PS: This article is designed to serve as a practical guide for music every time you go to work. All the music is embedded, and you can listen to it right from this article.
If you are at work and your age is between 20 to 35, there is an excellent chance you’re probably reading this article while having your headphones on. Listening to your favorite playlist while trying to get things done, especially if you are working in an open space, or inside a cubicle.
We’ve all been there! Whether it’s a noisy workspace or a closed off, boring one, we put on our headphones, fire up the music, and try to focus and isolate ourselves from our surroundings.
But does music really help you get things done?
What music does to your brain
Music has a powerful effect on the human brain. Source: Finer Minds.
It’s a tricky question. Music activates various centers in your brain depending on several criteria. Is the music recognizable? Or, you are listening to a new tune? Is it an instrumental track? Or challenging rap lyrics?
All this stuff affects the way your brain reacts to listening to music.
Does music make work ‘easier’?
An important study that was carried out in the 70’s found that music provides the highest productivity boost when you listen to it while conducting a repetitive task that requires intense focus but low high-level cognitive ability. For example, filling your excel timesheet or mindlessly copying and organizing certain forms. Remember the Lego Movie where the workers listened to upbeat, happy tunes while getting their job done? That was based on science!
Should you ‘always’ listen to music at work?
The short answer is: No!
Listening to music means you are still multitasking, i.e., a part of your cognitive resources gets used to comprehend the lyrics, remember memories attached to the song or process the emotions triggered by the song, and that could damage your performance if you are trying to memorize or understand something new or complex.
So actually, if you are doing a complicated task that needs your full attention and all your brain power, silence is your best friend.
I’m confused, do I listen to music while I work? Or will it damage my performance?
Choose the kind of music according to the type of task you’re performing.
- If you are going to carry out a creative task that needs to boost your cognitive abilities (like thinking of a design concept or analyzing numbers to create a report):
Pick an instrumental track that won’t utilize your brain’s resources trying to analyze and understand the lyrics. Try to find music with a steady rhythm and beat so that your mind won’t try to keep guessing the next note.
Science shows that listening to monotonous songs that have no variations in mood or emotional peaks, is proven to enhance cognitive abilities.
Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports” is a classical example of that kind of music:
Moreover, actually, a better type of music for this kind of task is classical music (that’s what I’m currently listening to while writing this article), especially Chopin, Mozart, and Bach.
Try this Chopin playlist next time you are doing something creative:
Another great option is white noise; which includes natural sounds like rain or lightning, or recognizable noise like people humming in a cafe or an AC compressor’s sound. These are typical recognizable noises that your mind is trained to ignore, but at the same time, they help isolate other sounds in the room. Coffitivity is an amazing website for listening to that kind of music.
- If you are doing a task that is mindless but requires high focus:
You don’t need much of your brain power, but you need to be in a peppy mood and work faster with high focus. Go for a quick, snappy song with an upbeat mood and a dancing rhythm. Something like this:
Another trick you can use to get a ‘dopamine rush’ is using the shuffle button. A Harvard study suggests that adding randomness to your music mix can reward you with a surge of the pleasurable neurotransmitter dopamine. Use this playlist to harness this power:
- If you want to jump-start your mood before an important meeting:
Going to an important meeting, feeling a little anxious and need a push? Finished a major task and wanted a subtle pat on the back?
Use music’s power to trigger an emotional response and fire up an action-packed rock anthem!
Next time you have a big meeting, try playing this playlist:
Finally, keep this guide open every time you go to work and enjoy the wonders of music.
Do you have different favorite tracks you like to listen to while working? Do you use different tricks to harness the magic of music? Share your comments with us below!
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