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July 28, 2020 by Blog

How Music Can Boost Your Productivity

Can AC DC help you hit deadlines? Billie makes you better at research? Does the BTS work wonders with spreadsheets and schedule checking?

Speaking from experience, let’s together explore how music affects your brain – and whether the right tunes can boost your productivity and how it has helped boosted mine being a writer.

Beats for Your Brain—The Scientific Version

When you listen to music, your brain releases dopamine – a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good and reduces anxiety.

Many studies show that when you’re in your happy place, you work smarter and better.
But it’s not all about critical thinking. Music also stirs the grey cells that respond to “euphoria-inducing stimuli”. When you listen to a tune, you plug into the brain’s reward system – associating productivity with pleasure.
There is a catch here. You only enjoy this rush with music you enjoy listening to. So, the office chords won’t work for everyone.

beats for brain

The Right Tune for The Right Task

If your typical day at work involves different types of tasks similar to mine, probably you reach out to your headphones also when your workload surges. Many of us also do that to help us do ‘grunt work’ – those repetitive, potentially boring tasks.

A study done by a neuroscientist Daniel Levitin discovers that music doesn’t just help pass the time during repetitive tasks. It increases concentration. He cites a study where music helped surgeons perform better at non-surgical tasks.

Not just for the writers, I have observed that many software developers enjoy the same phenomena also. They tend to deliver a higher quality of work and improved efficiency when they listen to music. Interestingly, they also learned new tasks faster with background music.

the right tune

Turning up creativity

To support the occurrence further, research was conducted that proved that listening to “happy”, “upbeat” and “stimulating” music improves our “divergent thinking”. This is very similar to what we hear as ‘thinking outside the box’.

Tuning out

The writer, Mark Beeman argues that the music that makes us happy also eases anxiety – helping us lose focus. This is a good thing because it stops you from getting caught up with ideas that don’t work. Instead, you look for new approaches.

Further, he says that music helps your brain slips into the ‘incubation’ mode when you mull over a problem at an unconscious level. It’s there you “dredge up” new ideas and focus on the strong and obvious ones.

Power playlists

We’ve got the beat, but is there a particular genre of music that helps with productivity?

A study found that instrumental music boosts this, while songs with lyrics can distract and reduce mental performance.
These findings chime with a study, which found that seven out of eight radiologists enjoy the increased mood and concentration levels while listening to classical music. Research shows that the sounds of nature lower stress levels even more than classical music. Again, good for unlocking divergent thinking.

Another study showed that piping the sound of flowing water and rainfall into an office will lift the mood of the employees and help them focus better. The ambient noise blankets the distracting sound of people chatting, printers bleeping and keyboards clicking, offering a stable environment without breaking momentums.

Further studies reveal more surprising musical styles that help us get more done. They include:

  • Video game music is designed to motivate players, blend into the background, and reward you for reaching the next level.
  • Dance music and its beats upped proofreading speed by 20%.
  • Pop music reduced employee mistakes by 14% in one study.

So, is there a common thread to these different genres? For scientists, it comes down to our tastes in music. When we listen to tunes we love, we get that all-important dopamine hit.

What’s more, music’s ability to make us more productive is different for everyone. Studies show the number of brain areas activated by music varies from person to person, depending on our musical training and experiences. So if a sound works for you, it might not necessarily work for your buddy.

Sound advice

Want to get the biggest mental boost possible from your music? Experts advise you to:

  • Create a playlist of your old favorites. With songs you love and have heard often, you get that dopamine hit without having to focus on new lyrics or beats.
  • Lose the lyrics. Is there an instrumental version of your favorite tune? Picking out the meaning from words can distract us and dent productivity.
  • Beat match. There are many apps now that help you select tunes with that 50 to the 80-beat sweet spot.

Got a tune that helps you get more productive and positive? Share it with us in the comments below.

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