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These didn't work for me in Berlin, but I found a workaround
I spent last fall at a residency in Berlin where a common work habit was “dance pomodoros.” Folks would work on their projects, heads down and focus for awhile—and then suddenly converge in the main area, dancing to a shared Spotify playlist in all their headphones.
I have an odd relationship with music, I’ve learned over the years.
So I didn’t really go in for the dance sessions. Though they were an amusing punctuation to my day—once or twice an hour, I’d be plugging away at work, and suddenly the room would be filled with the sound of breathing and scuffing feet and rustling fabric, as everyone danced in the open silence to the music in their headphones. It was a little surreal, but it was also a reminder that creativity and productivity don't have to be mutually exclusive.
As of this week, I think I’ve found a version of this that kind of works for me. I can’t be the first person to try this out, but for the sake of sharing it, here’s what I’m doing:
Find a playlist of ambient background music to play while I work.
Every 6 or 7 songs, put in one song that I love and can’t help but move to.
So far, this has been close to ideal. I have a tendency to focus on work and then suddenly realize it’s been 3 hours since I moved; which is… not one of my better habits. I’ve tried using pomodoro timers to get around this, but I’m wildly inconsistent about remembering to set them.
My workdays go better when I have time to focus, punctuated by time to get up and move and—potentially—zoom out from the task I’m doing, giving me a chance to see it from a new angle.
So far, this punctuated playlist system is working great. I set up the playlist in advance (takes maybe 3 minutes), hit play, and my schedule is all taken care of for the next 3 or 4 hours, without me having to exert any executive function whatsoever. I just co-regulate with the music and everything takes care of itself.
For example, I wrote this article while the ambient music was playing, and now the music is telling me it’s time to get up again. Bye, y’all.
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