How to Enhance Work Performance and Boost Productivity Through Music

Here’s another reason to love music: it helps you become more productive. This may sound like a bold claim, but it’s actually backed by science.

Music truly does hold power, and we’re here to help you harness this and use it for your daily work life so you can perform better and ultimately become more productive. You’ll be ticking off those checkboxes in your To-Do List in no time at all!

How Music Helps You Perform Better

The idea that listening to music when you’re at work can boost productivity is something that many people already know to be true, based on their individual experience. It’s nothing new. You may enjoy listening to your all-time favorite happy tunes to put you in the mood before opening those work emails. Or you probably have a ‘focus’ playlist for those times when you need utter concentration.
But how exactly does music do this? How does it influence the way we work?

According to different scientific studies, music affects human behavior and performance in a number of ways. Physiologically, listening to music that you find pleasing increases the levels of dopamine, a neurotransmitter or brain chemical that stimulates the prefrontal cortex. This is the part of the brain that is responsible for attention, planning, organizing and inhibition control. More dopamine results in a more effective prefrontal cortex.

As you can see, dopamine plays a major role in humans’ cognitive and emotional functioning. When you listen to music that you enjoy, your brain releases more dopamine, firing up the prefrontal cortex and giving you those feel-good vibes and the brainpower to get you going. This music-evoked pleasure can help you do more and perform better. This is why it’s a good idea to listen to music if you find yourself unable to focus, have to do something that you find boring, or are in need of a pick-me-up to get those creative juices flowing.

Music has also been found to increase efficiency when doing repetitive work that doesn’t require a lot of concentrated effort, such as checking emails or some manual tasks like making photocopies. But not just any kind of music will do. Researchers note that for music to work as a productivity booster, listeners need to choose their music well.

The Best Kinds of Music for Productivity

So what kinds or genres of music should you listen to for optimum performance? Before we get into the ideal work music, it’s important to note that not all work tasks are the same or require the same amount of brainpower. Some kinds of music are better for certain tasks than others, so mind what you need to do before you push that play button.

Songs you like

Listening to music you enjoy stimulates dopamine production. It puts you in a positive mood, which boosts your ability to finish tasks including you don’t feel too confident in doing. If you’re not looking forward to a particular task, say, coming up with marketing pitches on a Monday or writing up reports at the end of the week, just listen to your favorite tunes and it will instantly put you in a better mood. And because you’ve now got that “Let’s do this!” pep, you’re also more likely to complete your tasks faster.

Tracks with sounds of nature

Tranquil background music that includes sounds from nature can put you in a relaxed state, which helps when you need to clear your head and focus on particular tasks. Nature sounds – such as the sound of a mountain stream and soft rain – can also mask the intelligible speech in the work environment and also enhance your brain function, allowing you to concentrate on the task at hand, especially if it’s a word-related task such as writing a newsletter.

Tracks that don’t have lyrics

Similar to nature sounds, classical songs, post-rock/progressive rock tracks, video game and movie soundtracks, and other songs without any lyrics can also help you focus because these keep you from being distracted with words or speech. If you’re in a noisy environment – say, chatty coworkers all around you – and you really need to drown them out, you can mask their conversation with music without lyrics.

However, it may be a good idea to stay away from instrumental versions of songs you already know because you may end up providing the lyrics yourself, and you could be distracted yet again.

Songs that are just ‘okay’

Songs that you don’t really have strong feelings for can also help you with tasks that require concentration. Researchers have found that if you listen to songs you are ambivalent about – songs that you consider to be just “okay” and you don’t love or hate them – you are less likely to be distracted.

Final Note (And a Few Reminders for Listeners)

There’s no definitive list on the best songs to listen to as different people have different musical tastes. You may be drawn to classic rock, with Led Zeppelin and Rolling Stones songs as your go-to tracks before a big meeting, but others are not. Your fellow team member may be more of a Bruno Mars or Katy Perry fan.

It should also be noted that how music affects work performance depends on individual tendencies as well. While there are a lot of people who find it beneficial to listen to music while working, there are a few who find music distracting, making them unable to complete their tasks or do so efficiently and without errors.

With that said, if you’re going to listen to music at work, make sure you listen responsibly and keep your sounds to yourself. Use headphones if you work in a shared workspace. If you have your own office, make sure the sound from your external speakers doesn’t carry into other workspaces. And whether you’re using headphones or speakers, remember to keep the volume low enough so you can still hear if someone calls you.

When it comes to creating your work playlists, experts agree that diversity is key. In order to make the most out of music listening at work, you need to have separate playlists for different tasks. Because music choice depends heavily on your personal preferences, there’s no hard and fast rule on what to include and what to exclude.

The secret is to make your playlists enjoyable, energizing and motivating without being too engaging. If your music causes you to shift your attention from your work to your music, you’ll need to do some tweaking. Creating the right playlists for particular tasks is an excellent first step toward greater productivity, so take the time to explore and discover the music that sounds and feels right to you.


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