Work while you whistle
May 12, 2010 11:22 AM   Subscribe

What things can I do while listening to music?

For the last few months I've been working through an enormous backlog of music. I'll listen to hours and hours of new stuff a day, or repeat some of the things I've found recently. And as I've been listening to this music, I tend to chat on Facebook or read old MetaTalk discussions. Both activities are fun but don't necessarily feel productive.

I don't like trying two creative activities at once. I can't read when I listen to music or else I feel like I'm doing one or the other an injustice.

So, I'm looking for things I can do that'll help make me a better person or have a more fulfilling day as this music's going on.

I write and I web design, and I do both while listening to music at times, but neither's one I'm capable of really going on hours-long binges for with any reliability. I'd love resources that teach me something or other — perhaps things that delve into the finer mechanics of writing, or things that would teach me/have me practice programming languages — but, just as with books, they'd have to be lightweight enough to let me focus primarily on the music.

I'm looking for more creative suggestions, too. Things that'll make me or my place or my work generally more awesome in interesting ways. I don't know. If I knew I wouldn't be asking. Basically what I'm saying is all suggestions are welcome.
posted by Rory Marinich to Grab Bag (23 answers total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
Do your chores. It's incredible how much more fun cleaning is when you're in the groove of some great track.

At work, I suppose chores would be sorting through your folders, organising files, doing backups etc. Maybe commenting on your code.

Or alternatively, don't multitask. Get your work done ASAP, bash out your mundane housework.

Then set aside some time just to sit down in a chair, listen to some music, and relax and reflect on the day.
posted by djgh at 11:25 AM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

What about household chores: washing dishes, folding laundry, tidying, paying bills, etc. Maybe take on a major organizational project like developing a filing system for your financial documents or cleaning out your storage areas.
You could also take up a highly fine motor skills oriented hobby like knitting. When I was trying to get good at solving a rubik's cube I spent hours listening to music and practicing.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms at 11:27 AM on May 12, 2010

Manual hobbies that aren't necessarily creative during execution, like knitting.

posted by telegraph at 11:28 AM on May 12, 2010

Does your bathtub need scrubbing? Does your floor need mopping? Loud music helps with chores like those.

I also like walking over bridges when I'd otherwise take a bus or a subway. Add some walking to your transportation.
posted by oreofuchi at 11:29 AM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

You could edit all music tags, add album art and generally clean up your playlists. Drudgery, sure, but very rewarding when it is done.
posted by 2bucksplus at 11:31 AM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cook. Sew. I do my apprentice homework to music.
posted by mollymayhem at 11:32 AM on May 12, 2010

Best answer: These are the things that I do, I have the same problem. Knit, mend clothes, bathe, moisturize, sweep, polish, dust, bake, chop vegetables, drive someplace, go for a walk, yoga, barbells, stretch, run [treadmill-esque], tend to houseplants, tend to pets, doodle, make lists, sort papers into folders & file them, get stuff ready to go out [trash, thrift store], get stuff ready to go away [winter clothes, summer clothes], burn incense, clean out fridge/freezer, organize photos, clean out junk drawer, organize closet.
posted by jessamyn at 11:33 AM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Crossword puzzles.
posted by something something at 11:37 AM on May 12, 2010

Best answer: Hello, my problem.

Definitely seconding the cleaning. Do they weird cleaning you never do - like cleaning out the fridge, organizing the pantry. Or organization projects like digitizing old photos or alphabetizing your book shelves.

I'm like you in that I have a hard time writing or reading and listening to music and the same time. Painting, however, is something I really like to do while listening to music. I'm really not a good visual artist, but I enjoy the pedantic nature of it, so I'll put on some music and modge podge a table or something.

Make flashcards and learn something like vocab words or bio processes or the names of all the bones.

Learn origami.

Make your own paper. Or soap. Or lotion or chapstick.

Bake your bread for the week. Or bake cookies. Or brownies. Or cake.

Learn to sew. Very handy skill.

Learn your knots, if you were never a boy scout.

Puzzles - either the kind you piece together or the kind you think about.

Start an indoor garden/terrarium/bonzai forest and tend it.

Build an electronic device, like a ham radio. Or outfit your house with all sorts of pointless electric stuff. Like install a switch in your kitchen that turns on your roommate's radio.

Try and break a Guinness record, like construct the world's longest rubber band chain - that'll keep you busy.

If all else fails, nothing wrong with the smoke a joint and pet the cat route.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:40 AM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Every time I get a new album, I go for a run.
posted by General Malaise at 11:40 AM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

also what Jessamyn said. And my god, apologizes for my typos. Egregious.
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:41 AM on May 12, 2010

Response by poster: I should probably get into running/walking for the sake of running/walking. I love the physical activity but never know where to go in the process. But that would work nicely.

Also, now I really want to start baking my own bread. That's exactly the sort of thing that would keep me occupied. Perhaps I should also look into making my own sauces/various small things like that? I imagine it's not particularly expensive to do so.

This might sound like a stupid question, but what does one need to paint? An easel and paper and a brush? Or I could just get a doodling notebook, I guess.
posted by Rory Marinich at 11:45 AM on May 12, 2010

Also, now I really want to start baking my own bread. That's exactly the sort of thing that would keep me occupied. Perhaps I should also look into making my own sauces/various small things like that? I imagine it's not particularly expensive to do so.

You can definitely bake bread on the cheap. I do it on Saturday afternoons, generally. What's great about it is that you have to be home the whole time, because it's a long process, but you aren't busy doing it the whole time - so it's perfect for listening to music, doing a little cleaning or whatever. Making your own hummus, making your own salsa - all of this stuff is easy. It will be cheaper, probably taste better, and you'll feel really accomplished (no seriously - the first time you get a loaf of bread right? Gratifying.)

This might sound like a stupid question, but what does one need to paint? An easel and paper and a brush? Or I could just get a doodling notebook, I guess.

That's not a stupid question. You can paint with anything you like. I have a bunch of paints and brushes and stuff - but I suck at that kind of painting, so I like to paint with not-paint. Like I buy some canvasses and I use 'themed' things to paint them - like one with red wine, dark chocolate and lipstick. Or semen and food coloring (wtf? don't ask).

Modge podging is fun. Like I got a table from ikea - all wood, boring. Then I bought a bunch of old retro playboys and old music magazines and stuff like that, cut them up, and collaged the whole table. It was fun, and took a long time.
posted by Lutoslawski at 12:04 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Dance. Few things have brought me more joy in life. I mostly learned by just dancing along to music.
posted by Kattullus at 12:14 PM on May 12, 2010

Cooking and cleaning.
posted by everichon at 12:19 PM on May 12, 2010

Dance. Few things have brought me more joy in life. I mostly learned by just dancing along to music.

This. One-man dance parties in my apartment are some of the best things in the world.
posted by King Bee at 12:33 PM on May 12, 2010 [2 favorites]

Book binding is an awesome hobby. It's one thing I can really zone out to, but it's very mindful and satisfying. I also love that you create something very practical, and if you make too many, they're a great gift for everyone.

I'd recommend you check out Cover to Cover for a good overview of several techniques.

Much of it is repetitive, but there are enough different kinds of activities to keep it interesting. I also love how each action has weight in the final product. More or less, you will cut down pieces of paper, count and make stacks. Fold the signatures, pierce the signatures, sew them, sew the signatures together. Cut book board, prepare end sheets, spine fabric, etc.

If you've got a decently well stocked craft supply, it shouldn't cost much to start either (paper, xacto, ruler, pva, book board, fabric, decorative paper, pencil, awl, needle, linen thread, beeswax, wax paper, and a few C-clamps are handy too)
posted by fontophilic at 1:08 PM on May 12, 2010 [1 favorite]

Running / walking and music go excellent together. The more you run, the more music you will listen to, and as a super-secret added bonus, you get incredibly fit and have tons of energy.
posted by jasondigitized at 1:46 PM on May 12, 2010

I dance with my son. Its fun to dance like a 5 year old.
posted by ducktape at 2:37 PM on May 12, 2010

If it is the kind of music where the idea of a "score" is not kind of silly, read the score. I am a person who learns best by reading and following a Haydn quartet (or whatever) on the page adds a whole new dimension to the experience. It's not "productive" in the sense that at the end of the CD I have a finished paper or clean apartment, but listening to music itself just gets more and more enjoyable.
posted by No-sword at 5:03 PM on May 12, 2010

I draw. Typically it'll take me an hour or so to work on something, and in that time I'll ususally fire up iTunes or Grooveshark with a new artist queued up. Most of my drawing takes place on the computer, so it goes hand in hand. Add that and a cup of coffee, and I ask myself why I don't just do this for a living.
posted by hellojed at 8:05 PM on May 12, 2010

Nthing the chores and all that. I also cross-stitch or bookbind.

You'll probably like this AskMeFi: What do you do while listening to podcasts?

Also, this is arguably not "productive," but I like to play my music in Audiosurf, which is a game that turns songs into a cross between Guitar Hero and Tetris, roughly. It's very cheap and you can use any .mp3. My problem is that I can't just sit and listen to music or I get a bit bored (even if I really like the music), but like you, I can't read or do anything that needs a lot of creative concentration either. When I'm trying to find new music I like, I'll put it in Audiosurf (if I already have it) or else play a game while I stream it.
posted by Nattie at 10:11 PM on May 12, 2010

I was going to say "ride your bike", but then I remembered that it's not a good idea to be riding your bike when you can't hear what's going on around you. So don't do that. Also, I would suggest that running (not on a treadmill) while listening to music is not terribly safe. I can't tell you how many oblivious runners I have passed while riding by and how freaked out they get when I pass them (even if I'm yelling at them to let them know I'm there). Although maybe you'd be okay with one earbud in while walking or running. But it's not the same thing as being enveloped in the sound.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 10:25 AM on May 13, 2010

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