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The Best Spotify Playlists to Help You Focus

Spotify Playlists for WorkWhile some of us need absolute quiet to be productive at work; others prefer some background noise, whether it’s classical music, indie rock, or something else entirely. Earlier this year, Kat talked about her favorite music for different moods and situations (and readers discussed theirs in the comments), and in the past we’ve discussed wearing headphones at the office and how to be productive when you work in an open office. Today we’ll round up some Spotify playlists that are perfect for the workday. Here are five that can help you get your work done:

Productive Morning:
Description:
“Get into a morning flow with this focus playlist.”
Length: 39 songs; 3 hours 11 minutes
This playlist is filled with slow, mellow music, mostly without vocals/lyrics (which is helpful if words make music too distracting for you to work to — that seems to be the case with a lot of people). Listening to this might even calm you down if you’re feeling stressed about work or personal stuff — but I won’t promise anything. Two sample tracks are “Hibernation” by Random Forest and “Breathturn” by Hammock.

Deep Focus:
Description:
“Keep calm and focus. This playlist has some great, atmospheric rock to help you relax and concentrate.”
Length:
112 songs; 8 hours 29 minutes
Here’s some more slow and relaxing music for your workday, again without vocals. Your brain will likely be able to keep these sounds in the background and help you focus on the task at hand, while the song and band names will either seem poetic or laughable, depending on your tastes and mood. (Examples: “Gusts of Wind Blowing in Different Directions” and “In Collusion with the Waves.”) Two sample tracks are “Passage” by Lowercase Noises and “Petrichor” by At the End of Times, Nothing. (Speaking of poetic, here’s a fun fact: “petrichor” names the smell of dry, dusty ground when rain falls.)

Intense Studying
Description:
“Music to help you concentrate and stay focused during your most intense studying sessions.”
Length: 100 songs; 13 hours 15 minutes
This playlist is the only one of the five listed here that contains classical music, and it has a lot of it: 13 hours’ worth. The composers include Mozart, Bach, Brahms, Vivaldi, Beethoven, and Chopin, and you’ll find some more recent music as well — pieces by Philip Glass, Osvaldo Golijov, Terry Riley, and Steve Reich. I don’t think this one needs “sample tracks” provided — you get the picture. (To counteract that huge list of male composers, here is another Spotify playlist for your workday: Women of Classical, at 50 songs, 7 hours 36 minutes.)

electroNOW:
Description:
“Banging tracks with Ravitez and Afrojack, b2b!” 
Length: 56 songs; 3 hours 25 minutes
As you can tell from Spotify’s description, this playlist is a little different from the three above. It’s full of electronic music, originals and remixes from artists like Calvin Harris and DJ Snake (don’t worry if those names don’t mean anything to you) with energetic beats to keep you motivated and repetition to help you focus. Two sample tracks are “Tell Me Why” by Sagan and “Everything Changed” by DBSTF.

Brain Food:  
Description: “Feed your brain with hypnotic electronic”  
Length: 140 songs; 9 hours 49 minutes
Like the last playlist I mentioned, this one gives you lots of electronic music — but these tracks have less of a club/party feel and more of a chillout atmosphere (probably self-explanatory, but here’s a link anyway), so in other words, it probably won’t inspire you to get up and dance at your desk. You’ll find dubstep, electropop, and general dance/electronic music on this playlist; two sample tracks are “Creep” by deadmau5 and “Mimosa” by Psychedelic Stereo.

What’s your favorite kind of music to listen to while you’re working? Do you have a subscription to Spotify (and if so, what’s your favorite Spotify playlist?), do you use Pandora, or do you just listen to your own music? Or, do you prefer not to listen to anything while you’re at the office?

Pictured: Pixabay. 

The Best Spotify Playlists to Help with Focus

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How to Focus on Work (When Other Things are Going On)

How to Focus on Work (When Other Things are Going On)So: it’s been almost a week since the U.S. election. Like many of you, I’m finding it hard to focus on work in the wake of the election results, and I thought it might make a great open thread today. (As I noted earlier, politically I’m left of center, but all of my friends, on both the right and the left, seem to be having these problems focusing.) How DO you focus when you’ve got heavy things on your mind? We’ve talked before in general about ways to improve your focus and how to deal with heavy personal things like post-interview anxiety, as well as miscarriage and infertility — but this feels different to me. So — if you’re feeling less than laser-focused these days, what are you doing to focus on work? Some thoughts:

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How to Find the Best Planner For You

plannerWe’ve gotten a few requests for a post on how to find the best planner for you — and I know the readers have been talking about it a ton! — so I thought we’d have a post today. How do you find the best planner for you? Reader J asks:

Can you do an update on the perfect planner post from 2012? I find that I need to use Microsoft Outlook for my corporate calendar to keep in sync with work commitments and colleagues. I dabbled with the Bullet Journal but couldn’t make that work and yet I feel like I need/miss the writing down aspect of using a paper journal.)

In our older post, readers recommended Levenger Circa, Staples Arc, Filofax, Russell + Hazel, Quo Vadis, Moleskine, Cavallini, Planner Pad, Exacompta 24, Erin Condren Life Planner.  In addition to those, readers more recently have recommended the Bullet Journal, ShePlans planners, and the Simplified Planner. I’m still figuring out my own system, so I can’t wait to hear what recommendations you guys have today!

For my $.02, I use a ton of different systems and haven’t found one good one that takes care of everything.  I use a Google calendar for most things and send invites to anyone who needs to know about trips/outings/visits/etc; the calendar entries have any important things relating to the calendar entry — a description, an address, questions I want to ask — if it’s a flight I have the airport, airline, flight #, estimated landing time, etc.  On my iPhone I’m a big fan of the app, Tiny Calendar, that syncs with Google calendar. For blog planning purposes we use Trello, which comes with a calendar and is an easy way to keep track of a lot of different tasks; we love Slack too but we’ve found it hasn’t worked the best for general planning purposes. Personally I use Remember The Milk to keep track of different to-do list items.  On the paper side of things I splurged this year and bought an Erin Condren Life Planner — it’s a beautiful, beautiful planner, but I primarily use it for recording cute things the kids have said and (more recently) trying to put a checkmark on each day that I’ve exercised or eaten well — for those simple tasks for 2017 I already bought a $.99 planner that will do the same thing. I love the idea of The Five Minute Journal for planning my day (pick three things to do at the beginning of each day, and at the end of each day recording what went well and what could have gone better.  I’m also a fan of a giant to-do list on a notepad in front of me — every few weeks I cross things off and move it to another list.  (I’ve experimented with having this giant list in RTM and keeping a printout in front of me so I can check things off — for some reason I prefer just having it on a paper notebook.) I’ve also experimented with laminating pages of paper that have spaces for me to think about goals for the month/week/day — more recently I also tried to laminate pages that have a little box for all of the different aspects of the business I should be thinking about, but that hasn’t worked out so well.

I’m curious to hear what you guys say — what planner are you using currently; what have you used in the past? What do you love about your system(s), and what do you hate about it/them?  Do you feel like any system can work if you’re diligent with it, or that planners are personality-driven and you need to go through several to find the best planner for you and your personality? 

Psst: we’ve also talked recently about best practices for Evernote, as well as the best apps for working women

Further reading:

  • Daily planners: paper or electronic? [Washington Post]
  • Passion Planner aims to be the cure for millennial angst [Washington Post]
  • The Tech-Savvy To-Do List: A Bullet Journal [Wall Street Journal]
  • How to Organize Your Entire Life with Trello [Lifehacker]
  • 10 calendar apps for Android and iOS that will help you organize a chaotic day [Yahoo! Tech]
  • 10 #BossChicks Share Their Favorite Planner for a More Organized Life in 2016 [Huffington Post]
  • It’s 2016. Why Can’t Anyone Make a Decent Freaking To-Do App? [Wired]

Pictured: Pixabay.

 

How to find the best planner for you

Weekend Prep for Monday: Do You Do It?

weekend prep for mondayOne of the things that came up in the comments on our diets for busy women post was the idea of prepping meals and snacks on Sunday for the week ahead — and I’ve read a ton of advice saying that you should steal an hour during the weekend to review the major tasks you need to accomplish in the week ahead. So I thought it might be an interesting open thread today:  Do YOU do weekend prep for Monday or the week ahead? When do you do it, and what do you do?

Pictured: veggie meal prep from @squirrel_kitchen, featured in this DailyBurn article about 21 inspiring instagram accounts for meal prep. 

For my $.02, when I was working in BigLaw I liked resting/playing on Saturday and coming into the office on Sunday for a few hours if I needed to do some work. Because I was well rested and there was no one else in the office (or, at least, vastly fewer people, and everyone was there to work), my focus was so much better — I used to call them “Super Mondays” because I was so productive. These days, I often try to get at least half of the short morning and afternoon posts written for the week on Sunday afternoons, putting in a few hours of work while my youngest son naps. If at all possible I also try to write a to-do list of my tasks for the week ahead, and put papers to review on my desk so I can get some focused work done before turning on the computer — easier said than done when your business is online! This probably isn’t even that noteworthy, but another thing I try to do is look at the NYT and WSJ and other news outlets on Sunday, because I’ve found that I waste far too much time looking at articles on Monday, particularly the longer magazine articles.

So ladies, let’s hear it — what routines and practices have you put in place for your weekends that lay the groundwork for a great week ahead? For those of you who do meal prep or have other healthy habits on the weekend, I’d love to hear what you do!  

Psst: here’s our last discussion on morning routines for successful people.

weekend-prep-for-monday

The Busy Woman’s Guide to Using Evernote and Other Note-Keeping Apps

busy woman's guide to using evernoteI don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a zillion tips on how to use Evernote and other note-keeping apps — but all seem geared at freelancers or entrepreneurs.  So we thought we’d do a roundup of some top tips for busy working women, but we want to hear from you guys: DO you use Evernote or a similar system? HOW do you use it, and what are your favorite tips?

A bit of background: Evernote is a web/app-based program that is billed as being a digital brain. You can use it for almost anything: project planning; note-taking; storing and organizing things that can include to-do lists, travel details, grocery lists, and gift lists; and much more. You can organize your notes and other content into notebooks (with or without tags), clip content from ebooks and webpages, send designated types of emails to your account, create checklists and reminders, save images, save PDFs and other files (which become searchable), share content with other people, record audio, take photos and scan documents (e.g., business cards, whiteboard notes, takeout menus, product warranties, receipts), add hand-drawn pictures or handwritten notes, and sync across your devices. Evernote also works with many other applications, like Google Drive (beta), Scanner Pro, IFTTT, Pocket, and DocuSign. You can use Evernote for free (several features plus 60 MB new uploads each month) or choose one of the paid plans.

Of course, other programs are similar to Evernote — and considering the recently-announced price increase, if you want your info synced on more than two devices, now is a great time to be aware of Evernote alternatives as well, such as:

  • OneNote – Lifehacker just did a showdown comparing Evernote and OneNote.
  • Google Keep and Google Drive – Tech Republic recently discussed how to ditch Evernote in favor of Google apps.
  • Some of the functionality but not everything:
    • B-Folders – not very easy to save articles beyond copy/paste, but: very secure, includes contacts, syncs across desktops and Androids; Kat’s written of her love for it for keeping track of various lists.
    • Pinterest – nice way to save articles or recipes for later. Con: it often only works if there’s a picture in the article to pin (since it’s a graphic search engine). Also, you can’t make to-do lists or save things like emails.
    • To-do list apps like Remember the Milk, Wunderlist, Teuxdeux, Todoist, and more.
    • iPhone Notes app – allows you to make buying lists, recipes, and more; can access on your PC through iCloud.
    • Meal planning apps like Pepperplate or Cozi (family scheduling, grocery shopping, recipe keeper and more).

Here are some of our best tips for using Evernote and other similar apps — readers, what are yours?

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How to Prepare for Law School

how to prepare for law schoolLawyers: how did you prepare for law school? Law students, what do you wish you’d done to prepare? Ladies with an MBA or other graduate degree, what did you do to prepare for grad school?  Were you more concerned with substance (such as trying to get ahead on class reading, or better educated on the topics you’d be studying), networking (such as researching the professors and adjuncts you’d be studying with), or another side of things, such as financially preparing for grad school, or emotionally preparing yourself? What are your top tips for readers heading back in a few months? 

Kate and I are working on a massive update of our last post on the best work clothing brands for different body shapes, and it’s taking too long (stay tuned!) so I thought we’d have a fun open thread instead today. For my own experience with law school, I was glad that I spent the summer beforehand doing some light reading of one or two of Glannon’s Examples and Explanations series (as recommended by another book I read that hasn’t been revised in many years), which taught me various lessons such as that a tort is NOT a dessert. Super dorky!  One of the other things that I was happy I did was to take to lunch a number of different lawyers I knew who were working in the field I thought I wanted to be in — they gave me great advice for law school itself as well as identified general opportunities to help my career path (such as clerking, law firms to work for, nonprofits to check out, etc).

In terms of what I wish I had done — I wish I had spent more time learning about different Georgetown professors and opportunities, as well. Once you get in the mix of law school it can be a little all-consuming, so doing prep work beforehand would have been a good thing.

Ladies, let’s hear from you!  How did you prepare for law school, business school, or another graduate degree program? (If you went straight through, please note that; if you had a year or more between undergrad and grad, please note how long.)

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