Science Finds The Best Music For Boosting Productivity

Science Finds The Best Music For Boosting Productivity

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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How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

How to Keep Yourself Awake at Work Without Caffeine

Keeping yourself awake at work can be a real challenge when you’re bored, exhausted or sleep-deprived.

But before you reach for that can of Red Bull, bottle of Mountain Dew, or pot of coffee, try these healthy remedies to stimulate your 5 different senses and help you stay awake at work:

Sight – Visual Stimulation

The first thing you do when you wake up is opening your eyes, so your visual stimulation is very important to keeping your energy level high.

1. Maximize your exposure to light.

Your body’s internal rhythm is regulated by the amount of light you receive. The greater your exposure, the more alert you will feel.

Open the shades and let in the sunlight. Step outside or look out the window. Turn on all the artificial lights in your office or around your work space.

2. Exercise your eyes (or give them a break).

Roll your eyes up and down, side to side and diagonally. Rotate them clockwise and then counterclockwise. Squeeze them shut and then open them wide. Do this several times.

Reading and sitting in front of a computer screen for long periods can lead to eye fatigue.

Take regular breaks with deliberate blinking and looking out into the distance.

3. Take note of your environment.

Learn to enjoy people-watching. Observe their activities, speech, body language and interactions with others. Notice the details of building, trees and other objects around you, including their color, shape and size.

By doing this, you’re not only relaxing your eye muscles but also calming your mind.


Hearing – Auditory Stimulation

What you hear or listen to have direct effect on your brain. This is why we feel so annoyed and sometimes angry when we hear construction noise when we’re working.

4. Engage in conversation.

Talk to a friend or colleague. Trade funny stories. Discuss your business venture, a creative idea, the latest political scandal, or any other topic that interests you.

Practice mindful listening to what you and the other person are saying. Tune into the tone, volume and content of the conversation.

Learn how to practice better listening from this guide:

Why Listen to Reply Instead of Understand Is the Key to Failure

5. Listen to upbeat music.

Try hip hop, rock or jazz to keep you alert. Instrumental, non-distracting music works best.

Sing, whistle, and hum along if you can. Plug in the earphones if you must.

Smell – Olfactory Stimulation

If you’re feeling sleepy and suddenly smell the coffee, you’ll probably feel more energetic. This is why smell is an influential stimulation.

6. Work your nose.

Aroma therapists recommend essential oils of peppermint (to boost energy), rosemary (to build awareness), eucalyptus (to increase oxygen), cedarwood  (to activate your mind), and cinnamon (to improve your reaction time).

If you don’t have essential oils on hand, you can use lotions or burning candles that provide the same scents.


Citrus like lemons, limes, grapefruits and oranges are also natural olfactory stimulants. Get a whiff of these citrus scents to stay awake.

Taste – Gustatory Stimulation

If you want an energetic day at work, you can’t let your tongue feeling plain and flavorless.

7. Have a good breakfast.

Start off with the most important meal of the day.

Think fresh, light and healthy: bran cereals, wholegrain breads, fruits, and yogurt.

Nix the heavy stuff like sausages, greasy eggs or pancakes.

Need some breakfasts inspirations? Check out these ideas:

20 Healthy Breakfast Choices That Will Save You Time

8. Drink lots of water.

Keep a glass or bottle of H2O near you and sip from it throughout the day. Dehydration can leave you feeling tired, sluggish and sleepy.

So make sure you drink enough water throughout the day. Not sure how much to drink? This can help you:

How Much Water Should You Drink Each Day (and How Much Is Too Much for You)


Think that you’ve been drinking too little water? Try these friendly reminders:

3 Best Apps To Help You Drink Much More Water

9. Eat energy-boosting snacks.

Nuts and fruits (like bananas, apples and strawberries) are sure bets. Pairings with staying power include baby carrots with a low-fat cream cheese dip; celery sticks with peanut butter; red peppers with hummus; and plain yogurt with granola.

Avoid carb-filled, sugary snacks that make you crash and leave you feeling tired.

Here you can find some healthy snack ideas:

25 Healthy Snack Recipes To Make Your Workday More Productive

Touch – Tactile Stimulation

Last but not least, your sense of touch will make you physically feel more energetic and less stressful.

10. Splash cold water on your face.

Do this in the morning, during bathroom breaks and in the afternoon. Being exposed to cold water pushes your body to adjust and regulate its internal temperature, which in turn keeps you alert.

This works the same as you take a cold shower to increase mood and alertness. Take a look at this article to learn more about it:

5 Surprising Benefits of Cold Showers


11. Use acupressure.

Apply pressure to, massage, or tap on the stimulation points of your body. These include the top of your head, the back of your neck, the back of your hand (between the thumb and index finger), just below the knee and your earlobes.

Watch this video to learn about the acupressure points you can try:

12. Get moving.

Move away from your chair and stand, walk, run or climb the stairs. Feel the earth under your feet. Stretch and twist. Do jumping jacks, lunges, push-ups and back bends.

And if you need to move more discreetly, wiggle your feet, bounce your knee up and down, scrunch your toes, or cross your legs.

You can also try some simple stretches and exercises at your desk:

Unlike addictive caffeine fixes, these remedies activate your senses, engage your attention, amp up your energy and prevent morning grogginess and afternoon slumps without the side effects or health risks.

Pick a few ways from this list of suggestions and practice them consistently. And when you do this consistently, you’ll soon see the positive results — a more energetic and productive you at work.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via

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