- by Alyson Shane
What kind of music do you listen to when you want to be productive and get sh*t done?
Hey, it’s Alyson from HeyAlfa here. For a long time, my answer to that question was “silence.”
As a writer, I’ve always struggled to listen to music and write effectively, and as a result whenever I sat down to hammer out my thoughts (like I’m doing right now) I’d always wind up needing to turn off whatever I was listening to. I needed more space to think.
For a long time I got around this by listening to EDM, jazz, or classical, or OSTs like The Social Network and The Fountain.
Recently I’ve really been digging those lo-fi playlists that have been exploding on YouTube. I’m actually listening to one right now.
This post is inspired by our pal Alex, who sends me new videos a couple of times a week. I love getting texts from him with a new playlist to check out, so here are 10 of my favourite lo-fi playlists for office productivity in 2020:
This is the live steam I’m listening to as I write this post.
I like it because it’s nice and smooth, with lots of piano and ambient sounds. Unlike a lot of other lo-fi playlists on this list, this one doesn’t have vocal samples which is nice if you’re looking for something to sink down into that won’t distract you with a catchy chorus.
I like listening to this playlist when I’m working at night. There’s something about a fully belly and a nice glass of wine that goes well with this playlist.
Listen on Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2Ryy9JL
I guess technically you’d call this a ‘chillhop’ playlist (I can hear all my old DJ friends groaning over this right now, heh) but I’m adding it here because it’s got the same kinds of beats, and because I listen to it a lot.
This playlist is nice because it features outdoor sounds, like crickets chirping, owls hooting, and (of course) campfires crackling. It’s as cozy as the name says it is, and I’ve really enjoyed listening to it with a cup of coffee while it snows outside.
Bonus: I put this on when friends come over and it’s great background music to board games.
Listen on Spotify: ttps://chillhop.lnk.to/sptfySi
Okay, this soundtrack doesn’t have “Racoon edition” in its name, but I refer to it that way in my head because there’s a ton of YouTube playlists called “lofi hip hop radio - beats to study/relax to.”
If you click the link you’ll see that the stream features a cute little racoon hanging out on its laptop - hence the name - and you can treat your ears to some sweet lo-fi vibes.
This playlist features minimal vocals, ambient sounds, and is great for doing really thought-intensive work like crunching numbers or looking at data.
Listen on Spotify: https://chillhop.lnk.to/lofihiphop
If you’re looking for something a little more upbeat and varied than the video above, this mix is a great alternative.
I love jazz, and I find this mix really easy to work to. The tracks selected features tons of horn, piano, and saxophone, which gives it a moody, groovy feeling. The tracks build and crescendo nicely, giving you a real sense of progression, which can be helpful for fueling creative momentum.
Ever so often you’ll hear a vocal sample, but they’re not too heavily featured. You can find my fav track in the mix by skipping ahead to 19:51.
This one comes to you courtesy of Alex, who sent it to me and sent me down a rabbit hole of video game-themed playlists that I’m still exploring. I’ve been a gamer since my parents got us a Super Nintendo for Christmas in 1991 and grew up listening to music by Koji Kondo and Nobuo Uematsu, so old school video game beats are a soft spot for me.
Super Lofi World features music from Zelda, Pokémon, Donkey Kong, and more classics that nerds like me will love.
My fav track is at 18:14 - there’s something about the music from Donkey Kong that I still can’t get enough of.
Listen on Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2YyMSWp
Maybe it’s the anime clips that show on repeat as the stream plays, or the heavy use of the harp and xylophones, but this playlist always reminds me of music from shows like Sailor Moon, or Studio Ghibli movies.
This stream often features vocal tracks, bird chirping, waves, wind, rain, and all the ambient sounds you can think of. It’s pretty groovy, and blends into the background nicely if you’re tackling to-dos like writing emails, marketing copy, or anything that requires you to be detailed-oriented.
Best of all: since it’s a livestream, you never have to worry about running out of tunes to listen to as you work!
I’ve always loved writing while it’s raining. During the summertime I’ll often haul my laptop and a cup of tea out into our sunroom with our cats in tow to listen to the rain fall while I work or write.
As someone who lives in a city where winter temperatures regularly dip to -30C (-22 F), I find myself longing for the sound of rain often during the winter months. This playlist is a great remedy, and includes bird sounds, thunder rolls, and even the occasional lightning strike to really create the feeling of being surrounded by a gentle, warm downpour.
This playlist opens with a beautiful piano rendition of The Song of Storms from The Legend of Zelda, so we’re already off on the right track.
As we can tell by the name, this playlist also features heavy rain sounds, as well as a few samples, including some “garden of your mind” samples from Mister Rogers which just make my heart explode.
This playlist makes me want to curl up under a blanket and sip hot chocolate while I work, which is often what I find myself doing while I listen to it.
I only recently discovered this stream, but I’ve been listening to it a lot recently.
I like this stream because it features tracks that feature more synthy sounds than a lot of other streams/mixes on this list.
I find that a lot of lofi playlists can start to blend together over time, but to date this stream has kept things feeling fresh by occasionally injecting something with a heavier beat or more 80’s sounds.
I know I’m really focusing on nerdy content here, but I listen to this playlist at least 4-5 times a week and this list wouldn’t be complete without it.
The Legend of Zelda is known for its sweeping soundtracks and original music, and this compilation of remixes and covers layered with bird sounds, water sounds, and sounds from the games like cuckoo calls is honestly just a treat to listen to.
This playlist takes me back to happy days playing Ocarina of Time as a kid, and does wonders for my mood and productivity.
I find I listen to this one most often first thing in the morning, over a big cup of coffee while early morning sunlight streams in through the window.
Listen on Spotify: https://spoti.fi/2rxFApP
There are so many lofi videos on YouTube, and even more once you start to expand into areas like chillhop, ambient, synthwave, and more.
If you ask me, there’s never been a better time to be a productive person in need of some great background music.
If I’ve missed mentioning your favourite playlist, let me know by tweeting at us at @sayheyalfa!