If you’ve ever found yourself in a groove or state of flow, you know first hand that the right mood can boost your productivity and help you get more out of your workday. But what if you could achieve this fluid work state whenever you wanted? The reality is: You can. With the right music that makes you productive at work, you can maximize your working hours and be your most productive self. In this post, we’ll talk about how music affects productivity, examine what type of music is best for different types of work, and even look at a few different playlists with productive music that’ll help you maximize your time spent working.
How does music affect your productivity?
First: what’s going on behind the scenes when we listen to music at work? It turns out that listening to music while working impacts everything from focus, to mood, to stress management. There’s quite a bit of science and research that proves this, too.
It boosts efficiency
Teresa Lesiuk, an assistant professor of music therapy at the University of Miami, conducted research that found workers who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and had better ideas overall than those who didn’t.
Impact on mood
Another study meta-analysis found that of test subjects who could either listen to music or take anti-anxiety drugs before a stressful event, those who listened to music experienced less anxiety and lower cortisol levels than those who took the anti-anxiety drugs. Narrative responses to Lesiuk’s study (above) also revealed the value of listening to music at work, as it created a positive mood change and enhanced perception on creative tasks while working. So what can we take from this? Well, for one thing–listening to music while you work has a lot of perks. From sparking creativity to helping make the day generally more enjoyable, music might be the secret to a more effective workday. The next question, then, is: What kind of music should you listen to for maximum productivity?
The right music for the right task
Often times you need different types of music for different tasks, as the best option depends on what you’re doing. Not every type of music will deliver the same positive results in different situations. So what’s the right music for different types of work?
Repetitive tasks = more upbeat, complex music that keeps you motivated
Daniel Levitin, neuroscientist and writer of This Is Your Brain on Music, found that music can make repetitive tasks more pleasurable and increase your concentration on a mind-numbing task. This could be upbeat pop music, fast-paced songs with lyrics–whatever helps motivate you.
More complex tasks = simpler, lyric-free music
Studies show complex music can distract from tasks that require high degrees of concentration. Opt for calming classical or instrumental music without any words to stay focused and distraction-free. Keep in mind that if you work on different types of tasks throughout the day, you might construct a playlist structured to reflect those work sprints–which can help you stay on-task and hack your productivity, too.
What music is best for productivity?
When looking at what music is best for productivity, there are several options to consider. The best option will depend on the task you’re doing and your personal taste in music. Choose the right music for your specific needs and goals.
Improve focus: Classical or instrumental music
Classical or lyric-free instrumental music can create a helpful, focus-inducing environment. In one study, seven of eight doctors said that classical Baroque music increased their mood and concentration on their work. This is likely because lyric-free music helps stimulate the mind and override the silence without being overly distracting. Here’s one e that includes over an hour of stimulating classical tunes.
Relax and create a mood: Lo-fi music
“Low fidelity” music, also known as lo-fi, aims to generate a mood rather than entertain–which is ideal for working conditions. The New Yorker sardonically calls it “apathetic music to make spreadsheets to”, but the reality is–that might be just what you need. With quiet back beats and relaxing undertones, this jazz and hip-hop infused blend can create a relaxed mood in your workspace. Here’s one example playlist from ChilledCow that typically more than 15,000 people tuned in at any given time during the workday.
De-stress: Ambient/nature sounds
Ambient or nature sounds are great for times when you’re not in the mood for music but need to boost your concentration and de-stress. This works: One experiment found lower stress levels in those who listened to nature sounds when compared to silence and or classical music. Especially if your office is far from a window or green space, this type of playlist can help ease your mind and create a more serene workspace This example playlist of nature sounds has more than 27 million plays.
Achieve flow: A single song on repeat
It might seem strange, but listening to a single song on and endless loop can actually be a smart move. WordPress founder Matt Mullenweg is known for using this approach to achieve a state of “flow” when working. Why does this work? Psychologist Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis says in her book On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind that musical repetition gets us mentally thinking through parts of the song we expect to come next, which creates a sense of shared subjectivity with the music. Choose a song that you feel puts you in a creative mode and that you don’t mind hearing over and over again. This song is a good one if you need some inspiration: Tycho- Easy.
Stimulate your mind: Brain.fm
Brain.fm makes “functional music” that uses artificial intelligence to generate music which stimulates and activates neuron activity associated with focus, meditation and relaxation. The premise: Within 15 minutes of listening to Brain.fm, you’ll be lulled into a mental state that doesn’t divert your attention. Their focus music removes also removes sounds that could grab your attention, which is known as ‘salience reduction’. A free trial is available, but you may find it’s a worthwhile investment if it works for you.
Music: A key to being more productive at work
With the right music for the right task, you can get the most out of your workday. Whether you need a boost during monotonous data entry or you need supreme focus as you work on a creative project, we hope you’ve found a few playlists here (and understand the science behind it) so you can get more done.