At Big Sea, you can find most of us wearing headphones and blasting music while we work, myself included. It helps me concentrate, and it feels like I get my work done faster when I have music on. Plus, it makes anything I’m doing that much more fun.
Does music really help as much as it seems? I wanted to find out for sure, so I took it upon myself to do a little research.
Is listening to music while you work a good idea?
There’s no clear yes or no answer. It all comes down to the type of work you’re doing.
Are you working on something simple and repetitive? Music can help you do it faster.
One study on computer information systems developers found that quality-of-work was lower and time-on-task was longer when there was no music playing. Those involved in the study shared that they believed the reason they performed better when listening to music was because it put them in a good mood.
When working on something creative, ambient noise can be the best choice.
Studies have found that a moderate noise level is better than a low noise level, while high noise level hurt creativity because it impairs information processing.
A moderate noise level works for creativity because while it makes processing more difficult, it encourages abstract processing which in turn brings you to those out of the box ideas.
Don’t listen to music if you’re trying to learn a new task.
Research found that those who listened to music while learning had a harder time recalling the information later compared to those who did not. Music takes up too much of your attention to accurately learn new information because while you may think you’re focused on the task at hand, a part of your brain is still paying attention to the sounds.
Music can help you concentrate in a noisy environment.
Of course no matter what the task, sometimes music simply provides an escape from the noisy workplace and helps distract you from something even more distracting, like a coworker having a conversation right behind you. If you’re constantly being pulled out of your work because you’re paying attention to what’s going on around you, put on those headphones.
Pick the right music for work.
When you really need to focus, choose familiar music. Songs you already listen to a lot work because you already know what’s coming next and your brain doesn’t have to work as hard to sort of the music and your work.
Classical music is often named as best choice when you really need to focus and get stuff done, and research confirms this. You may have heard that listening to classical music is good for college students. Researchers confirmed that classical music actually benefits the brain by encouraging being receptive to information. Not only that, but it can improve sleep patterns and reduce stress. Now that’s pretty impressive.
Music with lyrics can distract from high-immersion tasks, and is more suited for activities like designing (as opposed to writing). Stick to instrumental music or other melodies if you’re working on copy.
Nature sounds are helpful and undistracting. If you don’t want music but still want noise, Rainymood is a solid option. It mimics the sound of being inside during a thunderstorm. Have another sound you prefer, like waves or chirping birds? Find it on YouTube.
Music at work is ultimately highly personal.
While I don’t find myself with my headphones in all the time, when it comes time to really get work done and focus, I open up Spotify and press play.
I have quite a few playlists (I just counted… 27) for all the different moods I might encounter. I have a playlists devoted to focusing, running, heading to the beach, dancing, and many more. I suggest you do the same so you have a quick, go-to set of songs when it’s time to get down to business.
Can’t think of your own? Search Spotify or any other music streaming service and you’re sure to find an premade playlist for whatever task is at hand.
Now put your headphones on and get to work!