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The Music of Making Work Work

Music while you work

We are going to use some musical terms to define some of your work today. It doesn’t matter what kind of work you do, the everyday tasks associated with work are similar to most everyone. Grouping like tasks is a basic principle used to be productive. Is this task short and sweet? Staccato! or is this task longer? Legato!

Do you think music creates an environment that helps you concentrate? Click To Tweet

I recently had the pleasure of learning from best selling author and organizing guru, Julie Morgenstern. She discussed some basic principles of time management: write things down, time scheduling, making decisions and executing a plan. Julie used musical metaphors as a way to illustrate tasks that can and should be grouped together for better efficiency.

Staccato

marked by short clear-cut playing or singing of tones or chords

These are short tasks and can be accomplished and gotten off you plate quickly, and then you can move on to the next thing. Tasks like making phone calls, responding or sending email, answering questions. Set aside a time of day when you will do these Staccato tasks. If you stick to doing these tasks during that time you’ll be less distracted during the rest of your work day.

Legato

in a manner that is smooth and connected

These tasks take longer and require you set aside time in your schedule to¬† “do” and move forward on them. Things like strategic planning, writing, research and design. You want to give yourself at least one hour of uninterrupted time in order to successfully move these projects to the finish line.

You can use this principle in your personal time too, using music to support and motivate you. Have you ever turned some music on while emptying the dishwasher? I’ll bet it was something upbeat and fast paced. On the other hand, are you like me and prefer more soothing (maybe slower) music like smooth jazz or classical music when you are concentrating on part of a longer project like making a big dinner. Do you think music creates an environment that helps you concentrate? I do.

I also attended the book launch of Julie Morgenstern’s new book Time to Parent. WOW! An innovative approach to time management for parents. I can’t wait to finish reading the book, so I can write about it. Stay tuned. But for the time being, be aware of how you spend your time. Group the small staccato tasks and schedule the longer legato tasks and play some music!

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Janet Schiesl

Janet has been organizing since 2005. She is a Certified Professional Organizer and the owner of Basic Organization. She loves using her background as a space planner to challenge her clients to look at their space differently. She leads the team in large projects and works one-on-one with clients to help the process move quickly and comfortably. Call her crazy, but she loves to work with paper, to purge what is not needed and to create filing systems that work for each individual client. Janet is a Past President of the Washington DC Chapter of the National Association of Productivity and Organizing Professionals (NAPO) and was voted 2016 Organizer of the Year by the Washington DC Chapter of NAPO.

10 Comments

  1. Sara Skillen on November 4, 2019 at 7:19 am

    As a music major and former music teacher this post really “resonates”! ūüôā I often ask clients about how music might make certain activities easier, and even had one creative person who made up words to a popular tune in order to job their memory for some important tasks. Love the metaphor!

    • Janet Schiesl on November 5, 2019 at 2:21 pm

      interesting idea to help memory. I had a client who loved to play music when we worked. It made the work so much easier for her. She had a great singing voice.

  2. Seana Turner on November 4, 2019 at 8:41 am

    That’s cool to know that Sara was a music major. (I love reading other comments as well as the post!) There is always music in my home, and I frequently have it playing when I am doing chores around the house or driving the car. I don’t really enjoy silence as a general rule, and music seems to get my going, much as you described. Such a neat way to think about our tasks. I have some clients who enjoy having music on, and others who definitely do not. Once again, we are all different!

    • Janet Schiesl on November 5, 2019 at 2:26 pm

      Yes. I agree, we are all different. I like noise when I’m working but not necessarily music. I prefer listening to the pod cast or the news. I don’t know why. Sometime when I am sitting at my desk, I’ll realize that music would be a better option, so I can concentrate on what I’m doing but still have something in the background. Then I’ll choose jazz, but always quiet.

  3. Linda Samuels on November 4, 2019 at 9:37 am

    I grew up in a house of music. There was always live music since my mom was a piano teacher and my brother and sister were also musicians. Even on Sundays, the family would often sit around reading and listening to mostly classical music. My siblings had record players in their rooms and also listening to non-classical music. Me. I liked quiet. Don’t get me wrong. I do LOVE music. But when I’m working, I like quiet. There are certain activities when I enjoy playing music like when I’m cooking for big parties or events or driving.

    With clients, I’m aware that music can be an enhancement to what we’re doing. And especially to help shift or lighten up the mood, the right music choice can be fantastic. I have fond memories of working with one client that loved listening to show tunes as we worked. We’d often break out in song (and dance) as we edited and organized.

    • Janet Schiesl on November 5, 2019 at 2:35 pm

      Linda. I like quiet too. But don’t mind if clients want to play music while we work. Maybe it has to do with the amount of concentration you do want you are working on your own stuff, as opposed to working with someone else.

  4. Janet Barclay on November 4, 2019 at 12:39 pm

    I wasn’t conscious of it, but I typically save my Staccato tasks for Thursday. That gives me at least three days of focused time for Legato tasks like website design. Friday’s work varies, whatever didn’t get completed during the week, or a Legato task or two for my own business.

  5. Janet Schiesl on November 5, 2019 at 2:44 pm

    Interesting Janet. Thinking that way. I always gravitate towards the Staccato tasks because I like the feeling of accomplishment. But that leaves the larger tasks for later when I have less energy and interest. I’ll work on this.

  6. Nancy Haworth on November 6, 2019 at 8:06 am

    I love the idea of thinking about tasks as Staccato or Legatto. Some of my clients are musicians, and they will like this metaphor. I find that upbeat music helps me when doing tasks like chores. If it is a task that involves concentrating, reading, or writing, I find that music distracts me, and I need it to be quiet to be more productive, but I know that is not the case for others.

    • Janet Schiesl on November 6, 2019 at 8:24 am

      Hi Nancy. I love how all the comments talk about different preferences for using music for supporting your work. Whatever works to help you focus!

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