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Last Updated on August 5, 2018

How Productivity Music Enhances Focus (With Music Recommendations)

How Productivity Music Enhances Focus (With Music Recommendations)

Music has the power to move us, but many people underestimate how it affects us in the workplace. Can you really hear “Let it go” without wanting to stand on your chair and belt out the lyrics for the entire office to hear?

The beat pumping out of our speakers doesn’t just affect how we feel. It also impacts the way we work. The question is, does music make you more productive and efficient?

In this article, I’ll look at how music affects our work. Together we’ll discover how we can harness the power of music to boost our productivity, with productivity music recommendations.

How music impacts your productivity

Different genres of music have varying effects on our brains. What boosts productivity for one person may be distracting for others, but there are some general principles to help you select the best productivity playlist:

What you’re doing matters

When you’re writing or doing a language-heavy job, songs with lyrics are distracting.[1] Music with lyrics kick your brain into multitasking mode. It’s essentially like someone talking over you while you’re working.

For writing and reading new information, opt for instrumental-only music.

That doesn’t mean you have to write off music with lyrics altogether though. Save those songs for times when you are stuck doing a repetitive task like filing papers or clearing your inbox.

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Your music taste matters… sort of

Another important consideration is how much you like what you hear. A 1994 research study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that surgeons listening to music worked more effectively than those who worked without it.[2] This was true regardless of whether the surgeons picked the music or if the researcher selected it for them.

Hearing a song you love can definitely provide some motivation—especially if you’re bored or don’t enjoy the task you’re doing. Hearing music you like improves your mood, which can boost your productivity.[3]

5 rules for the perfect productivity playlist

1. Embrace the sounds of nature

When you think of listening to rain fall or birds chirp, you might immediately imagine an afternoon at the spa. This relaxing music can put us in a better mood, which can definitely improve our efficiency at work.

It’s not just that the sounds of nature make us feel better. They also affect the brain in the best way possible for improving cognitive function. Since natural sounds often have an element of randomness, they can help improve our focus without becoming a distraction. Sounds related to water appear to be the most effective.

A 2015 study in the The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America found that natural sounds are an excellent way to mask the background din of the open office plan.[4]

2. Get motivated (and drop the bass)

Sometimes you need to feel empowered at work. Music allows us to tap into your inner strength. The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University recognized the clear connection between music and motivation. They conducted a study which asked participants to rate songs according to how they made people feel while they were performing different tasks.[5]

The takeaway: songs such as 50 Cent’s “In Da Club,” “Get Ready for this” by 2 Unlimited, and “We Will Rock You” by Queen were clear winners when it came to motivating participants. Though these songs all come from different genres, they all have a pumping bass that leaves the listener feeling energized.

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Study participants completed their tasks with greater efficiency and used more confident and empowered language when compared to a group listening to less intense music.

3. Turn up your favorite song

While music generally makes people feel better, being able to listen to music you like creates a marked productivity boost.

This is what Dr. Teresa Lesiuk, a professor at University of Miami, found when conducting research on the connection between music and productivity. Since songs tend to relax listeners, they often afford them the chance to explore solutions they may not have considered when in a hyper-stressed state.

4. Play at your speed

There’s a reason why we tend to run faster and perform better at the gym when we’re listening to fast music. Even if you’re not actively listening to a song, the tempo can impact your work speed at the office as well.

According to a study from BMS College of Engineering in Malaysia, when looking for a stress-relieving song, choose something with about 60 beats per minute.[6] The tempo is slightly slower than the resting human heart rate. This larghetto beat, neither too fast or too slow, is enough to produce a calmer state without making you want to fall asleep.

Perhaps you need to feel energized. If that’s the case, you need an uptempo playlist. A 2007 research study found that people do a better job with cognitive tasks when they’re listening to songs with a quick tempo.[7] If you’re not sure where to look, Baroque music is a safe bet.[8]

If you’re looking for a more customizable experience, check out Focus @ Will. They have some great playlists for concentration, and they’ll tailor your playlist to fit your needs.

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5. Make sure the music is not too loud

It can be tempting to crank up the tunes that inspire us the most, but excessive volume is distracting. A 2012 article in the Journal of Consumer Research discusses the connection between volume and productivity.[9]

Music played at a reasonable volume encourages creativity and abstract thinking. Turn it up too loud though and you won’t be able to hear yourself thing. Anything louder than 85 decibels, the approximate volume of a snowblower, is too loud.[10] On the other hand, your volume should be loud enough to mask the sounds of office chatter.

1. Productivity music playlist from Evan Carmichael

Evan Carmichael, best known for his motivational YouTube videos, has put together a 2-hour playlist to help you focus. Full of electronic uptempo instrumental music, this playlist paves the way to getting more done in less time.

2. Upbeat instrumental work music by Live Better Media

If you aren’t a fan of electronica, you might enjoy this playlist of positive uptempo songs. There are over two hours of music to get your mind working and put a smile on your face.

3. Music to increase work productivity: The Pulse

This playlist sounds a lot like video game music, and it does a great job of waking up your brain without distracting you.

4. 8 Hours of productivity music with binaural beats by Greenred Productions

Turn this on in the morning and you’ll be set for the entire day. This music has an ethereal quality that will leave you feeling relaxed and help you find your flow state.

5. The Most Productive Playlist Ever – Songs For Work on Spotify

If you’re in the mood for some popular music that will motivate you to reach new heights, this one’s for you. Some of these lyrics are NSFW though, so make sure you’re listening to this through headphones.

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6. Productive Morning on Spotify

When “The Most Productive Playlist Ever” seems a bit too intense, try “Productive Morning.” It includes songs from well-known artists, but these are mostly instrumental.

Embrace the power of sound

There’s nothing saying you have to work in grave silence all day.

To get the biggest productivity boost from your playlist, be mindful of the volume and tempo. If you’re writing, stick to the instrumentals so that your brain doesn’t try to decipher lyrics while trying to think up sentences for you. Be mindful of your own energy level when you’re choosing music.

Most importantly, play what you like. There’s plenty of science supporting the positive effects music can have on listeners. It’s up to you to find your personal soundtrack for a focused and productive work day. Happy listening!

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

How to Stop Information Overload

How to Stop Information Overload

Information overload is a creature that has been growing on the Internet’s back since its beginnings. The bigger the Internet gets, the more information there is. The more quality information we see, the more we want to consume it. The more we want to consume it, the more overloaded we feel.

This has to stop somewhere. And it can.

As the year comes to a close, there’s no time like the present to make the overloading stop.

But before I explain exactly what I mean, let’s discuss information overload in general.

How Serious Is Information Overload?

The sole fact that there’s more and more information published online every single day is not the actual problem. Only the quality information becomes the problem.

This sounds kind of strange…but bear with me.

When we see some half-baked blog posts we don’t even consider reading, we just skip to the next thing. But when we see something truly interesting — maybe even epic — we want to consume it.

We even feel like we have to consume it. And that’s the real problem.

No matter what topic we’re interested in, there are always hundreds of quality blogs publishing entries every single day (or every other day). Not to mention all the forums, message boards, social news sites, and so on.

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The amount of epic content on the Internet these days is so big that it’s virtually impossible for us to digest it all. But we try anyway.

That’s when we feel overloaded. If you’re not careful, one day you’ll find yourself reading the 15th blog post in a row on some nice WordPress tweaking techniques because you feel that for some reason, “you need to know this.”

Information overload is a plague. There’s no vaccine, there’s no cure. The only thing you have is self-control.

Luckily, you’re not on your own. There are some tips you can follow to protect yourself from information overload and, ultimately, fight it.

But first, admit that information overload is really bad for you.

Why Information Overload Is Bad for You

Information overload stops you from taking action. That’s the biggest problem here.

When you try to consume more and more information every day, you start to notice that even though you’ve been reading tons of articles, watching tons of videos and listening to tons of podcasts, the stream of incoming information seems to be infinite.

Therefore, you convince yourself that you need to be on a constant lookout for new information if you want to be able to accomplish anything in your life, work and/or passion. The final result is that you are consuming way too much information, and taking way too little action because you don’t have enough time for it.

The belief that you need to be on this constant lookout for information is just not true.

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You don’t need every piece of advice possible to live your life, do your work or enjoy your passion.

How to Stop Information Overload (And Start to Achieve More)

So how to recognize the portion of information that you really need? Start with setting goals.

1. Set Your Goals

If you don’t have your goals put in place, you’ll be just running around grabbing every possible advice and thinking that it’s “just what you’ve been looking for.”

Setting goals is a much more profound task than just a way to get rid of information overload. Now by “goals” I don’t mean things like “get rich, have kids, and live a good life”. I mean something much more within your immediate grasp. Something that can be achieved in the near future — like within a month (or a year) at most.

Basically, something that you want to attract to your life, and you already have some plan on how you’re going to make it happen. So no hopes and dreams, just actionable, precise goals.

Then once you have your goals, they become a set of strategies and tactics you need to act upon.

2. Know What to Skip When Facing New Information

Once you have your goals, plans, strategies and tasks, you can use them to decide what information is really crucial.

First of all, if the information you’re about to read has nothing to do with your current goals and plans, then skip it. You don’t need it.

If it does, then ask yourself these questions:

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  • Will you be able to put this information into action immediately?
  • Does it have the potential to maybe alter your nearest actions/tasks?
  • Is it so incredible that you absolutely need to take action on it right away?

If the information is not actionable in a day or two, then skip it.

(You’ll forget about it anyway.)

And that’s basically it. Digest only what can be used immediately. If you have a task that you need to do, consume only the information necessary for getting this one task done, nothing more.

You need to be focused in order to have clear judgment, and be able to decide whether some piece of information is mandatory or redundant.

Self-control comes handy too. It’s quite easy to convince yourself that you really need something just because of poor self-control. Try to fight this temptation, and be as ruthless about it as possible – if the information is not matching your goals and plans, and you can’t take action on it in the near future, then SKIP IT.

3. Be Aware of the Minimal Effective Dose

There’s a thing called the MED – Minimal Effective Dose. I was first introduced to this idea by Tim Ferriss. In his book The 4-Hour BodyTim illustrates the minimal effective dose by talking about medical drugs.

Everybody knows that every pill has a MED, and after that specific dose, no other positive effects occur, only some negative side effects if you overdose big.

Consuming information is somewhat similar. You need just a precise amount of it to help you to achieve your goals and put your plans into life.

Everything more than that amount won’t improve your results any further. And if you try to consume too much of it, it will eventually stop you from taking any action altogether.

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4. Don’t Procrastinate by Consuming More Information

Probably one of the most common causes of consuming ridiculous amounts of information is the need to procrastinate. By reading yet another article, we often feel that we are indeed working, and that we’re doing something good – we’re learning, which in result will make us a more complete and educated person.

This is just self-deception. The truth is we’re simply procrastinating. We don’t feel like doing what really needs to be done – the important stuff – so instead we find something else, and convince ourselves that “that thing” is equally important. Which is just not true.

Don’t consume information just for the sake of it. It gets you nowhere.

The focus of this article is not on how to stop procrastinating, but if you’re having such issue, I recommend you read this:

Procrastination – A Step-By-Step Guide to Stop Procrastinating

Summing It Up

As you can see, information overload can be a real problem and it can have a sever impact on your productivity and overall performance.

I know I have had my share of problems with it (and probably still have from time to time). But creating this simple set of rules helps me to fight it, and to keep my lizard brain from taking over.

I hope it helps you too, especially as we head into a new year with a new chance at setting ourselves up for success.

More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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