Music has a way of permeating through emptiness, filling up your surroundings with substance. It can bring a smile to your face, make you well up in tears, or feel alive. But can it make you more productive?
In an age when many of us spend our days in a cubicle staring at a screen, music has become a way to block outside noise, or to add an interesting element to our work. Music is a mode for escape, whether that’s from the distractions of others or from the dullness of the task at hand.
For instance, I enjoy listening to epic music while typing away. It makes me feel like my work has a grand purpose and could alter the fate of humanity. Correct me if I’m wrong, though.
But how useful is music when it comes to focusing on your work?
Let’s take a look at the science behind music and productivity.
1. Does music make you more productive?
Teresa Lesiuk, an assistant professor in the music therapy program at the University of Miami, does research on the effect of music listening on work performance. According to Dr. Lesiuk’s research, those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and had better ideas than those who didn’t.
But then, there are some types of music that worsen productivity. Several studies have shown that popular music interferes with reading comprehension and information processing.
So based on these studies, music can have a positive effect in your work. Its effect on productivity, however, depends on the situation and type of music.
That leads to the next question: what type of music works best for productivity?
Numerous studies have been done on music genre and productivity, which have led to the finding that different types of music affect your productivity in different ways.
What type of music works?
1. Classical Music
Baroque music is notable for its elaborate musical ornamentation and complexity. Notable composers during this period include Bach, Vivaldi, and Handel.
In a study, eight radiologists listened to baroque music during work. Except for one individual, the rest reported increased mood and concentration on their work.
This type of music is suitable for work that requires intense concentration or creativity. If you’re looking for where to begin, try Vivaldi’s quick-tempo “Four Seasons”, or Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto.
2. Nature Music
According to the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, listening to the sounds of nature can enhance cognitive functioning, increase concentration, and overall satisfaction.
“Nature” sounds can include gentle rainfall, crashing waves, chirping birds, or the like. I personally find this type of music helps me as I read through a book. Note, though, that some nature sounds could potentially be distracting, such as birdcalls or animal noises. Flowing water tends to work well.
3. Epic Music
Epic music can make you feel like you’re doing something grandiose to change the world. It empowers and lifts you up.
Like classical and nature music, it is void of lyrics, which can decrease productivity. The results of a study show that having speech in the background makes for the most distracting and least pleasant working environment.
So if you’re feeling tired and uninspired during your work, try listening to some epic music to give you that extra boost of motivation.
4. Video Game Music
Whether or not you’re a gamer, video game music could be what you need to concentrate the next time you work.
Music from video games is a great choice as the compositions are specifically designed to enhance your gaming experience while allowing you to focus on the task on hand. They provide an ambient background and can even increase your concentration. After all, it’s pretty crucial you dodge that fire, or skillfully maneuver your way through hordes of enemies.
For starters, try the Bastion soundtrack, or one of the SimCity soundtracks, to name a couple.
5. Ambient soundtracks
If you’re feeling stressed out at work, give ambient music a try. It’s mellow, yet still engaging enough to keep you working. Notably, Brian Eno came up with the idea for the Music for Airports in order to diffuse anxiety and tension at an airport terminal.
For something more modern, you can turn to chillout, a type of music designed for dancers at nightclubs to “chill out” and recover. Chillout music has more up and downs than ambient soundtracks, which can provide a bit more stimulation while still remaining relaxing at the same time.
Other types of music
There’s a number of other types of music you can listen to while remaining productive at work, such as meditation music, blues, or jazz, to name a few.
If you just want to get rid of outside noises such as coworkers or the printer, “white noise” is another alternative. “White noise” is basically noise that helps to cancel out other noises, preventing you from being distracted.
Experiment and see what works. Soft and mellow may help you to focus on your work, or a high energy piece can keep you motivated. And for some, silence can be golden.