As all of us are slowly transitioning into a new, temporary ‘normal’, there are a lot of adjustments to your normal workflow and schedule. If you have recently started working from home or if you’re simply looking for ways to improve productivity, music can help you do just that. But how can you ensure that the music you listen to has a positive effect on your concentration skills instead of distracting you? And why is it that music affects productivity in the first place? Find out in this article.
The link between music and concentration
When you get started on a project, assignment or task, you’re often advised to eliminate all distractions, switch off your phone and avoid background noise. If you think about it, music should not help us concentrate – why would it be easier for our brain to focus on two things instead of one? One explanation is to do with our cognitive function. Our brain appears to have two attention systems, a conscious and subconscious one. The conscious system allows us to direct our focus towards a specific task, however, it hasn’t really evolved to enable thinking about one thing or abstract tasks for too long. Meanwhile, our subconscious system is always alert and awake, plus it operates faster, which is why we are so easily distracted by background noises, such as a colleague slurping their drink, a distant alarm and more. This is especially prominent when we’re focusing on a task we don’t really enjoy. Choosing the right background music will divert your subconscious towards it, almost giving it a toy to play with, while your conscious mind can knuckle down and get some work done. But what kind of music will help you focus better?
Best music for productivity
We’re not saying that you must become the epitome of productivity, especially, during troubling times like these, but sometimes you just need to get work done. Your perfect productivity playlist will largely depend on your musical preferences, however, it’s also important you match them to the task at hand. Not all music will help you focus, in fact, certain genres can serve as distraction, depending on the work you’re doing. Research has shown that music without any vocals is best for cognitive tasks such as reading, writing etc, whereas upbeat, lyrical tracks will motivate you through the most mundane, repetitive activities. You also need to strike the right balance between complexity and simplicity of the music. Simple, monotonous beats are unlikely to keep your brain focused, just like the tapping of a metronome, however, tracks that are overloaded with counter melodies, harmonies and odd time signatures could prove to be distracting as well. Try to find engaging grooves that serve well as background music. If you want to use music that features vocals, think about the lyrical content and how it might impact your productivity. Science also suggests that you shouldn’t just reach for overly familiar songs, as grooving and singing along to them could divert your focus away from your work.
So, what genres of music should you gravitate towards? Some studies suggest that classical music, particularly, baroque enhances your concentration and boosts your mood while working on tasks that require a lot of attention to detail. Video game soundtracks can also be a good choice, as they are usually written as a background for the gamer with the aim to increase their focus on the game, which would translate really well within a work environment. Epic, orchestral music can give you a sense that you’re doing something truly exceptional, so if you’re approaching a task that you don’t particularly enjoy, such background could give a sense of purpose and meaning to what you do. You don’t always have to opt for instrumental or lyrical music however – nature sounds can prove to be a relaxing and encouraging way to enhance your workspace, particularly, if your time outside is limited. Ambient sounds work in a similar way. Having said that, the music you enjoy listening to, whichever genre that is, will be a great starting point for putting together your productivity playlist. Just remember to match the tracks with the nature of work you’re doing.
Tips for creating your productivity playlist
All of us have days where we feel unmotivated to complete our daily tasks, whatever they may be. Why not give yourself a little encouragement through music! As you put together your playlist, don’t overload it with songs that complement your most productive state of mind. Start off slow with leisurely tracks that you don’t associate with work and gradually transition into the motivational power songs that help you accomplish the most. This is a simple but clever way to trick your brain into getting work done and increasing productivity, while getting you out of feeling low and discouraged. As your playlist reaches its peak, consider the tempo of the songs. According to a study that explored the link between tempo and work capacity, you should aim for around 121bpm for the best results. You could add these fast-paced songs as you begin your work, when you transition between tasks, at the end of your lunchbreak or during that final hour when you need to push through to end your day on a high note. Putting together a playlist that matches your workday will help to ensure you stay motivated throughout it and don’t need to worry about changing the music, which could lead you to procrastinate. If you prefer to listen to music with vocals, but don’t want it to distract you during cognitive tasks, choose music with subtle, atmospheric vocals where they aren’t quite ‘in your face’.
Finally, remember, it may be best to take charge of your motivational music instead of finding a playlist on Spotify or other streaming sites. Chances are, if they are curated by other people, they may not fully suit your workflow or they will end up distracting you if they’re too short or you feel like skipping a song. Furthermore, make sure that curating a playlist doesn’t feel like a chore to you. You can build up your perfect library over time and listen out for new tunes that you can add in at any point. It may even help to have a few different compilations at the ready, especially, if your work varies from cognitive to repetitive tasks. It will also help to match your mood, depending on the day and the type of music you feel will be the most helpful for the job.Tags: Working from home, Productivity