For this edition of Hear to Write, we interviewed Paul Boucher, our Senior Fulfillment manager. We noticed that he’s a major music buff and loves all kinds of music. Thus, we had to ask him about one of the top playlists that he uses at work. He’s not a writer, but he gets a lot of stuff done, so we knew that his insight could help you as you’re at your job or trying to achieve your writing goals. We asked him the following questions about his favorite get-things-done songs and how you can create a similar playlist.
1. How do you use this playlist to get work done?
This type of music really helps me work better and calm down. That’s how I use music to get work done. If I think it’s too quiet in my office, then my mind goes everywhere. But with this sort of white noise, it’s the perfect balance for me, and honestly, it just helps my brain to get working.
What I have found is that as I have experimented with music—whether it’s pop, rap, or rock—those types of music don’t lend to my ability to get work done. I found that there is something within the framework of the music from Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter—or even Broadway shows—that sets my mood right for how I do my work. It just flows. There really is a relaxation that opens up different wavelengths. I can actually prove this!
When I was going to junior college, I had to take a calculus class. I really, really struggled with it and I wasn’t doing very well. I tried to see a tutor and the teacher, but nothing was working for me. I spoke to a buddy of mine a couple of weeks after I realized I was failing the class. I told him what was going on and he said, “You know what you need to do? You need to listen to some Mozart. If you listen to classical music, it’ll open up the mathematical brain waves in your head.” He added that when you analyze that music, it’s supposed to be mathematically correct. I said that was a load of you-know-what.
So, another two or three weeks go by and I am doing everything I possibly can, and studying is still not working for me. So, I give the music a shot. I literally listened to Mozart and Beethoven for two weeks straight. When I went to sleep, when I went to work, when I was driving—you name it. I kid you not, I passed the class and I got an A-. I give credit to classical music for helping me pass the class. Thus, I know this kind of music really puts me in a work mode.
2. Do you create different playlists depending on a task or mood you want to convey, or do you listen to all your music all the time?
At the end of the day, when I get in my car, I’ll listen to toe-tapping music so I can really let loose. But when it comes to work, I prefer the movie soundtrack music. I regularly go to the gym, and I used to listen to some really heavy rock music to get my adrenaline going. But lately, I’ve been listening to Pandora stations that showcase ‘50s music. It’s just been amazing! It’s really toe-tapping and clean. There’s only so many cuss words you can listen to in a song.
I found that my music changes depending on what I’m doing. When I wake up on Saturday, it’s time for hip-hop music because I’m excited. On Sunday, it’s a Sunday flair. But on Monday, I’m going to go back to my Harry Potter–esque music that gets me into the mode.
I’ve always been a fan of music. I know there are a lot of people that need it absolutely silent, but that’s not me. I need to have something playing in the background.
3. You had to narrow down a lot of good songs to create this playlist. How did these songs make the cut?
It was hard! With Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, I’ve seen the stories on the screen. And as I’ve listened to the books, it plays the struggle between good and evil in my mind. And good always triumphs in the end. That’s empowering to me.
I like these songs because there’s a struggle there—and not everyone survives. It’s not like good triumphs and everyone’s okay and everyone’s alive. There are casualties along the way. So in my mindset, maybe an email doesn’t work—I’ve written an email and I have to revamp it. Or, I experiment with something in the Fulfillment department and it bombs. But then we’ll do something and it does work out in the end. Maybe I write an email and someone responds and thanks me for it and says they really needed to read what I sent them. That’s a triumph. That’s what daily life is like.
Sometimes you have wins and sometimes you have losses. This music sort of pumps me up because I know eventually the good will triumph but I have to expect some losses along the way. It’s just a part of life. Those sorts of songs are what really motivate me. There’s something intrinsic there that gets me going. It’s a fight; it’s a struggle. There’s all this contention that goes on but eventually, good triumphs and I like that.
4. If someone were to ask you how to create a playlist, what suggestions would you give them?
You can go to Pandora and search for music by category. If you type in “Van Halen,” it’s gonna give you other groups that are similar to Van Halen. With Spotify, you can choose the songs themselves. But then there’s how you go about creating something that helps you with your mood or workflow.
I think your playlist will depend a lot on who you are as a person. You really have to get a pulse on how your mood changes when you listen to certain songs. I think most people will know certain genres affect them. If I walk into someone’s office and they’re listening to opera, I’m doing a right-about-face and walking out! I just cringe at that. But they might be 100 percent focused on their work. You have to know yourself and be honest with yourself.
There is some music that can be distracting. You have to know what is distracting or makes you want to avoid your work. You can start experimenting and put together a playlist and see how much work you get done in an hour. Then, try another playlist and try different genres. You could go to the extremes—maybe from heavy metal to some classical music.
Ever since Lord of the Rings came out, I could listen to the soundtracks all day long. I never get bored of them. However, I can listen to some hip-hop, pop, or rap music and feel like I’ve listened to these songs enough times. I can’t deal with it. I can’t listen to these genres for a least a couple of weeks or else it’ll drive me crazy. I never say that about the songs on this playlist. So that’s where you should start: look at what your likes and dislikes are.
Create Your Own Playlist
It was fun to interview Paul and get his insight on how music influences him. He told us about how music affected him at an early age: it was an escape for him when his parents got a divorce and he felt shunned as a result. Similar to Paul, we’ll all have our triumphs and losses, but we can use music to power through and win the day just like our favorite book or movie heroes.
So today, we hope you enjoy Paul’s playlist, and we hope his advice helps you learn how to create playlists for your own daily grind. If these tips were helpful, share them with your friends online. We’d also love to know what your go-to playlists are and how they help you get the job done. In the meantime, check out the rest of our Hear to Write series to check out our other posts about writing playlists.