Music has the power to move us, but many people underestimate how it affects us in the workplace. Can you really hear “Let it go” without wanting to stand on your chair and belt out the lyrics for the entire office to hear?
The beat pumping out of our speakers doesn’t just affect how we feel. It also impacts the way we work. The question is, does music make you more productive and efficient?
Embrace the power of sound
Different genres of music have varying effects on our brains. What boosts productivity for one person may be distracting for others, but there are some general principles to help you select the best productivity playlist:
What you’re doing matters
When you’re writing or doing a language-heavy job, songs with lyrics are distracting. Music with lyrics kick your brain into multitasking mode. It’s essentially like someone talking over you while you’re working.
For writing and reading new information, opt for instrumental-only music.
That doesn’t mean you have to write off music with lyrics altogether though. Save those songs for times when you are stuck doing a repetitive task like filing papers or clearing your inbox.
Another important consideration is how much you like what you hear. A 1994 research study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that surgeons listening to music worked more effectively than those who worked without it. This was true regardless of whether the surgeons picked the music or if the researcher selected it for them.
Hearing a song you love can definitely provide some motivation—especially if you’re bored or don’t enjoy the task you’re doing. Hearing music you like improves your mood, which can boost your productivity.
5 rules for the perfect productivity playlist
1. Embrace the sounds of nature
When you think of listening to rain fall or birds chirp, you might immediately imagine an afternoon at the spa. This relaxing music can put us in a better mood, which can definitely improve our efficiency at work.
It’s not just that the sounds of nature make us feel better. They also affect the brain in the best way possible for improving cognitive function. Since natural sounds often have an element of randomness, they can help improve our focus without becoming a distraction. Sounds related to water appear to be the most effective.
A 2015 study in the The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America found that natural sounds are an excellent way to mask the background din of the open office plan.
2. Get motivated (and drop the bass)
Sometimes you need to feel empowered at work. Music allows us to tap into your inner strength. The Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University recognized the clear connection between music and motivation. They conducted a study which asked participants to rate songs according to how they made people feel while they were performing different tasks.
The takeaway: songs such as 50 Cent’s “In Da Club,” “Get Ready for this” by 2 Unlimited, and “We Will Rock You” by Queen were clear winners when it came to motivating participants. Though these songs all come from different genres, they all have a pumping bass that leaves the listener feeling energized.
Study participants completed their tasks with greater efficiency and used more confident and empowered language when compared to a group listening to less intense music.
3. Turn up your favorite song
While music generally makes people feel better, being able to listen to music you like creates a marked productivity boost.
This is what Dr. Teresa Lesiuk, a professor at University of Miami, found when conducting research on the connection between music and productivity. Since songs tend to relax listeners, they often afford them the chance to explore solutions they may not have considered when in a hyper-stressed state.
4. Play at your speed
There’s a reason why we tend to run faster and perform better at the gym when we’re listening to fast music. Even if you’re not actively listening to a song, the tempo can impact your work speed at the office as well.
According to a study from BMS College of Engineering in Malaysia, when looking for a stress-relieving song, choose something with about 60 beats per minute. The tempo is slightly slower than the resting human heart rate. This larghetto beat, neither too fast or too slow, is enough to produce a calmer state without making you want to fall asleep.
Perhaps you need to feel energized. If that’s the case, you need an uptempo playlist. A 2007 research study found that people do a better job with cognitive tasks when they’re listening to songs with a quick tempo If you’re not sure where to look, Baroque music is a safe bet
If you’re looking for a more customizable experience, check out Focus @ Will. They have some great playlists for concentration, and they’ll tailor your playlist to fit your needs.
5. Make sure the music is not too loud
It can be tempting to crank up the tunes that inspire us the most, but excessive volume is distracting. A 2012 article in the Journal of Consumer Research discusses the connection between volume and productivity.
Music played at a reasonable volume encourages creativity and abstract thinking. Turn it up too loud though and you won’t be able to hear yourself thing. Anything louder than 85 decibels, the approximate volume of a snowblower, is too loud. On the other hand, your volume should be loud enough to mask the sounds of office chatter.
1. Productivity music playlist from Evan Carmichael
Evan Carmichael, best known for his motivational YouTube videos, has put together a 2-hour playlist to help you focus. Full of electronic uptempo instrumental music, this playlist paves the way to getting more done in less time.
2. Upbeat instrumental work music by Live Better Media
If you aren’t a fan of electronica, you might enjoy this playlist of positive uptempo songs. There are over two hours of music to get your mind working and put a smile on your face.
3. Music to increase work productivity: The Pulse
This playlist sounds a lot like video game music, and it does a great job of waking up your brain without distracting you.
4. 8 Hours of productivity music with binaural beats by Greenred ProductionsTurn this on in the morning and you’ll be set for the entire day. This music has an ethereal quality that will leave you feeling relaxed and help you find your flow state.
5. The Most Productive Playlist Ever – Songs For Work on Spotify
If you’re in the mood for some popular music that will motivate you to reach new heights, this one’s for you. Some of these lyrics are NSFW though, so make sure you’re listening to this through headphones.
6. Productive Morning on Spotify
When “The Most Productive Playlist Ever” seems a bit too intense, try “Productive Morning.” It includes songs from well-known artists, but these are mostly instrumental.
Embrace the power of sound
There’s nothing saying you have to work in grave silence all day.
To get the biggest productivity boost from your playlist, be mindful of the volume and tempo. If you’re writing, stick to the instrumentals so that your brain doesn’t try to decipher lyrics while trying to think up sentences for you. Be mindful of your own energy level when you’re choosing music.
Most importantly, play what you like. There’s plenty of science supporting the positive effects music can have on listeners. It’s up to you to find your personal soundtrack for a focused and productive work day. Happy listening.