Do you swear by that 90’s R&B Pandora station as your work playlist, or do you prefer silence to hone in on your projects? Whatever your music taste, there are theories that link music with productivity—depending on the task at hand.
Give Your Brain a Break—Stick to the Familiar
You have a big presentation to prepare for… but your favorite band just released a new album. While it may be tempting to click play while you’re working, multi-tasking in this situation may be more difficult than you think. People tend to pay closer attention to new songs because of their novelty, and this can shift the focus away from your project. Stick to what you know when picking a work or study playlist. Otherwise, you could be analyzing your new favorite song more than that PowerPoint you need to finish. To avoid being too distracted, choose a tried-and-true tune for energy and motivation.
Music can help you perk up and pay attention while completing routine tasks like updating data sheets or organizing your email. When a job requires you to tap into your creative juices, it can be helpful (and fun) to turn on whatever inspires your brainstorming. However, while performing unfamiliar tasks, music can preoccupy too much of your mind, leaving fewer of the resources you really need for the job. When learning new information, it’s best to limit interruptions. Skip or limit music until you absorb the new knowledge so that you’re not confusing your directions with song lyrics. The more mental power a task takes, the less distracting the music should be.
Tune out Distractions
Simply wearing headphones while listening to music can boost your productivity. They can drown out annoying disturbances that you encounter everyday—clicking keyboards, a noisy printer, or your coworker’s crunchy apple. This sense of privacy can keep your mind from wandering around the room and helps you stay focused on your task. Be sure to take breaks from the headphones though—you don’t want to ignore your coworkers’ or study group’s questions!
The most important part of these theories is to remember that everyone is different. Reflect on your own listening habits to determine what music works best for you and when, or if, you work better in calm silence. Do you have a go-to album, playlist, or streaming service? Let us know your favorite! Between you and me, my soundtrack of choice is my specially crafted ”Pop Punk Trash” Spotify playlist. It’s complete with all of my favorite early 2000’s jams to keep me energized.
– Abby Jensen
Sources: When Should You Listen to Music at Work?, The Power of Music, Tapped in a Cubicle, Should You Listen to Music while Working & Studying?