Listening To One Song On Repeat Over And Over Again

Years ago I read an interview with WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg where he described how he listened to a single song over and over again on repeat to help him focus. I remember thinking at the time how weird yet interesting that was. Then I heard Matt on the Tim Ferriss podcast last year, and again he described how he listened to one song on repeat. It turns out that blogger Joseph Mosby did some research and there’s actually some science behind the idea:

I think we have our answer. Repetition of anything makes us like the thing even more, while repetition of music specifically helps us sink into a groove. Perfect for improving our mood and ramping up our productivity at the same time.

About a year ago curiosity got the best of me and I decided to give it a shot. It worked so well that it has become my favorite method of “getting in the zone” to work. Some days I can hop right in and start working. Other days when I’m struggling a bit, I’ll turn to this method and it always works, especially when I’m programming.

The song choice doesn’t much matter. Sometimes it’s rap, other times it’s rock or techno or classical. I just pick one and set it to repeat over and over again. About 3 hours, or roughly 50 plays of a song, is around where I reach my limit. Sometimes I’ll switch to another song or listen to a normal playlist. I usually won’t go back to a song for at least a few weeks.

This one simple little hack has had a big impact on how I work. It feels like it has the ability to turn a potentially low productivity day into a high productivity day. I wish I tried it sooner!

4 comments on Listening To One Song On Repeat Over And Over Again

  1. Danielle says:

    Do you ever find yourself wanting to break out and sing along to whatever you’re listening to? This is in the instance that instrumental, classical and what not don’t appeal at the time.

    • Adam McFarland says:

      Good question Danielle! Typically I know the words by heart to these songs. I know them so well that I can mumble along the lyrics without breaking my focus. I could certainly see it being a distraction for some but it’s not for me. Subconsciously singing the words might even be part of what helps me get in the zone.

      • Danielle says:

        The first difficult task for someone like me, was narrowing down a song – as it’s hugely mood dependent. I actually chose an Adele song for today, and even though sometimes I found myself singing along or hearing the words over what I was reading at times, I actually did get a lot done today! Motivational uptick was definitely noticed. Thanks for the tip and for the response! Cheers.

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