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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 August 16, 2018

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

16 Productivity Secrets of Highly Successful People Revealed

The same old motivational secrets don’t really motivate you after you’ve read them for the tenth time, do they?

How about a unique spin on things?

These 16 productivity secrets of successful people will make you reevaluate your approach to your home, work, and creative lives. Learn from these highly successful people, turn these little things they do into your daily habits and you’ll get closer to success.

1. Empty your mind.

It sounds counterproductive, doesn’t it?

Emptying your mind when you have so much to remember seems like you’re just begging to forget something. Instead, this gives you a clean slate so you’re not still thinking about last week’s tasks.

Clear your mind and then start thinking only about what you need to do immediately, and then today. Tasks that need to be accomplished later in the week can wait.

Here’s a guide to help you empty your mind and think sharper:

How to Declutter Your Mind to Sharpen Your Brain and Fall Asleep Faster

2. Keep certain days clear.

Some companies are scheduling “No Meeting Wednesdays,” which means, funnily enough, that no one can hold a meeting on a Wednesday. This gives workers a full day to work on their own tasks, without getting sidetracked by other duties or pointless meetings.

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This can work in your personal life too, for example if you need to restrict Facebook access or limit phone calls.

3. Prioritize your work.

Don’t think every task is created equal! Some tasks aren’t as important as others, or might take less time.

Try to sort your tasks every day and see what can be done quickly and efficiently. Get these out of the way so you have more free time and brain power to focus on what is more important.

Lifehack’s CEO has a unique way to prioritize works, take a look at it here:

How to Prioritize Right in 10 Minutes and Work 10X Faster

4. Chop up your time.

Many successful business leaders chop their time up into fifteen-minute intervals. This means they work on tasks for a quarter of an hour at a time, or schedule meetings for only fifteen minutes. It makes each hour seem four times as long, which leads to more productivity!

5. Have a thinking position.

Truman Capote claimed he couldn’t think unless he was laying down. Proust did this as well, while Stravinsky would stand on his head!

What works for others may not work for you. Try to find a spot and position that is perfect for you to brainstorm or come up with ideas.

6. Pick three to five things you must do that day.

To Do lists can get overwhelming very quickly. Instead of making a never-ending list of everything you can think of that needs to be done, make daily lists that include just three to five things.

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Make sure they’re things that need to be done that day, so you don’t keep putting them off.

7. Don’t try to do too much.

OK, so I just told you to work every day, and now I’m telling you to not do too much? It might sound like conflicting advice, but not doing too much means not biting off more than you can chew. Don’t say yes to every work project or social engagement and find yourself in way over your head.

8. Have a daily action plan.

Don’t limit yourself to a to-do list! Take ten minutes every morning to map out a daily action plan. It’s a place to not only write what needs to be done that day, but also to prioritize what will bring the biggest reward, what will take the longest, and what goals will be accomplished.

Leave room for a “brain dump,” where you can scribble down anything else that’s on your mind.

9. Do your most dreaded project first.

Getting your most dreaded task over with first means you’ll have the rest of the day free for anything and everything else. This also means that you won’t be constantly putting off the worst of your projects, making it even harder to start on it later.

10. Follow the “Two-Minute Rule.”

The “Two-Minute Rule” was made famous by David Allen. It’s simple – if a new task comes in and it can be done in two minutes or less, do it right then. Putting it off just adds to your to-do list and will make the task seem more monumental later.

11. Have a place devoted to work.

If you work in an office, it’s no problem to say that your cubicle desk is where you work every day.

But if you work from home, make sure you have a certain area specifically for work. You don’t want files spread out all over the dinner table, and you don’t want to feel like you’re not working just because you’re relaxing on the couch.

Agatha Christie never wrote at her desk, she wrote wherever she could sit down. Ernest Hemingway wrote standing up. Thomas Wolfe, at 6’6″ tall, used the top of his refrigerator as a desk. Richard Wright wrote on a park bench, rain or shine.

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Have a space where, when you go there, you know you’re going to work. Maybe it’s a cafe downstairs, the library, or a meeting room. Whenever and wherever works for you, do your works there.

12. Find your golden hour.

You don’t have to stick to a “typical” 9–5 schedule!

Novelist Anne Rice slept during the day and wrote at night to avoid distractions. Writer Jerzy Kosinski slept eight hours a day, but never all at once. He’d wake in the morning, work, sleep four hours in the afternoon, then work more that evening.

Your golden hour is the time when you’re at your peak. You’re alert, ready to be productive, and intent on crossing things off your to-do list.

Once you find your best time, protect it with all your might. Make sure you’re always free to do your best uninterrupted work at this time.

13. Pretend you’re on an airplane.

It might not be possible to lock everyone out of your office to get some peace and quiet, but you can eliminate some distractions.

By pretending you’re on an airplane, you can act like your internet access is limited, you’re not able to get something from your bookcase, and you can’t make countless phone calls.

Eliminating these distractions will help you focus on your most important tasks and get them done without interruption.

14. Never stop.

Writers Anthony Trollope and Henry James started writing their next books as soon as they finished their current work in progress.

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Stephen King writes every day of the year, and holds himself accountable for 2,000 words a day! Mark Twain wrote every day, and then read his day’s work aloud to his family to get their feedback.

There’s something to be said about working nonstop, and putting out continuous work instead of taking a break. It’s just a momentum that will push you go further./

15. Be in tune with your body.

Your mind and body will get tired of a task after ninety minutes to two hours focused on it. Keep this in mind as you assign projects to yourself throughout the day, and take breaks to ensure that you won’t get burned out.

16. Try different methods.

Vladimir Nabokov wrote the first drafts of his novels on index cards. This made it easy to rearrange sentences, paragraphs, and chapters by shuffling the cards around.

It does sound easier, and more fun, than copying and pasting in Word! Once Nabokov liked the arrangement, his wife typed them into a single manuscript.

Same for you, don’t give up and think that it’s impossible for you to be productive when one method fails. Try different methods until you find what works perfectly for you.

Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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