It might seem like the world is divided into those who can’t listen to music while working, and those who can’t work without listening to music. For every person who nods along with earphones plugged in, there seems to be one who complains, “Excuse me, could you turn down the volume?” One group swears that listening to music improves focus and boosts productivity. The opposing camp is convinced music is nothing but a distraction.
So the question becomes: Who is right?
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And the simple answer is: Neither…and both!
Yes, No and If!
There are three major aspects to understand when deciding whether or not music helps make you more productive. Remember, the key word is “productive”. After all, there’s no debate about whether music can make you happier or calmer, is there? Why else would we sing along with the radio while driving or dress up to dance at a club!
But parents, teachers, and employers are conflicted when it comes to the issue of listening to music at school or work. Teenagers might be adamant that the music blaring from their room helps them study better. But even if their grades are good, the parents are left to wonder: Is that because of, or despite, listening to music?
Similarly, some workplaces frown upon the use of earphones. Whereas others can’t seem to function without them. You’d be right to wonder what your stance as a boss should be regarding this matter. So what does science have to say?
Yes, Music Does Help
One popular theory as to why music helps us to concentrate more has a lot to do with how our brains have evolved. Human beings have two attention systems: a conscious one that focuses on the task at hand, and an unconscious one that redirects our attention towards anything our senses might detect.
Think of a deer in the forest that’s busy munching leaves. The moment a hunter steps on a twig nearby, the deer’s ears perk up and it is ready to flee. That’s roughly how our brains evolved as well. Our ancestors needed to constantly pay attention to the surrounding environment in order to survive. Which unfortunately means that whenever the floorboard creaks or the air conditioning kicks up a notch, it attracts your attention. Making it all the more difficult to concentrate on studies or work.
This is why so many people find music to be immensely beneficial. The noise generated by their favorite artist, band, or acapella group keeps the unconscious attention system occupied. Thereby allowing the conscious system to focus on work without interruption. It’s basically like giving a child a toy so that the parent can get things done!
Studies have also shown that music can boost creativity, relieve stress, and improve overall mood. It also helps to strengthen bonds between members of a social group, such as in school or the workplace. This allows for better teamwork and social cohesion.
Working alongside a partner or group is a great motivator for success! Think of a playlist you and your friends enjoy, and then listen to it as you take up the “Study Group” Challenge!
No, Music Won’t Help
Seeing people listen to music at the library and cafe as they read or work might tempt you to start doing the same. But unfortunately, not all tasks are compatible with music. Which might explain why the debate over the topic has raged for so long!
Research has shown that activities which require an individual to memorize information can be affected by background music. This is because most people rehearse the words or numbers either out loud or under their breath. For example, imagine trying to remember a phone number without writing it down. Any kind of music will make it tougher for your brain to concentrate on the numbers that you are repeating verbally.
The same problem occurs when you try reading something while listening to music that contains lyrics. The words on the page will clash with the words from the song, making it much harder for you to process information accurately.
Improving focus and concentration is crucial for personal and professional success! Start the “Staying on the Road” Journey to sharpen your mental abilities for short and long term gains!
Yes… if the Music Is Right
So what type of music should you be listening to when engaging in an activity that’s compatible with it? The obvious answer would be to rely on your favorite playlist. However, that may not be a good idea… especially if you are a fan of Death Metal music!
Catchy, But Not Too Catchy!
The music you choose should probably not be in a genre that’s either too loud or too exciting to listen to. There is no point in sitting down to work, only to start tapping your feet and bobbing your head a few minutes later. Save your favorite songs for later, once the task is complete.
The Best Genres
If you’re looking for recommendations, the safest choice would be classical music. If you find Mozart and Beethoven too boring (gasp!), try experimenting with ambient music of different kinds. EDM (Electronic Dance Music) soundtracks lasting several hours are hugely popular on YouTube. It might take you a few days, but sooner or later you’ll find the right fit.
No Lyrics Please!
Remember to stay away from songs that have lyrics in them. They generally end up distracting you, either consciously or subconsciously. The last thing you want is to submit an essay that contains the chorus of a pop song!
At the end of the day, whether or not you should listen to music depends on several factors. It might take you a while to figure out the nature of your work, your personal tastes, and suitability of the overall environment. And that’s okay. Whether or not you hit the play button, is completely up to you.
So turn on your playlist, start a 2 Hour “Blistering Focus” Deep Work session from the app’s Make Me Fabulous section, and see if it works for you!