Can music increase productivity? See what the science says

Find out the best ways to use music when you work

Sep 16, 2022
Can music improve productivity

Are you trying to be more productive with music? A playlist might remind you of your first love or your last family road trip, but it can also influence your productivity.

The idea that music affects how we work isn’t a new one. A Totaljobs survey found that 79% of participants said they feel more productive listening to music at work. But what does the science say? This ultimately depends on factors like lyrics and your musical taste.

Does music increase productivity? Which genre is best? Keep reading to see the effects of music and the best way you can work with (or without) it.

Manage your mood with music

Music can manage your mood. Whether we like to admit it or not, our mood can have a huge impact on the way we work. With this in mind, music can be a useful productivity tool. It’s proven that when we listen to music the chemical dopamine is released.

This chemical gives us a feeling of pleasure and reduces the symptoms of stress and anxiety. An analysis of 400 studies found that levels of anxiety and the stress hormone cortisol were lower in patients who listened to music, even when compared to those taking anti-anxiety drugs.

Is anxiety getting the better of you? Try using music as a tool for managing your mood and turn that glum Monday morning into a productive one. On top of stress relief, psychotherapist Merriam Saunders points out that dopamine is also responsible for activating the part of the brain responsible for planning, organization, inhibition control, and attention.

Although more research is needed on this, it shows promising signs for all the anecdotes around music and productivity.

For the best productivity playlist, you should start off slow. The “iso principle” was born in music therapy, and it refers to one way you can alter your mood using music. The idea is to match music to your feelings and gradually change the songs towards the desired mood.

Don’t jump straight into some heavy house to get into a more motivated mood. Instead, start with something more relaxed and send yourself into a feel-good mood that gets you motivated. Kirsten Nelson, a music therapist, refers to this process as finding a “power song”.

Which type of playlist is the most productive?

What’s the best style of music for focus and productivity? Are you a secret pop fanatic or a head-banging rocker? There’s still debate about which type of music can increase your productivity the most, or if it matters. Ultimately, experts believe that the best genre for productivity depends on your personal taste.

Listening to what you enjoy releases more dopamine, so choosing a playlist you like is key no matter the genre. One thing you should avoid is listening to “familiar vocal music”, as studies show that songs with lyrics can inhibit your performance when trying to work.

A study examining the relationship between music tempo and productivity found that most people perform at their best at around 121 beats per minute. So, find power songs around this BPM and get to work. The RockMyRun app makes this easy by letting you search for songs by genre and BPM. You can also check out this website that lets you search for songs by BPM online.

Can listening to music make me less productive?

As mentioned, research shows that music with lyrics could affect our reading comprehension and harm mental performance. Music can still increase your productivity, but you should find styles of music that don’t contain lyrics like lofi hip hop beats or classical.

It’s important you still enjoy the music, so if you haven’t always liked Mozart you don’t need to sit through fifty symphonies to test this out.

A 2017 study on memory and cognition found that some college students performed cognitive tasks worse while listening to music, so there is the risk that music isn’t for everyone. This does depend on the individual, as those better at controlling their attention were not as negatively affected.

If you’re a music lover that’s worried about a negative effect on the way you work, listen to music when you’re taking a break. Having regular breaks is a critical part of productivity, and you don’t want to miss out on the stress relief of music.

One study found that listening to music in-between tasks could boost concentration and creativity with lasting effects, so you might not even need to listen to music all the time to get the benefits.

The productivity of music also depends on the type of task you’re carrying out. This study found that music increased the productivity of participants by 7.4% when they were carrying out repetitive tasks. If a task requires more reading and concentration, then music with lyrics might not be the answer, but there is less risk with simple repetitive tasks.

Here are some productivity playlists by genre that you can find on Spotify

Classical music

When talking about the productive power of music, it’s impossible not to mention the “Mozart effect”. This refers to a study in the ’90s linking the classical music of Mozart to increased scores on some IQ tests.

As ideal as it sounds to have a playlist make you smarter, the facts from studies failed to back this up, though some studies point to improvements in spatial-temporal reasoning. For productivity, it comes down to taste again.

Classical Essentials: A selection of the greatest classical tunes; the perfect starting point for anyone who's keen to explore the world of classical music.

Calming Classical: The most calming classical music.

Classical Focus: Enhance your focus with classical music.

Ambient music

Ambient music is one of the most popular choices for a productivity playlist. Its focus on instrumental elements of music reduces the distractions from lyrics and provides great background music to overcome any office noise that might be too intense.

Lofi hip hop beats: The chillest beats to help you relax, study, code, and focus.

Deep Focus: Keep calm and focus with ambient and post-rock music.

Ambient Relaxation: Relax and unwind with chill, ambient music.

Natural sounds from the world around

Maybe not the playlist you were expecting to see, but it’s one that deserves some attention. Studies show that hearing the peaceful ambient sounds of the world around us can help stressed workers relax.

Research also suggests that it can enhance cognitive function, focus, and overall worker satisfaction. These results were notably found in an office with levels of background noise, so if you have a noisy neighbor, you might prefer the sound of the seaside instead of their midday sandwich.

Nature Sounds: Provides sounds of birds, rain, and jungle ambiance.

Sounds of the Ocean: The roaring sound of crashing waves.

Nature Noise: Where nature and white noise meet.

What helps keep you productive?

For improved productivity, we want to know what works for you. Everyone is different, but there are lots of ways you can increase your productivity for studying, at work, or just organizing your documents at home. Let us know your productivity tools and tricks by leaving a comment on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Everyone has to deal with online documents at some point. At iLovePDF, our goal is to make productivity easy by making work with these documents go as smoothly as possible. Don’t just listen to playlists, go to the concerts! There are over 20 tools waiting to take away your workload and give you more time to enjoy what matters.

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