04 Jul 2016
The link between music and productivity

Music And Productivity – Is it A Thing?

We’re a team that likes our tunes. Billy Idol is punching out a bit of “Mony Mony” as I type this and I must admit it makes my fingers a little more enthusiastic and my foot can’t help but tap along. So, is there a link between music and productivity? Or do I just wish I was on the dance floor at The Retro and not at my desk? Maybe it’s my long-held (but never realised) desire to be in a flash mob that’s willing my colleagues to leap up at their desks, jazz hands poised.

Scientists (and several other blogs I’ve researched) suggest music does make you more productive. But when you’re buried under 17 tonnes of work, is a bit of Flashdance really going to help?

After hours of qualitative and quantitative research, I can give you a definitive… maybe.

There are a few key trends that stood out:

  • There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Different people respond to music in different ways, and different music suits different tasks. You need to discover what works best for you.
  • Ditching the lyrics can help with concentration (but after a while that gets a bit limiting, right?)
  • Medium volume is the best – played too softly music won’t have an impact, while loud music can affect your ability to process information.
  • Play songs you don’t love or hate, if they inspire too much of a response then you’ll focus more on the song than what you’re working on.
  • According to my colleagues, Justin Bieber, ‘loud club beatz’ and ‘psycho-electronic’ are bad for productivity. Amen! They’re keepers.

So, if you want to maximise your productivity here’s some advice.

When You Need To Come Up With Fabulous Ideas:

Go classical. Have you heard of the Mozart effect? The theory is it makes you more intelligent, so hopefully will lead to earth-shattering, promote-me-now ideas. Give this song a go.

When You Are Sick Of Listening To Your Co-worker Talk Incessantly/Chew Loudly/Type Like Their Keyboard Deserves Punishment:

Nature sounds are your friend. According to this, it works like white noise and drowns out the sounds around you. So give this music a try. Mind you, I wonder if anyone has measured the drop in productivity due to running-stream-induced bathroom trips.

When You Need To Get Pumped Up:

Maybe it’s a big meeting you need to bring your ‘A’ game to, or maybe you’ve got a looming deadline that you’re scrambling to meet. Well, research is quite specific about this one. Apparently Queen, 2 Unlimited and 50 Cent are your go-to tunes for getting pumped up.  If speed is what you need, one of my colleague’s had a great tip that you can, in fact, speed up songs on YouTube to give you an extra bit of get-up-and-go. How? Click on the settings cog, then on speed, then take your pick. Simples!

When The Task Makes You Want To Beat Your Head Against The Desk:

The priority here is to drown out the mundane task with music that makes you feel good! So take your pick. If you play music you like, you’ll feel less stressed and a better mood is good for productivity. Maybe you’re a Top 40 kind of person, whereas personally, I love some folk rock (it felt weird admitting that) or even a bit of Jimmy Barnes (how did I get here?!)

When You Need To… Think. Really. Hard:

It’s difficult to admit, but there is a time for silence and when it’s a tricky task that requires high concentration levels, silence is your guy. There are also people who prefer silence most of the time (whaaaat? I know…), so if you’re playing music via speakers keep it at a level that’s easy for others to ignore. And if you’re listening with headphones, don’t have it up so loud your colleagues can still hear it. If you’d rather something to nothing, then keep to the classical or lyric-free options to help you focus.

So, next time you need a productivity boost give these tips a go. I’d love to hear if they help!

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