ‘Deep Focus’ and ‘LoFi’ playlists on Apple Music that are different styles within the ambient music genre, curated with productivity in mind.  

Deep Focus

Although I have heard different styles of ambient music in bars, clubs, offices, coffee shops, shops and some exhibits, which have generally been pleasant, I did struggle with a deep focus playlist in a working environment. The distraction, for me, lay in the repetitive rhythmic beat. I’d find that I could only tolerate a few minutes of each song, which would range from 4 to 16 minutes, before I’d want to skip to the next. Despite attempting to give this playlist a try on several occasions, it was not conducive to being productive. If anything, it was more distracting, as it would be drawing my attention constantly. As such, it was a playlist I laid to rest. Well, in this environment anyway.


Low fidelity (LoFi) music is a composition of downtempo music, often created with a lower quality recording and intentional imperfections that gives a more subdued ambient quality to the soundtrack. Because of its nature, it has become a popular subgenre of ambient music that is affiliated with work and study.

LoFi first came on my radar earlier in the year with the release of the Disney LoFi Chill album. It is a compilation of known Disney songs with a LoFi makeover (no singing), in what turned out to be the second Disney LoFi release.

I instantly loved the album; it is an uplifting but mellow edition of the popular and loved Disney songs. Unlike the Deep Focus playlist, the LoFi one doesn’t tire as easily, as it does follow the melodies of the song so its beginning and end is definitive. However, it’s not completely without its distractions; depending on my mood, I can find myself singing to the tracks which ultimately draws focus from my work. Generally though, since I discovered this version of LoFi it is a go-to soundtrack for work.

Although I like the Disney playlist, there are many other LoFi albums and playlists available.

Classical music

Our tastes in music are strongly influenced by what we’re brought up with, I was not a person brought up with classical music. So, classical music, which I was only really exposed to at my grandparents, certainly isn’t something I would instinctively turn to.  If it wasn’t something I could sing along to; I generally wasn’t interested.

Over the years, however, I have heard various pieces of classical music through theatre, film and TV, but still wouldn’t say I gravitated to classical music. Until a few years ago. Perhaps it was the introduction of popular music in classical form, namely through Bridgerton, but suddenly I had a new appreciation for classical music, particularly strings; I even had a string quartet play at my civil partnership because of this new found love.

Although I had a new appreciation for classical music, especially with popular melodies, I wasn’t expecting, when starting this experiment, that I’d find classical to be as appeasing as it was. As an aside, I chose a Classical Concentration Playlist through Apple Music for this experiment that introduced me to classical pieces I had never heard, as well as familiar compositions.

In terms of its impact on my productivity levels, classical music has proved to be the most effective playlist in helping me be more productive. It provides a soothing melodic background that doesn’t distract me from the task at hand. Additionally, there has been a noticeable effect on my approach to my work; I have a number of tasks that need my attention and can often feel pressured and stressed to get stuff done. However, the playlist has helped me to focus more and as such get more done, all whilst feeling less stressed and anxious.


Music with a high-tempo (170bpm or more) is long associated as productivity mechanism for exercise, encouraging the listener to work harder and faster. Trello included this category as a potential for its productivity benefits transferring to work, so I tried it out.

Note: I added 3 180bpm playlists to a playlist in Apple Music. Initially, I did think this playlist would make me feel irritable and anxious, feeling like the high intensity rhythm would make me feel more pressured to do more, harder and faster. But in actuality, it did the opposite. I noticed an energetic calm about my approach to work and it provided a hypnotic soundtrack that allowed me to focus on the task at hand. Despite being a playlist full of songs I could sing along to, the high-tempo doesn’t encourage it so wasn’t a distracting mechanism either. I worked on a number of different projects whilst listening to this soundtrack and often found myself feeling like I was actually typing along with the song, it proved to be incredibly productive.

Nature sounds

Finally, I gave nature sounds a try. Generally, nature sounds are associated with mindfulness, meditation and as a means to illicit a calm sense of state. As such, in theory, it does provide an opportunity to help you focus and potentially be more productive.

As someone who is generally quite stressed, all the time, this playlist (I added a relatively generic Nature Sounds playlist into Apple Music) did provide a soothing background. In terms of its benefits from a productivity stance, I would say that it alleviated some of the tension I carry when working which can be counterproductive to productivity; you know when you’re stressed you can end up procrastinating on a task? It certainly helped in this area as the playlist provided a tranquil white noise background. But generally speaking, I didn’t feel like it helped me zone in on the work I was doing. As such, it’ll not be a go-to playlist to help me smash my work out, but it will be a good mechanism for those days where I feel its all getting on top of me.

What playlists, music and sounds help you be more productive?  

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