Forever Learning

Forever learning and helping machines do the same.

All You Need Is a Good Brainwashing

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Classical conditioning is underrated. Too many bad spy movies have taught us that ‘brainwashing’ is bad.

But conditioning can be a powerful tool for self-improvement. I’ve deliberately been playing the Brian Eno song Thursday Afternoon every time I felt myself immersed in ‘the zone‘. In my mind, the track and the mental state have now become intricately linked. This is so much the case that I can now descend into productivity Walhalla simply by listening to my personal work anthem.

In effect, I’ve brainwashed myself to work better in response to a particular tune.


There is nothing special about this trick. Anyone can do it and almost no real effort is required.

A few guidelines.

  • Choose a song that is long. Not a two minute ditty. This will also help for the next prerequisite.
  • Choose a song that can stand to be repeated. You’ll want to be productive for longer than one play.
  • Choose a song without lyrics. This is more personal. To me, words and melody are distracting.
  • Choose a song that is timeless. Something you wouldn’t mind listening to in a few years time.
  • Choose a song that is not a classic. Classics are played on the radio. That is not what you want.
  • Carry your song with you always. You need to be ready. Productivity can strike at any moment.
  • Play your song every time you are in the zone. Especially initially you want the bonding to be strong.
  • Play your song without interruptions. Interruptions kill productivity. Interruptions break the spell.
  • Never play your song when you are not in the zone. That would break the spell. Don’t do it.
  • Don’t overuse. There are limits to how productive you can be. This trick does not fix that.
  • Don’t expect magic. The song will not always work. If it doesn’t work, stop listening right away.

Have I missed anything important? Feel free to add your tips and tricks in the comments below.

Written by Lukas Vermeer

January 23, 2012 at 17:52

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