Do you listen to music while you are working?

Listening to music while you are working can be an effective strategy for boosting productivity. When you turn on that music, it gets you in the right frame of mind and you work more efficiently. That’s what Dr. Teresa Lesiuk, an assistant professor in the music therapy program at the University of Miami, says. She has observed that music has a significant impact on workplace performance.

One particular study by Dr. Lesiuk found that those who listen to music complete tasks more quickly and come up with better ideas than those who don’t because the music improves their mood.

For many of us, the fact that music improves our moods and hence boosts our productivity is not in question. However, finding that perfect playlist to get in the right frame of mind is a whole other story. Luckily for us all, science has that covered as well.

Here are some types (and quality) of music that science says are best for boosting productivity:

1. Music with sounds of nature in it.

Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute found that music that has a natural element in it could boost moods and focus. According to these researchers, sounds of nature optimize the ability to concentrate and increase overall worker satisfaction.

The mountain stream sound the researchers used in their study had enough randomness to enhance cognitive functioning without distracting test subjects.

If you are serious about enhancing your productivity with music, consider listening to recordings of nature sounds, or tranquil background music that incorporates sounds of water while working.

2. Music that is bass-heavy and empowering.

Another interesting study conducted by researchers from Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management invited participants to listen to different songs and then rate all the songs on a seven-point scale to determine how powerful, dominant, and determined each song made them feel.

The highest rated songs were Queen’s “We Will Rock You,” 2 Unlimited’s “Get Ready for This,” and 50 Cent’s “In Da Club. All of these songs are characteristically bass-heavy, which is a feature participants found to be more empowering in music.

Participants who were listening to the high-power playlist when performing some basic cognitive tasks the researchers gave them to test their efficiency were better able to complete the tasks. They used stronger and more confident words than those listening to the lower power songs.

“Just as professional athletes might put on empowering music before they take the field to get them in a powerful state of mind … you might try [this] in certain situations where you want to be empowered,” said Derek Rucker, a professor of marketing at the Kellogg School of Management.

3. Music that you personally enjoy.

Any type of feel-good music that you personally enjoy is good for productivity. In one of her experiments involving information technology specialists, Dr Lesiuk allowed participants to select whatever music they liked and to listen for as long as they wanted.

She observed that listening to music generally made participants feel good and lifted their mood. However, for those who were moderately skilled at their jobs, personal choice in music was especially helpful—it notably improved their productivity.

“When you’re stressed,” Lesiuk told the New York Times “you might make a decision more hastily; you have a very narrow focus of attention.” However, “When you’re in a positive mood, you’re able to take in more options.”

4. Music with a tempo that matches your own.

The tempo of the music you listen to also has an impact on your productivity. A study from BMS College of Engineering in Bangalore, Malaysia found that subjects who listened to music that played at around 60 beats per minute reported an increased sense of physical relaxation and stress relief. This tempo is what you’d call “larghetto” in classical music, meaning not too fast or too slow.

If you’re looking to feel more relaxed at work, low-tempo music like one of Focus @ Will‘s playlists dedicated to concentration could do the trick. If, on the other hand, your work requires you to be more energized or upbeat, listen to up-tempo music that matches your pace such as Baroque music. One Canadian study actually found that people perform better on IQ tests while listening to up-tempo music.

5. Music that is not too loud.

Noise level matters too. Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of British Columbia at Vancouver, and the University of Virginia established that moderate noise levels in music improves creative thinking. However, while both moderate and high noise levels opened people’s minds to more abstract thinking, high noise levels decreased the brain’s ability to process information.

So, if you are looking for just the right music for boosting creative thinking, consider turning up the volume on your favorite songs – but only just a little. You don’t want your music to be too loud. As a point of reference, if you can drown out the sound of a nearby snow blower, your music is too loud, and if you can’t drown out a nearby conversation, it’s too quiet.

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