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  • Writer's pictureCris

Does music help you reach your goals?

The young me (like 98% of teenagers) used to listen to a lot of music.

I always had the headphones on; during my workout, under the shower, and even between classes.

The typical answer to the question: "Why do you always listen to some music?" was:

I love music because it permits me to focus on nothing.

If this answer is familiar, I ask you to step back and examine the answer again.

"To focus on nothing".

It was like I was afraid of staying alone with my own thoughts.

It took me some time to figure out that being alone with my thoughts and getting bored is -- sometimes -- essential.

Almost one year ago, I switched the music off, almost always. During commuting, at the gym, during my morning walks and even under the shower! I got to the point of bringing my lovely AirPods only when I had online meetings that day. I noticed this habit was incredibly productive.

First of all, I was much more present. More than once, I had the opportunity to engage in wonderful conversations with strangers. The last bother-the-strangers conversation happened about three weeks ago. A 25-year-old guy explained to me he worked for a company responsible for finding the most suitable allowance according to his clients' economic, familiar and healthy situations. I had no idea such companies would exist.

Secondly, I had the time to process and organise all the data and information I got during the day. It worked!

I had the confirmation that reducing my "consumption" of music made sense only years later while reading books about self-improvement and time management.

In "Hyperfocus", Chris Bailey introduces the concept of dots. Dots are pieces of information everybody collects during the days and weeks about random topics. It doesn't matter how or when, but these dots constantly wander in our minds without any logical connection. These disorganised dots compose a picture only when we put our minds on pause. No music, no social networks, no texting, nothing. In the book, Chris calls this mode "Scatter-focus".

Scatter-focus is when we connect the dots.

Also, a few months later, while reading "Show Your Work" by Austin Kleon, I found many similarities with Chris's Scatter-focus mode.

In the specific, Austin cites Gina Trapani (a famous American blogger), who explains the benefit of turning off the brain and introduces three places to "take a break from our connected lives".

The three "perfect places" to switch off our mind presented in the book are:

  • During commuting: I never listen to music when commuting anymore. I commute at least three times a week for a total of more than 4 hours on the train. I spend 50% of my commuting time doing nothing! I look out of the window, and I let my mind wander wherever it wants. I usually read a book or listen to a podcast in the other 50% of the time. It helps me put the mobile phone in the backpack instead of keeping it in the pocket.

  • At the gym: I always used to listen to some music while working out because "it helped me focus better", but it only distracted me. Indeed, I even forgot how many sets I had left often. Without music (I realised the only gesture of having the headphones up distracted me a lot), I can focus much more on my training and I can establish a much more intense connection with my muscles and my movements. Moreover, I recently discovered (in a Joe Rogan's podcast) how "doing nothing" during the rest period between sets -- no texting, no Instagram, no anything -- fools the muscles into thinking they cannot rest because the exercise is not finished yet. This mechanism has been proven effective in increasing the development of muscle mass (insane!).

  • Outside, in nature: Having a dog involves having long walks at least twice a day (🙂). Once again, I use this time to connect my dots. I might use this time to think about my research, assimilate concepts listened to in a podcast or organise the day's schedule.

How often do you listen to music? Would you survive an entire week with no music?


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