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The songs these 31 successful executives listen to when they want to be more productive

Get motivated this Monday. Photo: The Office/ IMDb.

It’s Monday. Your brain is still is weekend mode, but you’ve got a to-do list a mile long.

Finding the focus and motivation to kick into gear can be hard, but sometimes all it takes is listening to the right song.

We asked 31 successful executive what songs they play when they need to get themselves in a more productive mood.

From Pharrell Williams’ Happy to Beautiful Day by U2, here are the songs theses c-level execs turn up to get the job done.

Janine Allis, founder of Boost Juice, listens to Sugarman by Rodriguez.

The sugarman is my go to song for the end of the day. It has a soothing reaction on me.

Jodie Fox, co-founder of Shoes of Prey, listens to Puccini's Madame Butterfly.

I listen to opera, and specifically Puccini's Madame Butterfly. I love it because it completely soaks up all those errant thoughts that normally distract me, but also has the right momentum and melody to push me along.

Janelle Goulding, CEO of City West Housing, listens to Happy by Pharell Williams.

I always concentrate better when I feel happy and that song says it all!

Michael Allara, chief strategy officer of Open Colleges Australia, listen to Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica.

If you saw me with headphones on I was probably listening to Oneohtrix Point Never, Burial, Earth, Scientist, or Sonic Youth’s instrumentals. What helps me get (and stay) focused when I have to solve something particularly complex… Oneohtrix Point Never - Replica. What helps me get (and stay) focused when I have a lot to do in a short space of time…The Knife – Shaking the Habitual.

Carolyn Colley, CEO of Decimal Software, listens to Beautiful Day by U2.

It's a really positive song with great beat (especially useful track when running and don’t really feel like it). I find it is energising, lifts the spirit; no matter what the struggles are, don’t let them get you down…embrace it, it is a Beautiful Day!

James van Rooyen, founder and director of Bicycles Online, listens to Bon Iver.

I listen to Bon Iver. His music is relaxing and helps me to chill out as the lyrics are hard to decipher so I don't get distracted.

van Rooyen will be speaking at the Online Retailer Conference & Expo in Sydney on 22-23 July 2015.

Steve Phillips, CEO of Smartbox, listens to Roar by Katy Perry.


As a powerful advocate of the feminist movement, Katy always brings a tear to Steve’s eye. The soaring chorus reassures him that his booming voice and boundless enthusiasm are a critical part of the Smartbox brand.

Tim Fung, CEO of Airtasker, listens to Days of Thunder Score by Hans Zimmer.

I like to listen to epic movie instrumentals when I’m trying to concentrate as it provides a great 'gee up' to doing brain exercise but doesn’t have complex or emotional lyrics that distract you from the work at hand.

Tim Clover,CEO of Engagement Innovation, listens to Dog Days are Over by Florence + The Machine.

It starts full of intrigue and 'can do', which is great for preparing the right mindset for the tasks I don't naturally want to do first but that I need to prioritise.

As the song builds, I list out my 'power list' - the next three things I'm going to do, and then I start to get into them. By the time it's finished I'm usually part way through the list. (so much so that usually I don't even notice it finish).

Doug Morris, CEO of Sharesight, listens to Good Morning, Kanye West.

Good Morning is a good walking to work song. Gets the blood flowing, particularly the lyric: 'Good morning, on this day we become legendary.'

Caroline Woodhouse, CEO of Where4Events, listens to I was here by Beyonce.

This song empowers me as it's about leaving your footprint on this earth. It makes me think about how valuable life is and how we impact the world. The first time I heard this song I was going through a legal issue with a former contractor that almost took my business to its knees.

Explaining how Beyonce wants to leave a symbol not physically but mentally to help people remember her as something she was and everything she had done to increase the better of the world that she had once walked on so when she was gone people could say: 'Yes she was here she lived she she loved she done everything that she wanted and it was a little more then she thought it would be she was her'(sic).

'I was here' affirms that she has achieved all she ever dreamt of and it was fortunately more than she thought it would be.

Daniel Flynn, CEO and co-founder of Thankyou., listens to Eg Anda by Sigur Ros.

At the moment I'm into 'Eg Anda' by Sigur Ros, which is a cinematic style track with no vocals. I'm a big fan of this kind of music and find it helps me focus. There's just something about feeling like you're in a movie when in reality you're carrying out routine tasks like emails! Time at my desk can be limited some days, so I like to do whatever I can to make sure that time is as productive as possible.

Lana Hopkins, founder of Mon Purse, also listens to Happy by Pharrell Williams.

It's energetic, positive and fun. I even ran the Sydney half marathon last year with happy playing on repeat.

Hopkins will be speaking at the Online Retailer Conference & Expo in Sydney on 22-23 July 2015.

Kerry Plowright, CEO of Aeeris, listens to The Power of Love, Huey Lewis & The News.

For motivation I listen to corny old music with an uptempo rhythm. The song that really revs me up to be creative is The Power of Love with its fist pumping 'let's do it'

Levi Aron, general manager by Yumtable, listens to The Heist by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis.

When it comes to being productive I always try and choose something from a musician that is just going to pump me up. I love listening to 'The Heist' by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis or even ‘Let's get started’ by the Black Eyed Peas.

There’s nothing like a bit of inspirational rap and some great energy to get me pumped and productive in the morning as I read through my emails and head into my first meetings of the day.

Charlie Wood, country manager of Dropbox Australia and New Zealand, listens to Brian Eno's Another Green World.

It depends what I want to get done.

If I need to write or create something, I need focus. In that case I usually listen to something like Brian Eno's 'Another Green World' or 'Music for Airports'. This gives me space to zone-out of what's around me and focus on the creative processes better than I would be able to otherwise.

If I need to get fired up for something, then I definitely up the tempo. Queens of the Stone Age are big on my playlists for this - particularly 'I Sat by the Ocean', it reminds me to get moving. The soaring guitar line always gives me a kick and the lyrics remind me that life's short, so get on with it! I've seen Queens of the Stone Age live about half a dozen times in the last couple of years. From an intimate, almost front row, gig in Indianapolis, to the Sydney Entertainment Centre and even an acoustic set at the Bridge Concert in San Francisco. Josh Homme is a great fella. If he was in software sales he could definitely come and work at Dropbox!

Morgan Ranieri, founder of YourGrocer, listens to Wild Animals by The Cat Empire.

Whenever I'm doing something that I find nerve-racking (like pitching to investors) I listen to this song beforehand and it gives me a shot of confidence.

Niklas Olsson, director of offline partnerships at HotelQuickly, listens to Muy Tranquilo by Gramatik.

You need to pick music that makes you feel energized without distracting you. I like no vocal downtempo electronic music, often called chill-out music, as it has a steady beat to keep a good tempo and without vocals you never drift away from what you are doing. If I am doing something that requires a lot of intense concentration I listen to moody, heroic classical music. Something that feels larger than life and inspiring.

Jo Burston, founder and CEO of Inspiring Rare Birds, listens to Fatboy Slim, Right Here, Right Now.

This song make me motivated because of the antiquity of the era it was produced and the legendary innovation this group had globally in music and yet the song is both seriously relevant for todays innovation and technology race. Makes me believe anything is possible in any growth phase. And the beat is uber cool.

Greg Taylor, Co-founder and Chairman of Clipp, listens to Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve.

My favourite song when I need to get into the zone, is Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve. The reason behind that is because dealing with a problem and finding a solution can be both bitter and sweet, but when you get it right... it's like a symphony!

Dylan Baskind, co-founder of Qwilr, listens to 1/1, Music For Airports by Brian Eno.

Music For Airports is the perfect song and album for focused deliberation as it is wordless, meditative and very long - excellent for honing the mind onto a task.

Matt Bullock, founder and CEO of eWAY, listens to Miles Davis, Call it anything.

My go to song when I need to get into the right frame of mind to concentrate and focus, is Anything by Miles Davis. The melody in that song allows my mind to relax and really gets the creative juices flowing. It's the perfect song to help me dig deep and come up with some great ideas.

Amanda Cole Managing Director, Spark Consultants, listens to I’m On Top Of T World by Imagine Dragons.

I love playing I’m on top of the world by Imagine Dragons when facilitating a group of senior executives for a workshop. It’s upbeat and sets the meeting up for success with a very positive and energetic start.

In the same line as upbeat and setting a tone for being productive is Classic MKTO - Some Nights Fun and if I’m bit more contemplative and requiring concentration I’d use Beautiful Day by U2 or Drops of Jupiter by Train.

Jerry Kleeman, Owner, Kleeman International, has three songs on rotation. One of them is Learning to Fly by Tom Petty.

The three songs I listen to that help me to be more productive are Learning to Fly by Tom Petty, it reminds me that I need to support everyone around me to reach their highest level.

My Kind of Town by Frank Sinatra - as a native of Chicago this song reminds me of home and allows me to feel the energy of one of the world’s greatest cities.

Right Here Right Now by Van Halen as the lyrics remind me how fortunate I am and that I have to take advantage of the moment in front of me.

Ben Handler, CEO and co-founder of Cohen Handler, listens to Marilyn Monroe by Pharrell Williams.

It’s an upbeat song that helps motivate me. There is a mix of tempos - starting with dramatic strings and then moving into the more upbeat part of the song. It’s uplifting and helps me to relax as I move into my own work tempo.

Harvey Martin, master coach at CEOessentials, loves rock classics. He particularly likes Johnny B Goods by Chuck Berry.

The songs that motivate me on my playlist are rock classics. There is something about classical rock music that evokes a feeling to be more productive they are, Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones and All shook up by Elvis.

Robert Nordlinger, CEO of Superior Strategy, listens to Creedence Clearwater Revival's Heard it Through the Grapevine.

Three songs that help me to feel productive are Credence Clearwater Revival's 'Heard it Through the Grapevine' for when I need a high-energy focus, any of Mozart's Horn Concerti when I need reflective focus and when I need to recharge my batteries I like Ritchie Valens' 'La Bamba, which is just one of the greatest rock and roll songs ever written.

Sali Stevanja, co-founder of Stylerunner, listens to Guns N Roses.

I love listening to old school rock songs from bands such as Guns N Roses, Metallica, Def Leopard that makes me feel a sense of urgency and determination. I also like Kryptonite and Its not my time by 3 doors down.

Stevanja will be speaking at the Online Retailer Conference & Expo in Sydney on 22-23 July 2015.

Stephanie Christopher, CEO of The Executive Connection, listens to Riptide by Vance Joy.

I definitely believe the right songs can relax a busy mind, lift your mood and make you a very productive CEO.
Riptide by Vance Joy, is one of those infectious songs you always hear and it’s great for creating good energy and motivating creativity.
Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison is a bit of a theme song for signifying good things are coming in our family and it always reminds me of opportunity.
The Scientist by Coldplay - I have pleasant memories of this song and it inspires my mood as well as helps me to stay focused.

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